Friday, September 28, 2007

Being in Meeting

I used to stress about whether or not Friends were “doing it right” in Meeting for Worship. How can we have a good, legitimate Meeting for Worship if half the Friends gathered think that this is individual meditation, or don’t understand how we’re trying to listen to God, or think that reading a prepared poem is appropriate? I was also frustrated with myself for being so judgmental, but it was still a concern I got stuck on. I realized recently that this is no longer a big issue for me.

A little over a year ago I began attending a new Friends Meeting regularly. At the same time I was in the midst of intense grief for my brother who had died a few months prior, and was dealing a whole slew of struggles that came with that grief. I felt spiritually disconnected, and had no energy to give God any serious, conscious consideration. Yet I still went to Meeting.

Each First Day I got on the 9am bus in order to get to 10:30 worship in the city, no matter how late I was up the night before. Having no spiritual focus, I would sit in meeting and spend the whole time doing something quite other than worship – I would stare into space, focus only on staying awake, or silently cry with my grief. Many First Days those first few months I would leave without talking to anyone. Even those days when I arrived, spaced out, and then left were worth the trek.

I wondered about this for some time; if Meeting for Worship was meaningful without me being able to Worship, there must be something more to it. This year, as I continue to catch that same 9am bus every First Day, this Meeting feels like home to me. Friends there recognize me, are excited to see me, and I find myself engaged in conversation with more and more regular attenders. What I’ve found is that even during those months of no focus and little fellowship, I had slowly been building a relationship with the community, just by being consistently present.

I was speaking to a friend of mine about this last month and she mentioned something else that I find striking. She said that I had been practicing just being. It’s true. If nothing else, when I had no focus, I was just being, nothing else, and it was a good practice.

Now when I sit in Meeting for Worship I often marvel at how we are all sitting together, just being. Being together. I no longer worry if people are focused or are “doing it right”, because that’s not as important as our waiting together, being together, and building community together, one moment at a time. God is with us and among us, no matter what.

Much love to all,
Claire

7 comments:

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

"...I would sit in meeting and spend the whole time doing something quite other than worship – I would stare into space, focus only on staying awake, or silently cry with my grief."

"...The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words." (Romans 8:26, NRSV)

The idea that our sighs, groans, and crying are the Spirit (i.e., breath) praying (confiding our troubles to God) through us, was a very important one to early Friends. Their writings contain many mentions of this idea. And there are some descriptions of early Quaker meetings by outside observers that make it seem as if sighing and groaning and weeping might have been the main thing going on.

Of course, the experience of convincement, in its proper Quaker sense, is likely to involve a fair amount of sighing and weeping —

But anyway, I would suggest that if you did not think you were engaged in worship, it might have been only because your concept of real worship missed the mark a little (you "didn't know how to do it as you ought"), and all that time you thought you were not worshiping, the Spirit was engaged in worship through you.

Why else were you still going to meeting, anyway?

Claire said...

Marshall, thank you. I very much agree with you. In hindsight I see very clearly that the Spirit was indeed engaged in worship in me, and it's so beautiful to know.

Claire

Liz Opp said...

Hi, Claire.

Like you, I have over the years been letting go of my judgments around what we are "supposed" to be doing during Meetings for Worship.

And like you, when I have been down-trodden because of personal trials or worldly concerns, I do the one thing I know to do on First Days: take myself to meeting.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Paul Ricketts said...

Now when I sit in Meeting for
Worship I often marvel at how we are all sitting together, just being. Being together. I no longer worry if people are focused or are “doing it right”, because that’s not as important as our waiting together, being together, and building community together, one moment at a time. God is with us and among us, no matter what.

Thank you Claire …………….

Sometimes I get very disappointment and frustration with my Meeting.
But I am coming to believe
God is calling me to
shift my expectations
and attitude
about my Meeting to
“Let Go”
Letting go and accepting what is happening does not have to mean
"quitting" or "giving up".
Allowing a "space" to occur - a space which can become a crucible of
creativity and change.
Paul
..The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words." (Romans 8:26, NRSV)
Thank you Marshall,

kwix said...

Yes -- simply being is not that easy to do! And it definitely can be a form of worship.

God is always moving in us, whether or not we see or understand it, whether or not God does things the "right" way.

Lovely post, Claire!

Kent

CresceNet said...
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AYo said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your brother.

In regards to your post, I know someone that sings her vocal ministry in Meeting. I often cry at Meeting myself. I don't really care what others say, I know it is healing and I feel the Light so deeply.