Monday, August 25, 2008


This weekend, I attended Meeting at Old Sturbridge Village's Quaker Meetinghouse. The Meeting was arranged by Minister Richard Jones of the First Parish Church in Bolton, MA, which is an amalgam of Unitarians, Baptists and Quakers. Jones is the nephew of one of the Worcester Friends Meeting's elder stateswomen, Betty Jones, who is a 100% certified hot ticket and a very involved member of the Meeting. The Meetinghouse itself was original to Bolton, constructed in 1796, and then moved to OSV in 1953. It's really the epitome of the early Quaker experience - it's extremely plain and simple, with a Quaker grey exterior and basic post and beam construction on the inside, filled with unornamented pews.

One of the Worcester Friends had a really wonderful comment about the architecture of the building. He talked a little bit about a childhood desire to be an architect, and noted that places of worship are often built with our visions of God in mind...what that God would want, or what we think the concept of God looks like. He then noted that the Meetinghouse was plain, not presuming anything, but rather waiting for God to imbue the building with His own impression and spirit. He also had noticed that not one of the pews had a knot in it...a sign, he thought, that someone had taken the time to appraise each board and if it had a flaw, to lay it aside, deeming it not good enough to be a pew. Though the building is simple, it was clearly considered during its construction, and that is so much of the Quaker consider our every action and word, and the impact we have, can, and will make upon the Earth itself and on society as a whole.

Someone also mentioned that they had contemplated during Meeting the off-center window at the front of the Meetinghouse. She hadn't figured out what, exactly, the significance of it would be, but she did think it must have been intentional. You can see it in the pre-Meeting picture I took below:

It was really a very deep, moving experience to be in such an old Meetinghouse. Our family is Quaker throughout many generations on Mom's side, and while that knowledge brings a certain depth of tradition to my own experience, there is something incredibly moving about spending Meeting in a pew that has been occupied by Quakers over the course of 212 years. After Meeting, we all - and I do mean all, with a good 30 to 40 people in tow - went to brunch at the Oliver Wight Tavern, which was not only delicious but in excellent company, as I got to chat with members of both the Bolton congregation and Worcester Friends. I don't often get to stay for the potluck lunch that is held after Meeting every Sunday, so it was nice to chat with some of the Friends.

I have been somewhat disheartened by my application for Membership in the Worcester Meeting, and this really helped bring me up from some somewhat depressive thinking. I was surprised to find that I was not an official Member of the Worcester Meeting, which I discovered when I requested a Clearness Committee in contemplation of marriage for Rich and I. I think I was just busy being a self-absorbed teenager at the time when people usually apply for Membership, and never did it. My Clearness Committee (with whom one meets to discuss the why and how of becoming a Member) is mostly great and I really enjoy the individuals immensely, but weirdly enough, I seem to be having a hard time convincing them I am serious about Quakerism and the Worcester Meeting, in large part because I am Quaker and have been raised that way since birth. At our last meeting, they asked how my life would change if I became a Member of the Worcester Meeting and I think they expected a deep, "my spirituality will be realized" type answer, but all I could truthfully answer was that I would finally have the community component that is so crucial in the Quaker faith. I try my best to live my life by the Quaker testimonies, and feel that I mostly succeed.

I think many other people come to the Clearness Committee for Membership from a different place than I do. It's somewhat unusual to be raised Quaker these days, and I've never been anything else. One of the women on my committee was an Attender for 15 years before joining, but didn't apply for Membership until that point because she "felt like [she] needed to truly love everyone in the Meeting first." Another member of the committee was a Catholic for something like 40 years before discovering Quakerism and joining the Meeting. Most people come to, or find Quakerism, whereas I have never known anything else. Unfortunately, I don't think this is truly getting through to at least one member of my Committee, and I am finding that extremely frustrating. At the last meeting of the Committee, the Member who is having an issue with this was all "why the rush? Are you sure you're not just applying as part of some kind of nefarious hipster plot to have a Quaker wedding?" Well, first of all, I didn't know I wasn't a Member, and am applying because I found this out in the process of applying to be married under the auspices of the Meeting, so there WOULD be no rush had I been a Member; second of all, yeah, I plan on having a Quaker wedding because MY QUAKER FAITH IS IMPORTANT TO ME, and I'm not 100% sure why you would somehow find my desire to be married in accordance with that faith somehow sneaky. I explained that the wedding thing was a far off second place in my motivations, but that didn't seem to resonate. Luckily, one of the other Members was quick to note that she felt that I was in a very similar place to where she was when she applied for Membership - a Quaker wedding was something she wanted, but was far from the main motive for her application.

Needless to say, I have worked myself into an almighty paranoid snit about this and now am fairly panicked about whether or not my application will be accepted and advanced. I just am so upset about having to feel like because my concept of what constititues good Quakerism doesn't line up exactly with someone else's, I might then not be accepted...the whole thing just seems to run totally contrary to what Quakerism is ABOUT. The MOST frustrating (and weird) thing though is that I like all of the Members on my Committee SO MUCH , but in committee, it gets weird. Maybe I'm just misreading tone, I don't know.

In other, more cheerful news, I grew these with my own dirt. They are dahlias, called "Winsome," and I think they are quite winsome indeed!

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