What’s it like to attend Quaker meeting for worship for the first time? We asked 6 Friends what they remember about their first experience.
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- Do you remember your first time at Quaker Meeting? What was the experience like?
- Charlotte Cloyd says, “The first time I went to Quaker Meeting, I didn’t know how to listen, and I sat and was uncomfortable and noticed the silence and was too analytical of what the silence meant for the first time”. What resources can we provide to newcomers so that they understand the silence of our worship and the concept of listening?
Victoria Green: Well, one of the members, JoAnn Seaver, came up to me and, very friendly, started a conversation. And I asked Joanne, “Is it true that for worship, you sit in silence for an hour?” And she said, “Yes, why don’t you come and join us and see how it is?” I told her, “Well I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think I can sit for an hour.” And she said, “Well, just come and do the best you can.” And that’s how I started coming.
My First Time At Quaker Meeting for Worship
Robert Fischer: My first impression of Quaker Meeting was confusion. I could not believe that people really were uniting together in practice not in dogma. It was literally incomprehensible to me, the fact that people believed different things and used different language but could be a community – and such a great community – because they shared the same set of practices, and because they came together in the same space and through that shared worship – that waiting worship – they developed a kind of sense of community and a sense of body, a sense of integration.
Learning to Settle Down
Charlotte Cloyd: The first time I went to Quaker Meeting, I didn’t know how to listen, and I sat and was uncomfortable and noticed the silence and was too analytical of what the silence meant for the first time, and then I kept going, and I didn’t stop going. And then I understood the very beginning of what listening meant. I didn’t really understand what listening was, because I never listened in church before, and then I had to work on the process of figuring out: what am I listening for? Am I listening to myself? What’s going on? What is everyone else listening to and how does that affect the community and me?
Victoria Green: At first it was quite different. It took a while for me to settle down, but then they had hospitality. The people were so friendly and gracious; there’s diversity there, and I just loved it. It was like two worship services in one. The silence, and hospitality is worship too.
Hearing a Message
Joseph Olejak: I just entered in and it was silence, and silence for a long time. And I thought to myself… you know, I heard about Quakers having a quiet meeting but I didn’t really have a sense of what that was in reality until actually sat for an hour in quiet. And there was like one message in that first meeting, and I think it was Elizabeth Grace who actually stood up and said something at that meeting about what was going on in the war in Iraq, and and I thought, wow, these people are serious people. They think about stuff that’s happening right now. And that was my first experience.
Anthony Smith: What impressed me about it was that there were people struggling. Not that they had the answers, but that they had questions and difficult questions that they were wrestling with, and they were trying to do so in a spiritually informed but also very intelligent way.
Scott Holmes: It felt like coming home. I felt like I had been wandering around a long time and had come home. Before I went, I did that thing with the Bible, where you kind of flip through real quick and just kind of peg a passage, and I pegged Micah, “What does the Lord require of thee but to justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?” And even though I was fairly familiar with the Bible in my tradition of Methodism, I had never run across that one before.
And so the only message given at my first Meeting was that, which became a very important passage for me. And the person who gave it, Cal Geigar, was an important person and was on my clearness committee. Turns out that’s the message he always gives, so it wasn’t like, you know… but it was still pretty cool. And it was coming home to me.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.