Communion in Meeting
Communing in the spirit might be one way to describe Quaker worship. Individuals meet together mainly in silence, but the aim is to become a ‘gathered’ meeting, to be in communion with one another and with the Other. The contrast with sung Eucharist, or high mass is stark… No wordy liturgy, no music, smells or bells, no single celebrant or president, no bread, wafer, patten or wine or chalice. This is not the normal celebration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.
Quakers in Britain do not perform the sacraments in the same way as other Christians. Why mark as a foretaste of what is to come when it is already here? Why invoke the spirit or the return of Christ when they are both already present? Why enact a special meal when every meal is an expression of companionship in the spirit of Christ?
Yet it still seems right to speak of a meeting for worship in a Quaker Meeting House as communion. Silent meditation can be practiced alone, anywhere. Quakers meet together deliberately because in meeting there is the possibility of sharing, giving and receiving ministry, encountering the Word, speaking truth, caring for one another and being filled with compassion, wonder and joy.
Although many in meeting sit with eyes closed some have found it vital to look around at others present. To allow inspiration to come from knowing who else is present, pondering on their circumstances, listening to their thoughts and words, feeling with them the joys and sorrows they carry. Not that awareness is limited to only those physically present; saints past and future, situations near and far, sensing the smallest and cosmic tremors can all be encompassed in the silent stillness.
I remember standing around a table/altar receiving communion with colleagues with whom I shared joys and disagreements. We were one despite our differences. Sitting in Meeting for Worship is the same; there are those with whom I feel a deep affinity and others with whom I have to tread as if on eggshells in case I offend. Yet we are in communion. We delve into the same depths, the pool of unknowing. We search the same labyrinths of experience for insight. We hold each other in the light wrapped in love. We communicate, sometimes in words, and find ourselves united with one another, supported by each other and linked to others in mysterious ways. We are reminded again of our roots in the faith, of those who have gone before us, and those who are travelling along with us. We are empowered by the experience to dare and to risk being vulnerable in living out our faith.
This is communion, not exclusive nor transient, but inclusive and timeless.