Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 12th March 2023
Dear Friends, Quaker silence has a nature all of its own. It is not the same as a room with no noise in it, although a quiet room helps us … Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 12th March 2023
Quaker silence has a nature all of its own. It is not the same as a room with no noise in it, although a quiet room helps us to find a way into silence. It is a letting go of our usual ways of thought, steering us away from the dominance of our intellects and into a deeper kind of awareness.
We can help each other to prepare for the silence but what we can do within the silence we can only learn for ourselves.
Preparations can include such things as stillness of mind before we come to the meeting, meditating on a simple theme, tensing all of the muscles and then relaxing them one by one, not resisting the body but making it comfortable so that it can then be forgotten. It can be helpful to look around, to see who is there and who is missing, acquiring enough information so that we don’t need to look again, or it might include flooding the mind with a single awareness so that, once filled, it does not obtrude again. We once had a clock which ticked loudly. Some Friends loved it and others hated it, and, when it was stolen feelings were mixed. One way to avoid its distraction was to concentrate on the sound until the ears were tired and heard it no more. We can calm our minds by concentrating our attention on something – the flowers, a knot in the floorboards, or anything else – giving it full and exclusive attention.
When I learned to swim I was just able to float while I had one hand on the side. I felt that if I let go I would sink to the bottom and it took courage to trust the water and find that it really did support me. Silence can also be difficult to cope with as it sometimes opens up areas of experience that we feel unable to cope with. There are many ways to ‘hold onto the side’ in meeting. One way is reading, but other than reading a few words while settling down, reading may be a means of avoidance. When someone stands to tell us how wonderful the silence is, I suspect that they can’t bear it any longer.
Sometimes ministry starts with an apology, but rightly intended ministry should never need an apology. I am not happy when someone speaks of ‘interrupting’ or ‘breaking’ the silence. Right words do not interrupt the silence, they are a continuation of the silence and they deepen it.
As I silence myself I become more sensitive to the sounds around me, and I do not block them out. The songs of the birds, the rustle of the wind, children in the playground, the roar of an airplane overhead are all taken into my worship. I regulate my breathing as taught me by my Zen friends, and through this exercise I feel the flow of life within me from my toes right through my whole body. I think of myself like the tree planted by the ‘rivers of water’ in Psalm 1, sucking up God’s gift of life and being restored. …
– Tayeko Yamanouchi, 1979, QFP 2.54
On behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Theresa Samms, Nancy Wall, Caroline Pybus)