4.03.2006

quaker service

Well, i did manage to actually go yesterday, and my stomach did not growl.

here's what it was like:

All told, Seven people came to the meeting. Four people were already seated when i arrived. Two of those people (and names changed to protect the innocent) were Betty and Sue. Betty was an older woman and Sue was a young asian woman with questionable english--she introduced herself by hopefully saying "This is Sue." Betty was asking Sue about the color of the wedding dress. "Is it powder blue? Is it periwinkle blue? Is it skyblue?" Sue was answering yes to all of these questions. While that was going on I introduced myself to Jeff, a fourty something that was sitting on the pew next to me. (There were four pews, arranged in a square, all facing each other.) Another woman had walked in and was settling down when I heard Betty say "well, we'll get to talk about it more between now and then..." and that was all that was said for the next 30 to 40 minutes.

Birds chirped outside, a coffee pot breathed in another room. Occasionally someone shifted in their seat with a loud creak. A bell rang for quite a while in the distance. Eventually, the woman who had settled in said "i was thinking this morning about the concept of time and how it effects our lives so much--what with the time change and everything. i'm glad i heard the peepers (little frogs) last night. It tells me spring is coming.

We sat silently for another, oh, ten minutes. And then someone stretched...and that was all. We had a quiet conversation. And then we left.

Ofcourse, other things happened in that room during that time--things that can't be physically described--but i believe that those things transcend words, and so respectfully leave that part out.

a few notes on physicality:

the building we were in was built in 1820. It was enormous. The meeting was held in a small side chapel--"to keep down on heating costs" i was told. An interesting thing: The huge main chapel was bisected with a wall that lowered from the ceiling via a system of ropes. kinda like pocket doors on their side. This was there for seperate men's and women's business meetings. As you probably know, the Friends are notoriously egalitarian, so this wasn't gender segregation--it was just that sometimes they might have needed to have seperate meetings about things.

One thing i noted in the small chapel was that there was a modern churchy table in there--obviously placed for convienence. It sat behind one of the pews that formed our square. Here are some hastily googled images:





The reason i've put those in is to point out the differences in the visual vocabulary of that heavy table and the delicate pews we sat in. This is one of the things i refelected on during the service. On the left is a church table that i figure everyone is familiar with. It has that wellworn ecclesiastical style--heavy oak, stolidity (is that a word?), command. On the right is a shaker pew (the shakers broke off from the quakers long long ago, but they were at one time connected.) "Shaker furniture", which most everything else in this building was an example of, is always light, beautifully proportioned--and humble. I think these differences in objects show up in how different faiths conduct themselves in the world.

Another way of saying this: A sign on the wall i noticed as i was going into the meeting said:

"creed: welcome."

2 comments:

Gargantuas said...

But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. Habakkuk 2:20

Eliza McGraw said...

I just read the whole post and rarely have I heard a story of a graduate school product that succeeded so well. Just the one guy wanting to keep the memorial shows you that it worked, that you were right to have this idea and to work so hard to intervene in a place with art.

When I went to Quaker school back in the day, we had Meeting for Worship at 11:00 AM, and it was like total rumble fish every single time. We used to chew Big Red because we thought the sugar kept our stomachs quiet and we always called it "Meeting Gum." I think borborygmi is just part of Quaking.

And you are quite the stone fox in the shirtless flexing picture, but not quite as hot as Alison on the bike.