Struggling to Find Meaning in Meeting?
Honestly, when I came to Friends, I did not understand Meeting for Worship. Some people found peace in the silence. Not me.
But over time, I've grown to value my time in Meeting. Talking with other students, I thought I noticed trends. So I set out to interview some in each grade, to see if patterns emerged.
Sure enough, I learned many people’s feelings start out like mine.
“It was weird and awkward,” said Ava Trumbull, after her first meeting in September. A freshman this year, Ava is new to Friends. She came from a public school in Crofton, so Meeting was a completely new concept to her. At first, she says, she thought it “would be like church with praying.” She was nervous when she first walked into the Meeting House.
My first time was similar. 'I have so many other things I could be spending my time on,' I remember thinking, as I sat there, trying to fill my head for 30 long minutes. “I must be doing it wrong.”
When English teacher Helen Berkeley stood to talk, my head jerked up. That’s how ready I was for the silence to be over. Then I looked at the clock. We had only been there for 10 minutes. For the rest of freshman year, I continued to 'get through' Meeting.
Sophomore Charlotte Wilner has going to Meeting for a year. She also started out thinking “it was soooo dumb.” But now, she says, “I like that we have it.”
“I do fall asleep sometimes,” she admits. But now, she says, she values the chance to slow down and think.
Sophomore year was when Meeting clicked for me too. That’s when I pushed myself to try different things I saw fellow students and teachers doing: closing my eyes or clearing my mind. Like Charlotte, I fell asleep a few times. But overall, I felt like I was getting closer to understanding the practice.
Junior year, I decided I could relax and enjoy it. I sat next to friends, letting my mind wander, or just be still. Gradually, I grew to like my time in the silence. I found myself leaving Meeting in a better mood. I started to think: maybe there isn’t one thing everyone is supposed to do. Maybe it’s whatever connects you with your inner self.
“It gives me time to meditate [and] relax,” said senior Caroline Kevin. Caroline has been at Friends since Lower School, so she has been to her share of meetings. In Lower and Middle School, Caroline remembers not enjoying Meeting. But she says in Upper School she has grown to really value it.
Upper School teacher Amy Schmaljohn loves it too. A practicing Quaker, Ms. Schmaljohn is in charge of teaching students about Meeting, through presentations and practice.
“Meeting for Worship is a central, spiritual practice in my life, [where] I am able to quiet and calm my noisy mind to be able to pay attention to my life and be more passionate and loving,” she says.
She has advice for people who are struggling, like I used to, to find meaning in Meeting.
“Know that you have a valuable inward life,” she says. “Once you can honor your inner life, you can care for it.”
Like Ms. Schmaljohn, I now value Meeting for Worship. I find myself looking forward to it after a hectic school day.
There are times when I still find myself lost in the silence. But now I also find meaning in being lost, and finding myself again.