Peeing in Worship

This is a belated report on the second extended meeting for worship at SF Friends Meeting. (Click here for my report on the first of these experiments.)

Once again, the sense of spaciousness in worship was refreshing.

I once read a description of an American’s return from Europe: she really knew she was home when she was watching the weather reports on tv and seeing the diagrams of whole storm fronts moving across the country, instead of the much smaller maps of rain or sun that might cover a whole country like the Netherlands.

In this 2½ hour meeting, I had the sense of not just little breezes, or an isolated thunder shower, but whole weather fronts of the Holy Spirit having time to pass through.

At the end of meeting I gave in to a lesser prompt to get up and tell everyone about this clever image. Other folks liked it, but I know I should have sat on it and not pretended it was ministry. Unprogrammed worship is always a learning journey.

Another important opportunity for learning came because 2½ hours is pretty much too long for me to sit without going to the bathroom. Maybe you didn’t want to know that, but it’s true. What was amazing to me was my sense that being in worship didn’t stop when I stood up or walked out of the room or even while peeing. The gentle sense of heightened awareness and connection just continued all the way until I got back to my seat in the meeting room. I think the calmness that comes from knowing we have all the time we need enabled me to fret less about interrupting worship for myself and others and to simply move and be still in that great ocean of love that is God’s presence.

We will continue to hold extended worship on the next three fifth Sundays: December 30, 2007, March 30, and June 29, 2008. All are welcome.

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Blogger Martin Kelley said...

I once had a bad coughing fit in worship. I tried meditating it away but it was no use. I regrettably walked out but decided to keep the worship for the remainder of the hour. I needed cough drops and for those I needed cash, so my continued worship included a stop at an ATM and convenience store. I was able to keep in the zone for that time, which of course made me wonder how much of this care and deliberateness I could bring to all the secular world.

10/18/2007 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try staying "in the zone" in what we call the "St. Martha Room" during mass, with all the moms (and some dads) and the many raucous young children in a fairly tight space. It's pretty much impossible, but we trust that God knows this is the best we can do at mass at the moment. It is, however, frustrating for the parents at times, not to have that "alone time" with God in worship. Being a parent means worshiping God differently, I guess. Robin, I don't usually read your blog but this particularly got my attention, so I hope you don't mind me commenting. Oh, and it occurred to me just now, do you get childcare for these extended periods of time? I couldn't imagine having that much time to myself for any reason. Do you and Chris swap off events or something?

10/20/2007 12:08 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Julie and Martin!

Yes, I thought this was an eye-catching title. Julie, I never mind you commenting, drop by whenever you can.

Worship with my children is a wonderful thing, but it is not the same as worship that is just between me and God. I am glad to have the opportunity to do both at different times.

Because Chris is clerking the meeting, this year I am responsible for making sure our children come in and out of worship and our First Day School program at the appropriate times. Usually this is a brief interlude, but if there were a problem, it would be my gig. I'm working on having this be a time of moving in worship, and sometimes it is and often it isn't.

During these extended meetings for worship, our Meeting has committed to providing an extended children's program. The children still come for just 15 minutes, but at the end rather than the beginning. There is much wiggling and some noise, which our Meeting is usually pretty tolerant of, and even more so when they've already had two and a quarter hours, some of them.

Some people still come in at the regular time of 11:00, and this time those folks reported finding the worship already still, deep and rich.

I wonder how my kids would cope with 2 1/2 hours. They've done half hour and full hour worship from time to time, sometimes with a book or a sketch pad, but I think that the extended version is an adult pleasure. I know they are grateful that I don't insist that they come for the whole time. I'm sure there were generations of Friends who had their children with them for hours, but I also think that they had a different understanding of child development than I do.

10/20/2007 1:13 AM  
Blogger Cat C-B (and/or Peter B) said...

What a wonderful post! First, I also love your title. Honestly, that title is so good, I hope that someday, someone writes a book with that title, just so I can have it on my shelf.

Though if the substance is as good as the rest of the entry, the book will wind up down, off the shelf, being read, a whole lot.

I absolutely love the image of whole fronts of Spirit moving across an extended Meeting for Worship, and I know just exactly what you mean... there have been times when meeting has felt like a field of grass to me, moving under waves of a wind that comes sweeping through us and then is still. (By this I do not mean vocal ministry coming in waves--just the sense of depth and Spirit. Is this like what you're describing?)

I also loved your ownership of responding to a "lesser prompt," because I know so often we do this. Having a blog is a real blessing to me, because often I will explore those "lesser prompts" there. As one of nature's big mouths, I really need all the help I can get not to speak when it's not really a leading to vocal ministry.

I'm always grateful when someone out there makes their process in worship transparent. Perhaps because there is so much silence in an unprogrammed Quaker meeting, it gets to be hard to know if we're "doing it right"--or how to deepen our worship. I remember couple of weeks ago, when I was holding meeting, coming out of worship with a sense that the usual order of announcements and so on were very, very far away. I wasn't at all sure I'd correctly remember all the things I had to say, and when I spoke, I asked people to let me know if I left something out. I remember I had this wonderful sense of trust, in the meeting and in Spirit, to make up for any errors I might make, that I wasn't even nervous about that...

And then a woman I don't know well approached me afterwards, hugged me, and thanked me for sharing the fact that I thought I might be forgetful. Something about my trusting acceptance of my own imperfection meant a lot to her...

And so it is with your sharing here. You write so many insightful and wonderful things. It's good to see you being human, Robin, just like me, but perhaps with a bit more practice and skill in your faithfulness.

Anyway, thanks.

10/20/2007 8:02 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Yes, Cat, I meant the sense of depth, not the vocal ministry. I usually find that when ministry comes too much together, it's not a good sign.

In this meeting however, during the first part, a Friend read from John Woolman's Journal, the passage about the pleurisy and his vision that John Woolman is dead. Later in the meeting, another Friend, who had come in later, gave a message and paraphrased much of that same passage, from memory. To me, it felt like God was reinforcing the message: how close/how far am I from being able to say, "it is not I but Christ crucified that lives and works in me"? I know some folks were annoyed by the double message, but not me.

And I'm glad you like the title. Maybe I will use that as the title of a book of essays, maybe expanded versions of my blogposts, one day.

10/21/2007 12:36 AM  

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