The Meeting House door creaks open slowly and is painfully loud. I slip inside as quietly as I can. My footsteps sound so loud in my ears. The bench creaks slightly as I sit down. Others are already there, gathered, waiting, worshipping. It takes me a few minutes to settle into this expectant silence. I leave the hurried and loud outside world and am embraced by the quiet as if the Lord himself gives me a big bear hug. I have grown up with this way of worship but it has taken years to appreciate it. It is a place where I can feel all of the worries and cares just roll off of my back. This expectant quiet worship is like the comfort of simply being together that two very good friends might enjoy. There is something about gathering with others who have also come to Meeting. We have gathered to worship God, to wait upon Him. The silence is not uncomfortable or awkward; it’s not strained. There is an aliveness about it. It is as if at any moment God might break through into our midst in a most glorious and very real way. And sometimes He does! Sometimes a sudden booming, deep voice will sing out one of the dear old hymns we all know so well. Sometimes someone kneels and prays. The messages given are as varied as the messengers themselves. But almost always, it is the Spirit that speaks through them all.
Sometimes the silence stretches on with only the occasional cough, shifting on the bench, or a child’s whisper or baby’s coo breaking the silence. Sometimes there is a moment in the stillness when we are all gathered and called to go even deeper with God and each other. Sometimes His healing presence is so powerful that He ministers directly to each heart with no audible words. Sometimes, all the time, He invites us to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) and to “wait upon Him in order to renew our strength” (Isaiah 40:31). And we shake hands and greet one another at the close of Meeting (well, pre-COVID) and we leave different from how we entered because we have met with God.
It seems so simple and very magical in a way. But often, it takes quite a bit of work to enter into the stillness, to learn to listen for and to God’s voice. It requires each person doing their part of waiting in order for Meeting to be successful. Each individual has a responsibility. And while more experienced or more grounded individuals can help hold the space for younger or less grounded individuals, they cannot enter into waiting worship without everyone that is there.