Last Meeting for Worship as Clerk of San Francisco Friends Meeting

Last Sunday (4/24/2011) was my last day to clerk meeting for worship** at San Francisco Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). I didn't even realize it was my last time until a Friend said something about it during refreshments time afterward.

I thought I had one more Sunday to go. Nope!! April has 30 days, so there were just 4 Sundays this month.

It was a pretty amazing meeting. One person counted 9 messages. Here are three that moved me:

Friend 1 spoke about how her elementary schooler and 3-year-old had really wanted to go to a church. They especially wanted to see statues of Jesus and Mary. They went to four churches before they found one that was unlocked. Once there, they stopped to kneel at each statue and look at the candles. On the way out, the elementary schooler said, "That was the most awesome time ever!" The 3-year-old said, "But I wanted to see the talking Jesus." Friend 1 tried to explain that Jesus is still talking, through us and not a statue.

Friend 2 said he had emailed the outgoing clerk [i.e., me] to see if there was anything special for Easter at the Meeting. The clerk wrote back to say, "Yes, meeting for worship. And sometimes there is an egg hunt." He said as an "Episcopalian" Quaker of sorts (using "Episcopalian" as an adjective more than a dual identity), he likes ritual. He went to Grace Cathedral which had a beautiful Easter service involving a darkened sanctuary with a bonfire in the labyrinth, lighting one candle from the bonfire, putting out the bonfire, then passing on the light from the one candle until lots of people had candles. It was beautiful, and yet he found it didn't move him. He thought, the Quaker Meeting is his cathedral.

I spoke near the end to say we teach that the building isn't the church, the people are. That's why we call it a meetinghouse, not a church, and in our case we have a skylight rather than a steeple. So what are our monuments? They are our peace vigil, every week on Thursday from noon to 1; and our food pantry, every Saturday from 10:30 to 1:30. These are concrete acts of love and service, and yet not made of physical concrete.

(Friend 1 thanked me afterward. She said this was just the kind of example of the "talking Jesus" she would share with her 3 year old. "Yes, Jesus is there on the street corner at the vigil, or at the food pantry!")

Friend 3 had simply said, "I am profoundly grateful for this community." I think there were a few more words that implied "this community" meant the wider Quaker community, not our meeting, especially because I think the person was a visitor.

I too am so grateful for my friends and Friends at San Francisco Meeting. I am blessed to be a part of, and a leader in, it. Thank you, God, "for most this amazing community," as e.e. cummings once wrote.

** SF Friends Meeting is at 65 9th Street, between Mission & Market streets, near the Civic Center BART/MUNI station. Join us on Sunday from 11 am to noon for unprogramed, waiting worship in the manner of Friends; on 5th Sundays, you can start at 9:30 for extended worship to noon. Or come on Wednesdays from 6 pm to 6:45 pm. Come on by if you're in town!

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