At 8:30 this morning I went to my first unprogrammed Quaker meeting; technically it was my first ever Quaker meeting programmed or unprogrammed. At 10:30 I joined my kids at the Catholic Church that we typically attend with their dad. The differences were astounding. I would like to expand on what I saw and how it affected me.
If you’re not familiar with an unprogrammed Quaker meeting it’s very different from a traditional protestant or catholic service with a minister/priest leading the congregation. There’s no one person in charge so to speak. I entered the main room of the Live Oak Meeting House and took a seat. There were fewer than 10 of us in all. We sat in silence for a good ½ hour before anyone feel moved to speak.
My first thoughts were, how nice, how tranquil, how unlike my house. I closed my eyes to pray and listen to God. My understanding is that Quakers wait for the Light within listening for what God is telling them. When moved they stand to speak. So I listened. What I heard was the song that was last playing on the radio, my list of tasks for the day, the anticipation of shopping that afternoon, etc. Certainly not things I think God was trying to tell me. I kept telling my self to clear my head and concentrate.
The conversation between myself and I went something like this,
“Ok, be quite and concentrate.”
“Shhh, don’t even say be quiet just do it!”
“ok, ok I’m quiet now.”
“No! I can still hear you!”
My children might as well have been there. God couldn’t get a word in edgewise!
Ok, so even if I wasn’t going to hear God today, I would enjoy the solace. And I looked around. The space is absolutely beautiful. One of the first things I thought of was how plain the room was compared to the very ornate Catholic Church I’m used to. The only thing I saw was wood (on the floor and pews), giant windows showing me the grass, trees and sky. There’s a skylight that’s open on warmer days. It was closed today but there was a lovely blue tinted light on the ceiling giving the illusion of sky. What this room represented was all of God’s natural creations, nature was everywhere. What was missing were all the icons of mainstream Christianity: the statues of Jesus, the crucifixes, the pictures and statues of a blond, fair Mary, stained glass windows of saint after saint.
Although these things are very beautiful (especially the stained glass windows) they represent for me the very things I struggle with in Christianity. Jesus hanging from the cross, did he die for my sins? Was he really the son of God? These huge questions hang in my head on Sunday’s at this Catholic Church. I didn’t realize until today, when they were so obviously not present, how much these icons overtake my mind during church. It was lovely sitting there today not thinking about these overwhelming questions.
My mind did eventually quiet down and I accomplished some wonderful reflective thought on how I deal with my ex-husband and how to be a better mother, lover and friend. I didn’t solve all my issue in one hour of course. But I made some real progress on concerns facing my everyday life; and felt more able to face the things I needed to. Today, this meeting room was a breath of fresh air for my soul.