Recently a Reno Friend offered the Meeting a large photograph of a maple leaf. It was a vivid image, the veins of the leaf quite pronounced, branching and spreading in all directions. The Friend told us she became attached to the image after another Reno Friend suggested the leaf illustrated that there are many paths to God. Her hope was that we would hang the painting in the Meeting House.
Other groups might say yea or nay quickly, without much deliberation. Not the Quakers. Meeting House decoration can be a loaded question. Early Quakers were notoriously “plain-living,” eschewing fancy dress and sumptuous furnishings. They also rejected the ornate Anglican and Catholic church buildings of their day, and many Quakers still prefer to keep their Meeting Houses simple. Yet we have found that sometimes this “blank slate” interior, combined with the silence of our worship, can leave visitors wondering what we are about.
At Reno Friends we have occasionally used our Meeting House walls to showcase local artists or to hang posters with Quaker messages. But none of these are permanent fixtures. Indeed, we have a policy prohibiting permanent art on the Meeting House walls: we would not want to promote any particular path toward God.
In the Quaker tradition there is even a testimony against proselytizing; we believe each person must determine the truth for themselves. As Quaker Clarence E. Pickett said: “We who are members of the Society of Friends have little to fall back on except as our experience with truth. We cannot resort to ritual or creed or ecclesiastical decisions for guidance. We must find our way by seeing the hand of God at work in the weaving of the fabric of daily life.”
After some discussion, our Meeting decided to accept the picture of the maple leaf for temporary display. While it hangs on our wall, we’ll each have time to consider what the leaf means to us. There are many paths to God, enough for each to have their own.
In the Light,
Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting
email: wswallow54 (at) gmail.com
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.