Be still and cool in thine own mind and spirit


Today is Stake Conference, the epitome of the Freeby (freebee? freebie?) Sunday. So, instead of trying to find out a way to get to the wardhouse where I could catch the broadcast from Salt Lake, I went to a Quaker Meeting. En route, I actually passed a Stake Center and briefly considered hopping off the bus to catch the prophet speaking. But, I've heard him before and I've never been to a Society of Friends meeting. Both are PETS, so I errored on the side of novelty.

So, I get to the location (not a church, they actually meet in L'Arche Centre) and the door is locked. But, there's a sign suggesting that it's the right spot. After about thirty seconds of standing outside peering into the window, a guy comes up and opens the door with a hint of hestitation. He has the sort of wide-eyed expression that could mean low-level crazy but probably just means he's socially awkward.

"Looking for the Quakers?" he asks, to which I respond affirmatively. He then opens the door wide so I can enter and remove my shoes. He doesn't offer up where I should go, so I stand a moment until he starts walking and I follow him. We enter a room that has awesome 1970s green carpet, a strange mural of the stations of the cross and that musty smell that I associate with non-Mormon churches and grandparents' homes. The room has about a dozen chairs in a half-hearted attempt at a circle. I sit down as "silent worship" has already begun.

The Quaker worship service is a bit different than most Christian groups. First, you need to know that there is no clergy or even anyone in charge, all are equal. Decisions are made by consensus alone. Their meetings consist of three parts: silent worship, worship sharing and a final, more social aspect that doesn't have a name. For silent worship, you sit in silence (and apparently from the others' examples try to avoid eye contact). If you are overwhelmed by something that should be shared you share it. If not, you maintain silence. This part went on for about 45 mins. Two people gave comments, each lasting about thirty seconds.

I don't really understand the difference between this and the second part. It was inaugurated when one Friend said, "Friends, it is now time for worship sharing." We were silent still. Another two piped up here for about thirty seconds. So, all in all, I spent an hour in the company of ten or so strangers with only two minutes of talk. Worship sharing ended with us standing and holding hands in a circle briefly. Then, the cookies and coffee were trotted out (why hasn't Mormonism kept this sectarian tradition?) and some business was transacted.

The group makeup was pretty much what I expected. A couple of men in their early thirties that appear to be a touch antisocial, two or so women of the same age, a single family with their five year-old son, and the rest of the people were in their seventies (at least). Strangely, most of the elderly people were British. Maybe the sect does better in the UK?

Overall, the experience was interesting but not spiritual. It was restful but not regenerating. The idea of worshipping together in silence is intriguing, but I don't know that my own thoughts could sustain me for that long. I did not get antsy, but I just kept coming back to the same ideas and had very little stimulus to nudge me out of them. Plus, sitting in a circle with a group of people and avoiding looking at them would be taxing.

Here's how I'd break down the experience:

the group is welcoming: 4 out of 5

the visitor can follow what's going on: 5 out of 5

the visitor feels comfortable: 4 out of 5 (depends on your comfort level with silence, also)

the group tried to convert the visitor: 1 out of 5 ("I hope you'll come back" with a smile was as assertive as they got)

I felt spiritually fed: 2 out of 5


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