At the suggestion of several people, I finally took the plunge and visited a Quaker Meeting yesterday. I've been thinking about this for quite a while now. But, it's been 8 years since I've even visited another church. I'm a very shy person by nature and the thought of going to a completely unknown church by myself was a bit daunting. I did it though. It was quite interesting worship service. Very pleasant in some ways. A little uncomfortable in others.
The group was very small. I'm used to attending church with probably close to 500-1,000 people in the service I attend (which is the smallest of our five services). I'd guess there were no more than 30 people in attendance the Friends worship service I attended yesterday. But, I was told that the group was small because people were out for Mother's Day. The Meeting I attended is a "semi-programmed" meeting. That means that there is a loose agenda and there is a person who has prepared remarks. Unprogrammed meeetings do not have a formal speaker and people speak or sing or pray as they are led by the Spirit. Even in the semi-programmed format, there is a lot of silence. I did find it a little uncomfortable. But, fortunately, I was prepared because I had done some research before going and because I've been meditating for a while now.
After about 10 minutes of silence, the Pastor stood and delivered a short message. It was very insightful about time and history. He read an Old Testament passage, then related to a book by a Jewish author. It fit right in with the mindfulness and attention to the presence I have been trying to develop. Then, back to silence. A woman, who was also sitting on the stage, stood and made some brief remarks about what she was thinking about the Pastor's messsage and how it might relate to the church. Then, more silence. A few prayer requests. A moment for prayer (no one led it) and dismissal.
The people in attendance were very welcoming and they loaded me up with information about Quakerism. By the time I checked my email (probably less than an hour after the meeting), I had a message from the church which answered some of the questions I had asked.
I'm still processing how I feel about the overall experience. If I had attended a couple of years ago, the silence would have driven me bonkers. I would have thought it a big waste of time and been ready to get on with the program and get out of there to get back to the busyness of life. But, the meditation had prepared me enough for it that I found the silence quite enjoyable (although just a little uncomfortable because you don't know exactly how long you have to meditate/think/pray). The lack of music wasn't too great for me. There was a piano in the room. I don't know how often they use it. I was told after the worship that that was an unusually quiet one. I definitely would appreciate a little more interaction during the worship.
So, will I attend again? Probably. I'll let you know if I do.