What was going on inside during a Quaker meeting

A photo I took in Jerusalem (July 2019) upon leaving the toilet — a liturgy of life

There is something very different about sitting in silence alone and sitting in silence with others. You are aware of the others and that brings something different that although we are all in the privacy of our own bodies we are inwardly, outwardly conscious.

Should you prefer to listen than read

I became aware of my sin and equally, I became aware of his grace. Maybe my attendance at Orthodox liturgies had made me more sin aware. The Divine Liturgy reminds us that we are sinners coming to an unsinful God. I can’t recall hearing the word sin in a Quaker meeting. People may ask what is sin? I guess the word sin is religious and means the opposite of what is godly. If you don’t believe in God then you probably don’t believe in sin. The closest to it may be unkind.

The sin I was conscious of was that of lustful thoughts. Yet I have learnt to look for the positive even in sin by asking what may it be telling me. It was telling me that I really like the subject of my lustful thoughts. It is that difficulty of having a good friend but also finding yourself attracted to them. It is sin because you are desiring what you don’t have. Some may let you away with a passing thought but if you play with it then you are entertaining sin.

I did say as much as I was aware of my sin I was aware of Father’s grace. In Romans chapter 5 verse 20 it says, “ Where sin abounds so much more does grace.” I guess ‘grace’ may also be a religious term although ‘she was gracious’ is in common usage so maybe better understood than sin. In the religious sense specifically the Christian it refers to Father overlooking our sin and still loving us.

Yesterday I observed a father and his 11-year-old daughter singing together in a small choir. The father was not happy that the girl was paying due attention so he took her to the back of the room and had a chat with her. She was annoyed but accepting. What I witnessed was although her father had love for her he was still prepared to correct her. The annoyance she felt would quickly dissolve into the love she had for her father and he for her. I think it is like that in my relationship with Father. I know as I remember my sin this morning that it is Father reminding me that I can do better yet his grace dissolves the guilt almost as quickly as the remembrance. The good thing is that Paul has named this thousand of years ago so we know this is a common Christian if not human experience. He writes in Romans chapter 7, “The sin I don’t want to do I do but the good I want to do I don’t.”

My thoughts then went to what I call, ‘The Liturgy of Life’ on this I knew I had been influenced by two recent observations of the Divine Liturgy which is the service from beginning to the end in Orthodox churches. At the beginning of the liturgy, it was my interpretation that it was about the participant getting themselves prepared to receive from God the body and blood of Jesus through the wine and the bread. In my, ‘Liturgy of Life’ this equates to the moment we awake by opening our eyes and begin to get ready for the day. This involves getting the clothes ready, eating something and washing ourselves to start the day afresh. At a point, we will be ready to complete ‘our work’ which may involve travelling to a location or at least entering a mindset which is focussed on doing tasks for the benefits of others rather than ourselves. This may be the equivalent to being ready to receive the bread and the wine. As we continue throughout the day as the light changes so does the Liturgy of Life. The interactions we have with others are part of the liturgy, do we bless them? And then at a point, we return to our homes when we begin to relax and reflect on the day.

The liturgy ends when we close our eyes and enter sleep.

In a Quaker, the ‘liturgy of silence’ ends on the hour with the shaking of the hands of each other.

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Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.