In my last post, I was hung up on debating worship style. That is still stuck in my head, probably since we went to church recently. We are not frequent attendees just because we like to sleep in, and our toddler can be a handful, so it is rather difficult to keep her entertained in a confined space for that long. We felt it was necessary to attend as the current pastor was leaving to pursue other opportunities. She and the church had provided a lot of support when my wife was pregnant, bringing meals and just being helpful. We wanted to at least bid her a heartfelt farewell. To understand better let me tell you about my current church experience.
Quaker services give you a unique perspective about life. The quiet. The silence is deafening. A running joke between myself and my in-laws because I call unprogrammed meeting “adult timeout”. Let me explain, before college I couldn’t tell you what a Quaker was, or what Quakerism was, but now I can tell you what it means to me. These individuals are a reflection of the light that shines in us all. They are a monument to good deeds and compassion. They are close and reverent. They are friends just as the name implies. According to Wikipedia Quakers, (or Friends) are members of a historically Christian group of religious movements generally known as the Religious Society of Friends. Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united in a belief of the ability of each human being to experientially access “that of God in every person” and therefore they profess the priesthood of all believers, a doctrine derived from the First Epistle of Peter.
Understanding what a Quaker or Friend is, is only a part of it. You need to also understand that Quaker service is divided into two types: a programmed meeting in which service is conducted similarly to any other denomination of Christianity with music, a sermon or message with a reading from a Bible, and a benediction. The second type is unprogrammed which I refer to as adult timeout. It is a service that does not follow a set structure but is predominantly silent with members and attendees speaking whenever they feel called to. Take a moment to let that sink in. Going to church on a Sunday morning and sitting in complete silence. Sometimes someone may speak and other times not a single person may speak; I have been to a few like that. For me, unprogrammed service is adult time out. I feel like I am being punished and made to sit in a room and be silent. It’s a feeling of anxiousness from sitting in deafening silence for an undisclosed amount of time, waiting, sometimes hoping that someone will speak. Don’t get me wrong, I like peace and quiet to think and contemplate as much as the next person, but unprogrammed meeting for me is madness. My mind starts to wander. I start pondering many things appropriate and inappropriate. My thoughts enter avoid and go places considering what I should do next. For instance, this past Sunday I was just replaying the chorus from Future’s Mask Off:
See what I mean? Inappropriate. But I guess sometimes that is just what happens when my mind is given a reprieve.Those inner thoughts that creep to the recess, feeling, and emotions are hard to not consciously quell though they are what make life colorful. Living on the edge, making the most out of life. I am in agreement with Quaker belief as much as any other version of Christianity. The point is not to be negative about the style of worship, just comment on thoughts during this quiet moment. Let me get to the point. There are four key ways to survive an unprogrammed Quaker service.
- Maintain focus: Even though some of you may be like me, where your mind ventures to the most tumultuous thoughts possible, focus on the questions that you have swirling in your head. The real questions. Questions that you have put off thinking about for a better time. You know the ones that you ask yourself when no one is around, those.
- Contemplate God’s plan: at least consider God’s plan for me. I sometimes like to focus on the inner truth. The most basic of my emotions, my faith. Why do I believe? Am I living like I want? Am I a true reflection of Christ? I sometimes dwell on these just so I can maintain some sense of purpose. I gauge myself on how well I’m doing.
- Immerse yourself in your surroundings: understand the circumstance. Why are each of us in this place? What binds us together? Sometimes I concentrate on the empathy of people. The conversations that I have had with others prior to service start, and previous conversations following service. I let the moments of a profession, on occasion when someone speaks, resonate with me.
- Understand self: I like to think that I am a very insightful person, but let’s be realistic sometimes we are not rational and our emotions get the best of us. I often like to consider the three previous points and replay conversations that I have had decisions I made, and opportunities that I have missed run through my head. Analyze, meditate, and reasonably understand how these are a reflection of who I am. I think of this as a chance to do some of my reflection. Look at the actions that have led me here and where to go next. Did my interaction with the person reflect what I wanted? In some cases yes and no in others. In meditating I like to clear everything out, even these thoughts and focus on what is next. Plan out how I move forward.
By focusing on these four points you can safely navigate adult time-out. Your mind will still swirling with thoughts in the deafening silence but you will survive. In the best of situations, you may even be able to come to some reasonable solutions to problems you are facing.
What do you think about when it is quiet? Do your thoughts whirl? I challenge you all to think about your faith or lack thereof do you ever wonder what more? Where do I go from here?