This morning I attended my first Quakers meeting. As anyone who has been reading my blog would know I’m not in any way religious, although I was raised in a Christian household. I do however strongly believe that everyone has the right to their own religious beliefs and practices and I’m grateful to have been born in the West where freedom on all levels is respected.
I do however believe in something, call it what you will; the universe, source energy, the light, higher power – it matters not the name you give it, but it’s how you feel it. I also have an absolute fascination for studying comparative religions and one day I’d like to study them formally, but for now it’s research, reading and google that give me the knowledge I seek.
A dear friend of mine has spoken regularly about how much she enjoys the Quaker meetings and the stars aligned so that we were able to attend together today. I didn’t know much about Quakers but I had a vague idea that the meetings were contemplative in nature.
Here is an excerpt from a website that explains a little of what they are all about:
The lack of a creed or clear description of Quaker beliefs has sometimes led to the misconception that Friends do not have beliefs or that one can believe anything and be a Friend. Most Quakers take the absence of a creed as an invitation and encouragement to exercise an extra measure of personal responsibility for the understanding and articulation of Quaker faith. Rather than rely on priests or professional theologians, each believer is encouraged to take seriously the personal disciplines associated with spiritual growth. Out of lives of reflection, prayer, faithfulness, and service flow the statements of belief, both in word and in deed.
–from Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice
I love that!
So what happens in a meeting? Meetings are held in simple halls and rooms, with no decorations, apart from a small table in the centre of the room with some books and a vase of flowers in our case today. Everyone (the term is friends) sits in silence from the beginning until the end of the meeting, which lasts for an hour. It is up to the individual how they want to commune and who they want to commune with.
What did I do? For me I began with what I’m familiar with, which is a simple mindfulness practice. I had no expectations, no pre conceived ideas and sat with an open mind. What I felt was a deep and profound sense of communing with the divine, whether in me or not, I don’t know but it was like a sweet nectar of something. I had some very clear feelings that reinforced my recent craving for periods of silence and time communing with nature.
What happened next? After about 30 minutes a gentleman stood and spoke a few words and about 10 minutes later another man did the same. It wasn’t preaching, just sharing of wisdom. Some people were sitting with eyes open, but mostly people sat with eyes closed for the whole meeting. I know because I opened mine several times. I also did a head count and there were 24 of us. Some people moved over to the table and grabbed books, sat down and had a read. Apparently many meetings are silent from beginning to end.
What did I learn? I learnt that there is no wrong way to attend a Quakers meeting, it is completely individual. I also learnt there is no preacher, minister or prostheletising whatsoever. I learnt that Quakers are peace loving as they see the divine in everyone and therefore will never participate in war. I learnt that there are groups of people out there who welcome strangers from anywhere with open arms free of judgement or dogma. I learnt that an hour spent in communion with other people is a beautiful thing.Each meeting ends at around the hour mark when two friends stand and shake hands and then the rest of the friends follow suit. There are some very brief announcements and we then finished and went into the next room for tea, coffee and chat.
I felt completely and totally at home in this lovely meeting of friends and one thing I know for sure is that I will be back.