Sunday, September 6, 2009

Are Quakers really interested in silence?

I thought I would go for the shock value here.
This from the newsletter of The School Of the Spirit-I am a graduate of the, On being a spiritual nurturer program-

Over the years the contemplative retreat has tended to incorporate more silence than indicated in the letter which was sent to Friends in advance. This posed a challenge for some attending for the first time, particularly those who had planned to meet as a small group within the context of the full retreat group. This matter was discussed on the first evening and accommodations were made so that the needs of all might best be met.

In deepest humility and respect, silence cannot be experienced by talking about it.
I attended Friends worship and workshops and retreats for 30 years and it was not until my second week living, working and being in silent community that I came to know silence and it's gifts.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has a traveling "extended" Meeting for worship quarterly, where Friends gather for about 3 hours of Worship. I know that many who attend are longing for more, and like me don't know where to find it and experience it.
That is the main purpose of this blog- to find others who want to journey along with me in silent community and make it possible for other to join us.
Leave a comment


David Carl said...

Very much agree. I've thought about next time I attend FGC foregoing a workshop for the extended worship. We've had some discussion with another "School of the Spirit Grad" here in SCYM-land about doing a silent retreat. Hm, maybe I need to get back on that....

forrestwife said...

thanks for the comment. If you need support getting a silent retreat or extended worship going get in touch with me. I'd love to hear about this happening.

Diane said...

I love the silence, but have never tried an extended experience. I'll look forward to finding an opportunity to experience it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Robyn,
I followed you here from FB--I love your remark that silence can't be experienced by talking about it.
I've read a bit about mediaeval history and nunneries in that time--many of them observed a rule of silence (often w/ one hour daily for converse), but the weird thing is, they developed a sign-language for communicating during their silent times. I would think that sort of sub-vocalization would undercut the spirit of the silence idea.

heartgarden said...

I am so glad you posted this. I've attended the extended meetings for worship and loved the depth of peace it can provide.

I am struck by the fact that early Quakers met for hours, not 45-60 minutes. Let's face it, by the time people come and go at the beginning or end, we are down to about 30 minutes at some meetings.

George Fox is known for pointedly asking people what they experienced out of their spiritual life. The Bible says this, but what can you say? Early Quakers were evangelical in nature and were expected to have an answer, an experience with Christ.

Is it possible that the Religious Society of Friends is mirroring the society at-large and is less able to sit in that awesome place that is beyond words. We simply are too busy or out of touch with our deepest connection to ourselves and God/Goddess/Divine/Spirit.

Joan Gunn Broadfield said...

Robin! Wonderful to see this...

I strongly believe that we are shooting ourselves in the foot when we worship silence. Extended worship is more than silence. Silence is absence of sound, a vacuum, and so when people come expecting silence, they forget to expect Divine presence. And when Quakers met in olden times, it was for MORE than 1 hour in the old days, I suspect because the speaking needing the cushion of expectant waiting.

If your question is about needing focus and not words, yes! Our Meeting often has totally wordless worship - with the sounds around us: birds, sirens, children ... sometimes cars with rumblebass... :o) But I see SILENCE as impossible and for me not a useful frame.

Love to you!! MISS YOU!!!!