How I came to love meeting for worship

I started looking for an authentic spiritual practice when I was 21. When I was 23, I graduated from college and went to my first meeting for worship (almost by accident) within a month of each other. For the first time, my life was all about my relationship with God and poor people. My work, my “church”, my spirit were all aligned and it was intensely powerful.

Three months later, I moved to New York City. I ran “street libraries” in Harlem and East New York during the week and attended 15th St. Meeting on Sundays. Fifteenth St. at the time was not an especially centered Meeting. They were in the throes of a decade long fight over same gender marriage. But I started going to Business Meeting anyway. Just to see what it was about. A couple of 40-something women started a midweek worship sharing for “people in helping professions.” I showed up. Most weeks it was just the three of us. Someone else started a Tuesday night meeting for worship. I showed up. I was always the youngest person there. But worship fed my soul and I got to know more of the people.

All right. Here is one of the great stories of my life. After college, I moved to a city of seven million people. The first week I was there, I went to meeting for worship and I met three people who lived within three blocks of me. One of whom was Chris M., the man who is now my husband. Some of our first dates were coffee after the weekly Seekers’ class. I admit it: sometimes I went to Tuesday night worship just because I knew Chris might be there. He probably went for the same reason.

But if I had just wanted to go out with Chris, we wouldn’t have had to spend the first hour of a date in silence. Believe me, we didn’t always. We also used to hang out at the bar across the street from my house. [Ahem. It wasn't really like the movie. Just a NYC dive bar with country music.]

Anyway, it was important that the person I went out with on Saturday night was also getting up on Sunday morning. Sometimes we went to meeting on a couple of hours of sleep and still reeking (I assume) of smoke and beer. But we went.

I always want to go. Meeting for worship is SO important to me. Even when I was again coming to meeting on three hours of sleep and reeking of baby vomit. Even when I’m on vacation. Even when I’m depressed. I still don’t understand people who give up on meeting for worship.

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Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I still feel that elemental pull too. It happened again yesterday. I knew I was coming down with a cold, I was taking my placebo medicines faithfully (!), and snuggled in Saturday night for the rest of the virtuous. Each time I woke up and peeked at Judy's alarm clock, the bed became yet more comfortable and even, dare I say it, healing. Why, staying in bed felt more and more like the spiritual thing to do.

If I really want to get to Reedwood Friends by 9:30, I have to be on my feet by 9 a.m. At 8:59 a.m., I was the very definition of horizontal. I would say that my feel hit the floor while my head was still 100% in snooze mode. I don't think I realized what I was doing until halfway to the bathroom.

By 9:31, I was in the meetingroom.

11/07/2005 9:02 PM  
Blogger Zach Alexander said...

I agree... sometimes I don't feel like going to MfW, but it really is "ground zero", and I don't think one should miss it too often or for too long.

Can you explain what a "street library" is?

11/24/2005 9:15 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

A street library is a box of books on the sidewalk. Or it can be more elaborate, with a blanket to sit on, a couple of people to read stories to the younger children, and some art supplies. For the Fourth World Movement, a street library is the heart of a community organizing project, set up for children to begin with, with the aim of reaching the most excluded, the ones who might not participate in a program that wasn't right in front of their house, and then working with others in the neighborhood to also reach out to help the poorest amongst them. I worked in East Harlem and the East New York part of Brooklyn.

11/29/2005 12:01 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

Hi Robin,

Aw, that's so cute that's how you and Chris met! Not to be patronizing or anything.

Hmm, your story resonates a lot with me. I feel like my life right now is mostly about my relationship with God and poor people.

I have told my special friend about Quakerism and he's open to learning about it. I let off the membership questions (but not the faith in general questions) because I decided it would be really nice to be the same religion as my partner. Since he and I are both open, it would also be really nice to journey and explore together.

12/12/2007 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely story! I agree with you on many fronts. I wasn't aware that you started your Quaker journey in 15th St. Meeting--as a member of one of the NJ meetings within NYYM, I have long heard about 15th Street's "issues" with marriage, but never really knew the whole story behind it. This, and your other comment, clarify things for me a bit. So thanks for that, too.


12/13/2007 9:29 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Allison, it's not too patronizing. I love this story too.

Your point about being the same religion as your partner is an important one. For me, it is important to remember that beliefs are one part of religion, and Quakerism has some wiggle room there. But participating in a religious community is in many ways like any other organization - it takes time and involves other people who will be annoying and disappointing sometimes. But if you are both involved in the same community, it won't be a division in your relationship, it will be a bond. I think most couples need to be involved in some things together and some things apart. Just as a small example, Chris and I are in one Meeting together, but we always serve on separate committees.

Mia, I'm sure you know that what I have written is only a small part of the saga, good and bad, of 15th St. Meeting. Much good spiritual and compassionate work is done there. And sometimes people are their annoying and disappointing selves, see above. And sometimes people disagree, honestly and with great integrity on all sides. It is all part of our learning journey.

12/13/2007 11:19 AM  

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