A moment’s peace
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Reno, NV 89512
I like spirituality’s “where the rubber meets the road” aspects, the ministries that go out and feed the hungry and comfort the sick and imprisoned. So I guess I have to have a certain respect for a church that has had the courage of its convictions since day one. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is just such a group. Almost since their inception, the Christian group has supported causes of peace and justice. Their very basis in this country was religious tolerance, and they made the foundation of the anti-slavery movement. Nowadays, Quakers are very involved in the anti-war movement.
Many of us have heard this stuff about the Quakers before, and we have a stereotype of what they are all about, at least I did. As usual, any time I think I know something, it turns out to be wrong.
Hunter and I attended the 10 a.m. meeting on Sunday. I’d visited the group’s website, so I had a bit of a clue of what to expect. The meeting house is on the edge of the Northeast Community Center’s parking lot.
We came in the front door. The room was basically unadorned, a circle of about 30 plastic chairs. There was off-white carpet, a peaked ceiling with a few exposed beams. Near the ceiling’s peak was a window with the silhouette of a dove. To the back of the room was a library that held books, magazines, pamphlets and protest signs of an anti-war variety. To the front was a message board that mentioned upcoming event dates. There were potted plants in the corners. A very simple room.
Upon entry, there were three men sitting quietly in the chairs. One, recognizing us as strangers, greeted us and offered Hunter the opportunity to attend First Day School, the Quaker version of Sunday school. We declined and took our seats. People began to arrive in earnest at about 9:55 a.m.
They took their seats and sat quietly. And that’s pretty much the Quaker service—people sitting around quietly, listening to their thoughts, listening for the voice of God. Twice during the hour, people stood and talked about what was going on in their heads. One gentleman with a neatly trimmed white beard stood and talked about a dream he had the night before. He was ripping a plank on a radial arm saw, which is not the way you want to rip a plank, when an old hymn came into his mind. “He Leadeth Me,” I think it was.
“Where did those words come from?” he asked before singing a verse of the song.
An hour’s silence really gets the head going, particularly when you don’t reach the meditative state—it must have been slow torture for 10-year-old Hunter. On the way home, I taught him the basic ideas of meditation, in case he ever gets stuck in such a situation again. Random thoughts leapt up as they will, inspired by joints popping, sudden changes in breath, somebody’s belly rumbling, sighs, shifting positions.
My notes are pretty funny: “Some people have a Cold War of good fighting evil within them. The lines are clearly drawn, static. Some people have a hot war with constantly and wildly shifting fronts. I have a hot war.” “Campanula.” “Rhododendron.” “The other children try hard not to look at Hunter.” “Little girl reads A Series of Unfortunate Incidents.”
At about 10:50, the children from the First Day School, came into the meeting and joined their parents in silence. I believe after the children arrived, there were only four empty chairs. The meeting ended promptly on the hour, all momentarily joining hands.
In summation, the Quakers will accept anyone into their Religious Society of Friends. I think a good many people who read this newspaper might enjoy attending one of their Sunday meetings.