For three years I’ve been attending the meeting that my partner belongs to. It’s a small meeting, about 20 at worship. It’s a big change from the urban meeting I’m a member of, which routinely has 100 people gathered together for unprogrammed worship.
At first I thought I was having trouble shifting from that large, urban meeting, which I found so powerful and where there were often deeply silent meetings, to the small, quiet one in the suburbs. But I’m coming to understand that there is more to my trouble than adjusting to a shift in numbers.
Don’t mistake me. It’s a friendly meeting! I like the people there. Lots of strong individuals who’ve led and are leading interesting lives. I’m making social friendships. I’ve been warmly welcomed. Community is strong. And there is a real desire in the meeting to make the world a better place, with actions that match that desire. More than a few folks, in a spirit of hospitality, have asked me when I’m transferring my membership out of the city and joining with them officially.
I can’t do it.
This week I was given more insight into why. Even though I’m not a member I’ve been serving on a committee. Over the weekend, we were putting the final touches, via e-mail, on a list of basic books about Quakerism to be ordered from FGC. There were maybe eight or so titles on the list–new stuff from FGC that I haven’t caught up with yet. But there were two classics that I didn’t see on the list: Friends for 350 Years and A Testament of Devotion.
I suggested them.
I was shaken by the e-mails I got back. Several Friends said they had always found Kelly’s language too opaque and daunting. What they could grasp of Kelly didn’t speak to their condition. And Brinton (although one Friend said she personally loved the book) was deemed “not suitable for newcomers.” As one member put it, she found that Brinton told her “more about Quakerism than [she] wanted to know.”
These book-ordering e-mails have proved extremely painful to me. They’ve gone deep. They’ve revealed to me, in an actual way, that these good, caring people and I are not speaking the same language.
This Sunday, I will sit down with them in the meeting room. There will be a lovely fire in the fireplace that the benches are arranged around. In the silence . . . In worship . . . Where are our places of communion? I am filled with a sense of spiritual loneliness. What is it calling me to?