Today was a difficult Meeting for Worship. Perhaps the most difficult I have attended to date.
The meeting felt depleted with Friends taking up responsibilities elsewhere. At times this can make for a deeper encounter but today it did not. It felt like there was a collective restlessness - with those that did attend arriving late, struggling to settle into silence and so on. It took around 40 minutes, by my reckoning at least, for the meeting to become gathered.
Outside the wind blustered, periodically howling through the building, and the rain spattered against the windows. The cars whizzing past the meeting house could also be heard spraying the surface water, attempting to return the fallen rain to the air. I tried to focus outwardly on all of this to calm my mind - whilst also trying to embrace the seemingly noisy page turning, door slamming, feet shuffling and whispering from those around me as par for the course.
In all honesty, I ended up for the most part frustrated, eventually mirroring the behaviour of others and flickering through the pages of Quaker Faith & Practice and the Bible - quietly feeling a desire to be back at a more traditional service of songs and sermons, perhaps back at a Unitarian & Free Christian chapel somewhere, or even just off strolling somewhere in the nearby Peak District.
Having recently dipped into 'The Cathedral of the World' by quite recently passed Unitarian-Universalist minister Forrest Church, I have been struck by what he recounts is written on his father's gravestone:
"I never knew [anyone] who felt self-important in the morning after spending the night in the open on an Idaho mountainside under a star-studded summer sky. Don't forget to spend some time in nature, where you can bear witness to the wonder of God."
I suppose, on reflection, we can sometimes place too much expectation on our Sunday mornings, and there is something to be said for simply sitting out in the garden or walking a valley as an alternative form of worship. Again, a case of not-doing, waiting rather than seeking.