Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Quaking

on May 8, 2012

I really wanted to write something about my weekend.  It was pretty good.  Lunch with my lovely friend Jo from Uni, and a trip round Manchester Art Gallery. We saw a fabulous exhibition about posters from the British Empire Company and a dress made of needles.  I am quite scathing about art because I don’t really get it and it makes me feel stupid.  I need to remember that this is not the fault of art or the artist. Jo did a degree in something to do with art, which probably helped. Then I had dinner with another friend and we went to see ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ with some more friends. I spent half the time wondering when Ewan MacGregor got old, and the other half thinking how nice Emily Blunt looked in everything she wore. Later I realised that this was because, as I only have time to watch one hour of TV a week (‘The Good Wife’ – I love it), I’m really only used to seeing normal people. Emily Blunt is just thinner than your average person so of course she looks good.  If you want to improve your body image, stop watching TV. That is my advice to you all.

On Sunday I tried a Quaker meeting. I’ve always been to church. Always.  I started by being christened in a Methodist Church, spent my teenage years being a very enthusiastic Baptist and getting baptised by immersion (full dunking), spent most of my uni years in a Church of England church (where I also got confirmed and married – I’m collecting the sacraments) and then, when we moved, went to a few different charismatic evangelical churches. Finally I ended up in my current church, which is a bit liberal and a bit post-modern. We do lots of discussion, watch bits of films, talk about books, talk about politics, do arty things.  I really like it. But about seven years ago I stopped believing in God. I liked believing in God and I haven’t wanted to give up on it.  So now I’ve decided to try a few different things and see if anything resonates with me.

The Quakers seem a natural place to start.  I like a lot of what they seem to value: equality, social justice, protest, diversity. I do imagine them being a bit beard-and-sandals. But I thought I’d give it a go.

It was a bit scary – I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know how it would work or what would happen.  And there’s the silence thing. Actually, it turns out that sitting in silence for an hour is a luxury. The children were in for the first fifteen minutes, so that was the sort of silence you get when children are doing their best to be quiet.  Then there was another fifteen minutes of silence, during which I tried to ignore my tickly cough. I wondered if anyone would say anything. I wondered what I should be feeling, whether I could expect any sort of revelation.  After about 40 minutes there was a universal fidget. Clearly, even hardcore Quakers have their limits as to how long they can sit still for.  Someone stood up, read a sonnet, and talked about friendship. Someone else talked about the Kinder Trespass and the Quaker tradition of protesting and trying to bring change. Someone else talked about their MS and linked the Kinder Trespass, a protest to access, to her experience of access and disability.  We were quiet for a bit longer. Two people shook hands to signal the end of the quiet bit. As in all churches, there were notices. I love church notices – you get a feel for the community. New people were invited to introduce themselves.  I did.  A few people talked to me.  There was coffee.

I liked it. I’m still not sure about the silence. For me, it felt like something to experience, maybe learn to appreciate, but I am so used to talking in order to think about things. It felt like an emptiness rather than a fullness, that all the other bits of Quaker life would be where things really happened, and I’m sure that’s not what it means to most Quakers. I think I need to go for a bit longer to see how it works and how I like it, but I think it could be a good place for me to be for now.

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One response to “Quaking

  1. seaswift says:

    This is really interesting. I’ve never been to a quaker service but I’ve read about them. Strangely enought, I’ve just read a book by John-Paul Flintoff, who tries out different religions to see what the experience is like and learns to make his own clothes (amongst other things) – it’s called Sew Your Own, and is bizarrely thought-provoking and fascinating.

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