Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The next step in my hippie transmogrification and Quakerism

Since moving to Nebraska, I've been slowly becoming more and more like a hippie. It wasn't until last year that I realized this has happened.

How to become a hippie in 10 easy steps

  1. Grow long hair - make sure you don't comb it or anything, just grow a majestic mane. Oh, grab a spirit animal while you're at it.
  2. Start riding your bike to work and think about how awesome you are riding your bike powered by smug.
  3. Start a garden
  4. Become a vegetarian. Take that Omaha Steaks
  5. Start composting in preparation for next year's garden.
  6. Grow a beard. Regardless of how rugged and handsome it makes you look, it still takes you a step closer to being a hippie.
  7. Become a pacifist
  8. Join a commune. Doesn't matter what type, could be anarchist, nudist, etc...
  9. ???
  10. Profit

I have yet to do the last 4 but step 7 is underway.

Quakers (not the oats)

Sunday I went to a Quaker (technically called the "Religious Society of Friends") church service. They call it a meeting, not a service; regardless, it's their weekly devotional practice. This ties in to step 7 because Quakers are big time pacifists (I've decided to break out my thoughts on pacifism into another post). It was definitely a new type of spiritual practice that I had never experienced before. I knew going into it that it was a little less formal than most other services, but didn't realize how informal it was.

I also knew that this was going to be a super small group. This made me a little apprehensive because at most small churches, I almost get a feeling of desperation when a new person comes. I probably put off the same feeling of desperation around girls when I was in High School. I'm not sure if desperation is the right word, but I can't think of a better one. To my surprise, I didn't get that feeling here. I still can't put my finger on what it is exactly, the feeling I got was more "it's nice that you're here, but we wouldn't be too distraught if you weren't". I liked this attitude.

Due to their size, the group just meets in a room at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. I got there at a strategic time of about 9:51 for a 10:00 start. This gave me enough time to get the lay of the land but not get tied up in overly long awkward conversations. The 10:00 start put it during a service for St. Andrew's, so there was no one in the hallways when I got there. After finding the room we were supposed to meet in, I found it empty. So, I wandered around aimlessly for awhile. At around 9:59 or so, another guy came, and he confirmed this was the place.

Before I get into the meeting details, I should clarify what a Friends meeting is like. Main difference to other services is that there's no pastor or anyone else "in charge". Friends are very egalitarian, believing that everyone is equally qualified to commune with God. The first hour of the meeting is just an hour sitting in silence, meditating, praying, whatever. It's called "expectant worship". The second hour is reserved for discussion. The topics are set weeks before (more on that later). The discussion may be about a specific reading, social issues, business meetings (as this day's was).

A couple other people filtered in between 10:00 and 10:30, again illustrating the informality (ended up with a grand total of 6 people, counting me). Everyone was chatting in the beginning and then all of a sudden, while I was in "waiting for others to arrive" mode, I noticed that people had stopped talking, folded their hands in their laps, and closed their eyes. I realized that expectant worship had started. Again, I thought someone was going to say "we're starting" or something like that, but it just started.

The expectant worship was uneventful as you might expect. I was glad I had taken the Zen Buddhism class so that I knew better how to meditate. There was a 17 month old in the room that made it a bit more challenging, but wasn't a big deal. Overall, I didn't have a super hard time sitting in silence for an hour.

The expectant worship ends when one person gets up and goes around and shakes everyone's hand. Then, it's time for the discussion portion. Again, I had strategically planned (strategy is an important part of winning at Church) by attending on a day that there was a business meeting scheduled. I felt I would have an easy out if I was super uncomfortable. I was liking the vibe so far, so I stuck around for the business meeting.

The business meeting simply talks about upcoming events, reviews notes of the previous meetings, plans out the next discussions, etc. Nothing too heavy, but I got a good feel of their upcoming topics and also learned a bit more about the religion just from side conversations. I also picked up some literature to read later.


Overall, I really liked the Friends meeting. I will definitely be going back there again. Additionally, I'm glad that I had written up my thoughts on religion beforehand, because this allows me to compare what I found to what I wanted. I would say the Friends matched up more than any other religion than I've been too.

A+ Would Buy Again

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