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No Piece of Cake

WisteriaDo you remember walking into Quaker Meeting for the first time? No matter what religious tradition we may have been from, we all knew right away that this is different. Is this a church? Nothing seems to be happening. There’s no liturgy to follow. No need to remember when to stand and when to sit. No one passes a collection plate. The only thing that seems to be required is not to fidget too much. Being a Quaker looks like a piece of cake!

There must be something about sitting quietly with other people that appeals to some of us at the outset, even before we learn what the silence is all about. In fact, trying to find out what you might have to believe is perhaps the first intimation that there might be more here than meets the eye. Sitting silently one morning you may discover that it’s going to take some work to find out what is going on.

There are some very simple rules for worship. Gradually we learn to follow them even though we may never think them out explicitly. We learn to come in quietly without greeting our friends; we learn to take time to settle down. We learn that a spoken message should be a leading of the Spirit and to listen with an open heart to the leadings of others. We learn to speak only once and not “to walk on” the preceding speaker, but allow an envelope of silence around each message. We learn to wait for the clerk to break meeting. We learn that even the youngest are included in the circle when we say our names.

What you discover about Quaker belief seems delightfully simple as well. The light within is the whole of our catechism. There is no dogma. The door is open to all – believers and unbelievers alike. It is a very pared down church.

But then we discover that it is also a do-it-yourself church. Someone has to carry the whole production: clerking, record-keeping, money management, First Day School, the works. And funds are required in spite of the lack of a collection plate. It becomes necessary either to plunge in or . . . not.

A second revelation may also begin to dawn quietly and slowly. What should the impact of the Quaker testimonies be on our lives? If the heart of Quakerism is the inner light, it is set in a very personal space, the very center of our beings. When the testimonies penetrate the center, they permeate our lives – work, play, and politics.

Suddenly being a Quaker is not a piece of cake. It requires us to be our very best selves at every moment. It’s not a Sunday activity, but a way of life – one you have to figure out each step of the way. One might feel almost like giving up. Maybe the best we can do is say, “I’m trying to be a Quaker.”