Monday, 7 May 2007

wall of sound

Whenever I get to Meeting, I go in and the room is silent. Sometimes, there is a commotion outside, because people are coming in, removing coats and greeting each other.

But, even with all that noise, there is a sense of purpose in the silence, whether it is a Meeting for Worship, Business, Threshing or Clearness.

So, going into the large Meeting Room on Sunday morning, ten minutes before the official start of a Britain Yearly Meeting session, I was surprised by the tumult, a great commotion, as I walked up the stairs and into the east gallery.

Were Friends not upholding the Meeting, each other and the clerks? If they were, they were doing it among 150 voices, chatter and noise.

It was my first ever session of Britain Yearly Meeting, so I do not know whether it is always like this. Is it?

Almost on the dot of 9:30am, when the session was timetabled to start, a hush rushed across the hall. It was as if a naughty class suddenly stopped, realising that the feared teacher was about to walk into the room.

When the clerks came in, I wondered, did they feel that we were not, as a Meeting, upholding them?

When you hear people grumbling about how the session went, do you ask them if they were there with their heart and mind prepared?

Or, am I wrong? Is this the usual way for Quakers to uphold each other?


lauraxpeace said...

I've heard that that's normal at BYM. Maybe it would be different if we had a big foyer to chat in before going into the meeting room. It hadn't occurred to me that it might affect the gatheredness, but it's a thought.

Anonymous said...

We (the YM clerks) gather upstairs with elders some time before the session begins, so when we come in, we are usually pretty centred. Agenda Committee has worked to organise early worship too, for those who want it. And actually, I like the way the meeting settles down when people realise it's time to start and I appreciate Friends' sociability around the starts and ends of sessions. It's one thing that makes YM fun. Richard Ogden (one of the assistant clerks).

Paul J said...

This is normal at BYM, at least my two years of experiencing it. As with much of the chatter prior to the session it is people catching up with each other and people they know. For me this is all part of the experience and truly leads to the gatheredness of the meeting. After all we are all worshipping together as a gathered group of 'friends'. I think if the chatter rumbled on during the meeting it would be a problem but mostly people are very disciplined and uphold the clerks, especially when preparing difficult minutes.

simon gray said...

i think there's a happy medium to be struck between a po-faced silence taking too literally the 'meeting begins as soon as the first person enters the room' tradition & it being a complete racket, & i do find that yearly meeting does manage to strike that balance well - so long as we realise that we're 'supposed' to be being quiet before the formal start when we're chatting to our friends, i think that's ok.

i've never really agreed with the traditional description of when meeting starts anyway - surely it starts when the first *two* people have consciously started it, not when the first person happens to have walked in to put their coat on the back of the chair...

abridgeover said...

I think YM manages silence very well. It's awe-inspiring usually when the clerks are drawing up a minute and several hundred people sit in silence upholding the clerks.

Gerry Millar