I’ve been to several Quaker Sunday services, or meetings as they call them. Once no one said anything for the whole hour. Another time most of the sixty minutes were ﬁlled with talking. On one occasion the hour dragged (not the completely silent one, surprisingly) and on another it sped by.
Quakers talk of gathering, and of the gathered meeting. Just being together in one place is hardly anything. There must be a quality of waiting, of anticipation and of a sort of sympathy with each other. When a meeting is well gathered the experience can be wonderful and powerful. A group of individuals seem to become an organic whole, all contributing to and receiving from a shared experience of God.
I think this can teach us something important about the Baptist church meeting. We call ourselves democratic, but we are not to be assertive individuals standing up for ourselves. In a church meeting we should obviously share our opinions, thoughts, experience and convictions, but having done that we have to be more like Quakers and read the sense of the meeting as a whole. Sometimes a vote is required, but this is not the time to back our own ideas. We should often ﬁnd ourselves swayed by the discussion and voting against what we ﬁrst thought and in the way we think best reﬂects the mind of the meeting.
Quakers can get quite mystical about the gathered meeting. Church Meetings have a reputation for tedium and occasional nastiness, but I think we should expect much better than this. Hidden in the agenda, reports and proposals is a new way of being human. Not standing alone, but discovering ourselves in community, and meeting God who comes to us in each other, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.