Worship with My Eyes Open

Sunday was the latest in SF Monthly Meeting’s series of 5th Sunday extended meetings for worship. Every time there’s a fifth Sunday in the month, so a few times a year, we start worship at 9:30 am and then continue until our usual closing time at noon. I’ve written before about how wonderful it is to really sink into the silence and move through the phases of unprogrammed worship more fully.

This time, my family arrived at 9:32, so while Chris went in to the meetingroom, I took our kids upstairs to check in with the child care worker and then came back down after a few minutes. Our usual systems for greeting people at the door don’t start until about 10:40, so when I came down, one Friend had seated himself inside the room but facing the door. He saw me come down the stairs, fuss with my jacket and nametag, etc. and then look to see if it was okay to come in. He smiled at me and I pushed the door open and walked in, across to my usual seat next to Chris, on the far side of the room, also facing the door.

My initial sense of the meeting was one of delight. Of joy at being here in worship. Of love for the members of my meeting community, even if only a handful of them were already here before 10:00. I was inspired to read the Song of Solomon, looking for words to express my delight in this early period of worship which is semi-reserved for Scripture reading. I didn’t feel moved to speak, but I was happy just being there.

After some time, the Friend sitting by the door rose and read the 9th chapter of John, and sat down again. I think he must have closed his eyes and sunk deeper into worship after that, because a few minutes later when another newish but regular attender arrived, I could see him stop outside the door and wait to be welcomed in. After a few minutes of hoping I could catch the attender’s eye through the window, I became too agitated watching him wait to sit still anymore. I stood up and walked back to the door, which of course startled the Friend inside, but I opened the door and whispered, “please come in.” I walked out the door and sat in the chair in the lobby usually occupied by the welcomer. I made eye contact with the Friend who had been welcoming people to let him know that I intended to stay out there, to take the next shift, so to speak. He turned his chair back around and rejoined worship in the usual way.

But I didn’t feel that I had left worship. I still had my Bible in my hand, and was still feeling the love for my meeting and the ways we take care of one another. I felt that love extending to everyone who came in. I prayed for each person who walked by, whether they knew I was there or not. It’s a major street in SF, and we get a lot of foot traffic every day of the week. I saw one man stop to read the excerpt from Faith and Practice in one window and others just checking their hair in their reflections.

I don’t think I’ve ever been the official welcomer at my meeting before. I used to arrive late too often to think I’d be good at it, and for the last few years, while we’ve been much more on time since Chris has been clerk, I haven’t volunteered for any jobs during worship since I’ve been the designated child wrangler in our family so Chris can fulfill his responsibilities.

But I kind of liked it. It was another form of worship with my eyes open, like teaching religious education. Instead of practicing custody of the eyes, I practiced generosity and hospitality with my eyes and my voice. I’m afraid I wasn’t looking as welcoming as I would have liked, since I had left my jacket in the meetingroom and it was cold in the lobby so I had my arms wrapped around my body most of the time. But I stood up when people did come in and I made a point of explaining to all the people who came in early what was going on.

When the regularly scheduled welcomer arrived, I gave her a little update on where we were, she took her kids upstairs and then took over the position. I went in at 11 with the crowd that had assembled in the previous fifteen minutes and enjoyed the last hour of worship. It is a blessing to come into a room where people are already deep in worship, not with the sense of being late, but just as a normal part of the process.

I love my meeting.

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Blogger Chris M. said...

And your meeting loves you!

Honestly, it's true, and not just because I'm saying it. :)

2/04/2011 12:03 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Awww. Thanks!

2/04/2011 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post. Thank you. Thanks for both sharing what is happening in you, but also for letting me get a clearer picture of what your meeting is like.

2/04/2011 11:39 AM  
Blogger Johan Maurer said...

Hi from Russia! I loved this,too. So vivid and tender.

2/04/2011 6:12 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks, Gregg and Johan. I should take a photograph of our meetingroom and lobby and add them to this post.

2/04/2011 7:47 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Ahhh, so good to read you here again. I've been "away" for too long.

From time to time, like yesterday afternoon at worship, I long for an extended Opportunity... Sometimes it is so hard to break worship just because an hour has gone by and the kids have to get home so the parents can be well rested for the work week.

I pray your description and SF's practice of extended worship sow seeds across the land... What a delight to know you, Robin.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

2/07/2011 10:17 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Liz - it has been too long since we've seen each other or even talked on the phone.

Any chance you'll be in Philadelphia in March? FWCC is having their annual meeting there this year, and I'm trying to set up a dinner party afterwards with Martin.

Otherwise, I'll just have to find a way to come to Minnesota one of these days.

2/08/2011 1:23 AM  
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1/07/2024 9:34 AM  

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