The Gathered & Hungry Meeting

From the Milwaukee Friends Meeting’s newsletter comes the following lighter but instructive sign of hope:

Dear Ms. Mindful:

I have a strange and embarrassing question about what makes a “gathered meeting.” You are the only one I dare turn to. My question is this: if my stomach grumbles during meeting for worship, and then the stomach of the person next to me starts too, and then I hear someone else’s stomach from across the room, could that be a sign of a “gathered meeting?”

Signed, Hungry on First Days

Dear Hungry:

This is the kind of complex question every Quaker theosopher such as myself dreads, because there are no easy answers. But I’ll do my best at speaking from my experience.

First, for those who are wondering what the heck a “gathered meeting” really is, it occurs when “an ordinary group of people enter quietly into a new dimension in which everyday life is transformed and transcended [and they] find a depth of loving communion that is infinite and eternal in its quality.” (from The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship by George H. Gorman)

I must tell you I experienced just what you speak of once in a meeting that met in the basement of a Chinese restaurant on evenings just after work. One evening the basement vents had been left wide open allowing the scent of Chinese delicacies to drift into our circle.

Soon my stomach started growling loudly. Even covering it with my hands did not stop the constant rumble. Shortly, the person next to me, an elder, began to experience the same grumbling. Soon all thirty of us, many of whom has not yet had dinner, were joined in rumbling chorus. We were all thinking the same thing: “I want some of that Chinese food!” It was inspiring; thirty minds joined in our simple, human, seemingly infinite desire.

I think my experience at and after this meeting, (together we wolfed down a fine meal upstairs) profound as it was, would have to be called an exception to the norm. My advice is to eat before you attend meeting for worship. Then you can concentrate on the many other ways a “gathered meeting” happens. If eating before meeting is impossible, be prepared to be part of a “hungry gathered meeting.”

Till next time, I remain, Ms. Mindful

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