For most of my life meetings have been a regular and sometimes frequent entry in my diary. Generally I enjoyed meetings, though I often heard others complaining about the number or length of meetings they had to attend. There were of course some which left me feeling drained or frustrated or even angry. But most were useful and in almost all I could make a contribution.
For Quakers ‘Meeting for Worship’ is usually considered the heart of the matter, though living out ones faith everyday is equally vital. I find myself today thinking that if we were to drop the ‘for Worship’ from the description, I would not be unhappy. It is ‘meeting’ that is important.
In Quaker faith & practice (2.11) there is this quotation from the minutes of Yearly Meeting, “True worship may be experienced at any time; in any place – alone on the hills or in the busy daily life – we may find God, in whom we live and move and have our being. But this individual experience is not sufficient, and in a meeting held in the Spirit there is a giving and receiving between its members, one helping another with or without words. So there may come a wider vision and a deeper experience.” Whatever worship might be and whether or not the word God means anything to us, I think both individual and communal experience is critical in moving towards a sense of identity, in a search for meaning and purpose and in developing relationships.
It is in meeting that we develop relationships with one another. As George Gorman wrote in 1982 (also in Qf&p 10.20), “One of the unexpected things I have learnt in my life as a Quaker is that religion is basically about relationships between people. This was an unexpected discovery, because I had been brought up to believe that religion was essentially about our relationship with God.” He continues, “But I do not think I am alone in my certainty that it’s in my relationships with people that the deepest religious truths are most vividly disclosed.”
During lockdown Meeting Houses, like other places of worship, have been closed. But many Quakers and others have found that meeting through Zoom or Teams or other platforms has been surprisingly helpful. It has been good to see each other and be able to hear the truths and insights that come when we are together. Our relationships continue to be nourished as we meet online.
One of my ongoing goals is to reach the way of being that every time I meet someone I am aware that this person is someone who is precious, who can both give and receive love, who will have truth and wisdom, and who can be a friend. Even meeting at two meter distance, or when wearing a face covering, a true meeting of ‘souls’ can happen, and both can be enriched.