Spirituality has been a complicated journey for most of my life. I think my strongest moments of faith came around age 15 or 16. After that, I hit the existentialist books pretty hard, mixed in some astrophysics and evolutionary biology, and really started to doubt the whole mythology I’d been raised on. However, we still baptized our two sons at the coolest church in town. No, really. It’s seriously progressive and it was even a stop on the Underground Railroad way back in the day.
But, although we love the community, and the coffee and cookie hour after church, traditional services haven’t exactly been what my wife and I are seeking. At least, not at this point in our lives. So, we took a good year off from any kind of church service.
A couple months ago, we agreed to try a Quaker service. It took until a couple weeks ago to get the child care lined up so we could attend it by ourselves. Already, I feel hooked.
The service, which is held in a small building at our local university, starts out with everyone sitting in a circle and greeting each other. It then quickly transitions into silence. An hour of silence. Beautiful, eyes-closed, inhale-exhale silence. Alone, but also together.
For Lindsay and me, this time is a sanity-restoring gift. How often do we wish for some quiet, alone time? How often do we set intentions to meditate, and then not follow through?
Silence probably wouldn’t appeal to everyone. And it might not appeal to people going through a particularly rough patch. It can be tough to be alone with your thoughts for an hour.
But, right now, this silent break is what my wife and I need in our lives.
After the hour of silence, someone rings a bell- usually it’s set on someone’s smart phone. Then, we go around the circle, introduce ourselves and share what we choose to.
When everyone has had a chance to share, there is a potluck meal. There was even food a gluten- and soy-free vegan could eat! Talk about inclusive.
There is an annual conference for the upper Midwest being held a couple hours away on Memorial Day weekend. It’s called the Northern Yearly Meeting. I don’t know that we’ll go, as we usually have a family cabin weekend with my wife’s parents. But, the idea of getting together with a bunch of kind-hearted people, meditating, and talking about deeply personal experiences, peace, social justice, and environmental ethics sounds great.
So, maybe I’m turning Quaker. Bring on the oatmeal jokes.