I sit still for an hour. Although it seems like 40 years.
I share this room with about ten other people, three of them friends of my age. I’m 19 years old, in many ways still a boy, and I accidentally stumbled into a Quaker meeting.
The room is sparse, there are no statues, no pictures, no distractions. We sit in some sort of a circle. No one is dressed up, there are no costumes, no one seems in charge.
I’m confused. What’s going on ?
Slowly, automatically, I settle into the silence and begin to listen to what, so it seems, is a “still inner voice”. As I enter into a dialogue without words, going deeper and deeper into myself, I’m filled up with a peace that I haven’t tasted for many years; a connection I forgot, resurfaced and a strength, of sweetness and fire, builds in my soul.
Suddenly one of the participants - an older woman - stands up and starts speaking, welcoming us, sharing a blessing, full of kindness.
And one of my friends starts laughing. He was startled… He had never seen such a thing. At home he knew ceremonies of a more Roman Catholic kind; of rituals and liturgy, and above all, a single priest, preaching.
No one had told him : Quakers believe in the priesthood of all believers. Everyone can rise and speak at the promptings of the the Sacred, sharing a blessings from within.
Although my friend keeps on laughing (louder and louder) and eventually needs to go outside, the other Friend - the older Quaker woman - calmly finishes her ministry and sits down. Unperturbed. As if it was all planned in some unforeseen way.
Slowly the peaceful silence returns and with the background noise of my dear friend laughing in the corridor, we are welcomed by the presence of the Divine. Even in his laughter.