Visiting Quaker meetings by zoom
It was my fourth week of working through the World Friends Website having visited Friends in, Pendle Hill, Ben Lomond, Boulder, Chena Ridge, Colorado Springs, and Salmon Bay. This week West Richmond was next on the list.
Not only am I experiencing Quaker meetings in the United States I am becoming acquainted with different time zones and the geography. So I was thinking that West Richmond was in Virginia only to learn it is in Indiana.
I am aware of what is referred to as ‘programmed’ Meeting for Worship. In the UK most Quaker meetings are ‘unprogrammed’ that is to say we sit in silence and wait for the Spirit to move us to speak, sing or whatever the spirit chooses to do. In programmed meetings, it has an order of service such as an opening prayer, a hymn or two and maybe a sermon. Truth be told I had never experienced a programmed Quaker meeting so I was assuming. West Richmond is a programmed Quaker meeting.
I like the ‘zoom way’ as it gives us all our own space in the form of our screen. It doesn’t matter whether it is a programmed meeting or not the zoom room is the same. A keyboard appeared with a player and I guess an introductory tune, a prelude. This was followed by a welcome by an elder who then read from Psalm 85. The zoom camera follows whoever is unmuted and speaking so it moves from one screen to the next quite seamlessly.
It moved to a member who was facilitating, ‘Joys and Concerns’. As an individual chose to share a joy or a concern the member noted their comments and then drew them together in a prayer. We then moved to a Taize chant, a reading from Ephesians and then the sermon. The pastoral minister offered a model of how we may live in an anti-racism way. A silence followed his conclusion. It lasted maybe 15 minutes during which two people offered reflections on what they had just heard. The meeting closed with a prayer. I noted the last line of the prayer, “ In the name of Jesus, our friend.”
There was a short break after which the assembled could have fellowship for half an hour. I thought about staying though then felt it would be right to ‘leave’ the meeting.
I realised I have become so well acquainted with silence that while I could see how we could work programmed elements into a meeting I would still wish for a longer period of silence. I would think I would need at least half an hour with words being few.