The building was made of red brick and stood two-stories tall. Even in this city, it managed to mask itself well among the trees surrounding the premise. I entered the building and followed the group up to the second floor.
The room was circled with chairs with a table in the center that had a few books, bibles and a single lit candle in the center. The windows were open but the silence was overwhelming. Aside from the gentle rustling of Bible pages turning, there wasn't a sound. This was an unprogrammed service where Friends choose to gather in silence with the intention of finding a deeper and more spiritual connection to God.
I was a few minutes late and it seemed that the twenty or so people were already settled into their prayer mode. I spotted a chair by the window in the second row and plopped down. A few eyes glanced in my direction, but they were warm and welcoming. After a few moments, I started to feel a bit odd. It was like waiting for an orientation to start where no one knows each other and isn't quite sure how to broach that ice-breaking conversation. Except in this case, no one was expected to talk. So, I just sat there and looked around.
The day was sunny and since it was still morning, the air was cool as it whipped in and out of the open windows. My fellow Friends were all very normal looking. There wasn't a "plain" person in the room as the dress varied from ties to sandals. I was wearing a collared shirt, khaki pants and my formal black Chacos. After surveying the small group, I decided to drift into meditation. However, I couldn't do it so easily. I haven't ever meditated in front of such a big group. I'm used to doing it alone in my house with my dog. And to make it worse, not everyone was silently praying. Some were reading the Bible while others were just thinking with their eyes open.
Being able to silently worship with other Friends is one of the most important tenets of the religion.
"The meeting house is not a consecrated edifice, and if there is anything holy about it, it must be the lives of the people who meet there. The Friends feel that there must be a vital and sustained connection between worship and daily life. When their ideal is attained, their meeting is merely the community search for that guidance which they covet for every important act of their lives." -William Wistar ComfortAs I sat there, I started to become a little anxious about what was going to happen next and how I was going to approach it. There wasn't a visible clock in the room and I thought it would be rude for the new guy to start glaring at his phone. I wasn't sure if I was really late or on time because once the first person enters the room, the worship starts. I guess I'm just used to an organized service where someone is telling me what to do and say and this frustration continued to compound until I remembered a quote
"Bring neither a determination to speak nor a determination to remain silent."What that means is that if someone feels a spiritual connection or reception of some sort, they are welcome to share that with the group. I don't know how often that actually happens and it didn't happen today, so we'll have to wait on that one.
For an hour, Friends of all ages and races (although there were no children) meditated, read the Bible or just sat in deep peaceful concentration. Meditating in this situation did prove to be difficult because it is not meant to be a mere intellectual exercise. My thoughts coasted from my busy life to my marriage for quite some time and after what I can assume was about thirty or so minutes, I drifting into a fairly solid meditative state. During that time, some people stood up and other times they went to the center table to grab a Bible, but the focus was inward and the connection eventually felt among friends was undeniable.
During my mediation, I did stumble across a few spiritual sparks which I will share with you tomorrow as I need to time to further interpret what I felt.
After the silent time, I was a bit confused. People started moving around and some even left the room. There was no real organization or a leader, so I headed to the bathroom only to discover an empty prayer room when I returned. I looked around the building for the Friends, but could not find them. After ten minutes of searching, I had no other options but to leave.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the main guys telephone number with me. I had to wait until I got home to call him. He told me that after the meeting there is a thirty-minute discussion on peace initiatives, civic participation and spirituality as well as introductions. I'll have to wait until next week for that, but today was a fascinating day and one that I can't wait to enjoy again next Sunday.