Quaker Meetings often attract seekers, those who yearn for the mystery and comfort of a spiritual life but who haven’t yet found their spiritual home. There is something about the open silence of unprogammed Silent Worship – the heart of Quakerism – that seekers find welcoming, even liberating. There is no sermon, no lectionary, no spiritual music, so each person can experience the silence in whatever way helps her or him feel and understand the mystery of God.
Many of the Reno Friends are seekers, and a good number of us come from other spiritual traditions – Baptist, Congregational, Catholic, Jewish. One attender is a devoted seeker who has spent years studying Buddhism. Many of us grew up in other Protestant churches. We also have an attender married to a Muslim and who has raised her children as Muslims, an experience that has deeply influenced her understanding and appreciation of God. There are a few Universalists, and even some atheists (or at least agnostics) in the group. Those of us with other religious backgrounds and wisdom often share these experiences in worship or discussion classes, to the enrichment of all.
It was this tolerance of seekers that first attracted me to Quaker Meeting. I loved how the Quakers had Queries, or questions, instead of dogma or declarations. I loved how often the messages shared in the Silence were wrapped around the mysteries of life and faith. I have always felt free at Meeting to share my own doubts and spiritual insecurities. When others in the Meeting respond, it is with compassion, interest and stories from their own meandering spiritual searches.
To feed our spiritual journeys, we meet monthly for spiritual discussions on various topics, and we have recently started a book club to talk about books with spiritual and Quakerly stories. And, as always, messages shared out of the Silence continue to feed and inspire us.
One of the most profound stories I ever heard was told out of the Silence at a Quaker Meeting in Washington, D.C. A man in his fifties rose and haltingly told the tale of his father’s tortured spiritual quest. How his father started out as Jewish, converted to Catholicism, later boomeranged to atheism, and then retreated into a mix of Buddhism and New Age Spirituality. Near the end of his life, he had joined his son – the speaker – for Quaker Meeting. At the end of this tale, the son took a deep breath and said: “My father died this past week. I hope now he has his answer.”
Many have found their spiritual answers, but for those who have not, the patient “waiting on God” of Silent Worship can provide some of the solace we seek.
Wendy Swallow, Blog Editor, Reno Friends Meeting
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.