Viewpoint from Hilary Grundy for 30th September 2011
Member of Yarmouth Quaker Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.
Yarmouth’s peaceful early on Sunday mornings.
Entering through a green door from Palmer’s car park, the tranquil hidden garden of the Quaker Meeting House welcomes, b
athed in autumn sunshine. There’s a smell of earthy moistness. Seagulls cry overhead. Linger a moment; and then turn into the Meeting House. It’s a large, plain room. High ceilinged; large windows; chairs in a circle around a table upon which stand a small vase of flowers and books. Quakers have been meeting here in unhurried calm since 1694. The room holds an almost palpable sense of quietude.
Making our way to the chairs, we arrange cushions, and hassocks, and settle ourselves comfortably for an hour of silent worship in the stillness of the Meeting House. At first, the brain buzzes with things remembered, or jobs to do, and then slips imperceptibly into a peaceful ‘awake and listening’ mode. Eyes close, and we turn our attention inwards. For how are we to know God or the Spirit unless we shut up and listen?
Here in this place, in the hour of stillness, is space to connect to the soul; to explore, or to grasp what is right and true for us. Being true to our inner spiritual beliefs is a touchstone of Quaker worship. There is no dogma which must be followed in order to belong; no hierarchy to be obeyed; we are all equal before God.
And so the Meeting for Worship continues. A sense of deepening quietness pervades the room as the hour progresses. This time of spiritual renewal allows for the rebalancing of our lives, and sets us on course to meet the events of the week ahead.
Occasionally, the quiet is interrupted for a few minutes by a person standing to speak on a matter of some spiritual significance for them. We accept that personal journeys of the spirit may be a sequence of stops and starts, of doubt and uncertainty mixed with new understandings. Quakers remain open to the idea that a new personal truth may come from a direction unexpected and initially even unwelcomed. We ask for patience from those who declare their faith with absolute certainty and steadfastness, but believe that the ongoing questioning of spiritual truths is the right place for us right now, and may even be exciting.
The hour is nearly up. There is a sly glance at watch or clock. Eye contact is made. Perhaps a raised eyebrow indicates the unspoken question “are we ready to end Meeting for Worship now”? We stand, join hands for a minute or two in a circle, affirming our contact one with another, laughing as we hear the joints creak after an hour’s stillness.
There is a burble of boiling kettles in the kitchen. The chink of cups making contact with saucers. Tea and biscuits arrive. Chatter starts. The door to the garden is opened, and we, each inwardly renewed and refreshed, chatter as we take our tea out into the garden and the soft autumn sunshine.