I went to Friends Seminary High School in Manhattan, New York City. Growing up in the Big Apple, silence was often a commodity that was hard to come by. Even to some native New Yorker’s not only is absolutely silence impossible to find, it can be quite discomforting and foreign to a person who’s life revolved around noise. When I was introduced to Quakerism and silent meeting for worship, it was a concept that was oddly simple in nature yet intriguing complex. Like most great things in life that we find incredible simple yet extraordinarily useful, silent meeting had become for me a power tool. In my four years of High School, scheduled silent meetings was a routine that, although I fully appreciated, was something I took for granted. Having meetings for worship schedule into a busy week without choice seemed to be what I needed all along. Now out of school for nearly a decade, I realized that I simply need a mandatory schedule for something I cherished so much. I am quite ashamed to say now, that in the past ten years I can count on both hands how many times I’ve been to a silent meeting. Something I’ve become so accustom to, has somehow escaped my priority and in some odd way simply became a memory.
So this year, I with the encouragement of my girl friend Cooper and her friend Amanda, sought out to find “silence.” Based in Hong Kong at the moment, we found a group of Friends that gathered for silent meeting every Sunday, and we decided to attend. I can’t quite put into words how excited I was to attend. It brought back flash backs and memories from the 16th Street Meeting House and brought me back to magic experiences sitting in a building that stood for over 225 years.
As I sat a midst a group of friends sitting in a circle, silence fell upon us and the meeting began. Echoes from the chords of choir and piano could be heard, along with residual noises from the street as cars and people passed. I sat anxiously, wondering if feelings, emotions and thoughts of great brilliance would simply overwhelm me as they had in the past. Unsure of my past processes of silent meeting and where to start, I tried to somehow systematically organize thoughts in practical fashion. My mind ventured around trying to shuffle thoughts like scattered papers across a messy desk. The feeling was much like not riding a bicycle for 10 years and finding yourself getting ready to take the first peddle. Uncertain, yet confident and excited.
As meeting progressed, I realized it is not the process, procedure or science of silence nor is it the answer. Silence is the opportunity and platform for reflection. As most of us say, “it’s not the destination, but the journey,”, silent meeting allows for a contemplation we often over look or take for granted. For me, this experience reminded me of a time where I once utilized this thing call “silent meeting” to reflect, think, feel and organize emotions and ideas. For some, it might be hard to grasp this philosophical notion that something so intangible, something we can’t even really describe, besides “the absence of sound” can be such a phenomenal tool. I certain forgot over the last 10 years, and now having reconnected with it’s usefulness, I will try and schedule more on a regular basis.
I want to thank the Society of Friends in Hong Kong for having me, as they would welcome anybody to come and partake in silent meetings. I also want to thank my Alma Mater, Friends Seminary. I am forever indebted with gratitude for my education and experiences acquired at Friends.
For more information about Firends Seminary NYC please visit their website at www.friendsseminary.org
For more information about Friends Hong Kong please visit their website at www.friends-hk.org