> Why donâ€™t we describe the last religious service
> we attended and then explain what was religious
> about it?
For those of you who have been reading along, you know Iâ€™m a Quaker. Yesterday at meeting for worship, I was a greeter. We meet in an old mansion on Beacon Hill, just around the corner from the UUA offices. (The house was given to â€œthe Quakersâ€ by a stranger in the forties or fifties. Itâ€™s now a residential community of about 20 as well as housing Beacon Hill Friends Meeting.) Because of the nature of the building, greeters stay near the (locked) door to open it in addition to welcoming people as they come in.
I propped the door open and sat on the sill to welcome late arrivals. Two couples came, and with whispered greetings I directed them to the parlor to wait for the second seating. (We ask late arrivals to wait and go in 15 minutes into meeting for worship, when the children and young people come out for First Day School.) When they went in to meeting, I continued to sit on the doorsill in case there were any really late arrivals (there was one). Even with interior doors open, it was impossible to hear any spoken messages, although I could tell there were two or three very near the end of the hour.
So on a beautiful, sunny day with a light breeze, I sat in the doorway sharing a sense of stillness and purpose with those gathered inside, until the meeting ended (with a traditional handshake for those inside), when I stepped inside for announcements and introductions.
Iâ€™d like to make a distinction between a â€œreligious serviceâ€ and an occasion when worship occurs. Friends would say that you can have a meeting for worship but that doesnâ€™t guarantee that worship will occur; likewise, Quakers believe worship can occur anywhere, at any time.
It was religious in the sense of a religious service:
–by definition (an appointed meeting for worship within the Quaker tradition)
–by intention (those present aspired to an experience of the divine)
–by practice (it was rooted in and fostered a sense of connection; the service I was providing, though mundane, was essential in allowing people to connect).
My actual experience was also religious in the sense of worshiping (which I was not sure would be the case):
–by intent (I hoped that even sitting on the stoop I would feel a sense of connection to God and to the worshipers inside)
–by achievement (It was lovely. What a reminder of the goodness and fullness of life to sit quietly in enjoyment and to truly see a slice of the world. It was an occasion of feeling the numinous. It was atypical of my experience of Quaker worship in that the stimulus of the feeling was the external loveliness; usually, sitting in the meeting room, my attention is inwardly focused unless someone speaks. I felt a modest connection to those inside.)