The effects of silence

Silence I know is the central Quaker discipline, but I’ve been taking it to extremes here lately. I simply seem to have been faced with an extraordinary inability to find anything to say that isn’t simply an embroidering of platitudes onto other people’s writings.

Perhaps it is something to do with silence after all. The quote from Robert Barclay that opens this blog after all reminds us that exposure to the “secret power” within silent worship has cumulative effects on the worshippers that are not easily understood, and that we are opened to by the simple act of surrender.

I certainly have found, over the time that I’ve been a Quaker Attender, that the work of the Spirit (aka the Light, Barclay’s “secret power”) takes place largely imperceptibly. Paul describes something of the sort in Romans 8.26-27: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

It’s impossible to prevaricate in the Light, I find. Very gradually, the comfortable half-truths about myself that have formed part of my interior landscape for most of my life are being eroded. Years ago I wrote in a poem about the sea’s edge, “limen and littoral… patched and rotted with light.” I feel that way myself, these days, threadbare and scoured like a bit of old wood along the shoreline. I’m content with that.

But we are Members at last! Well, I say at last, but compared with many Quakers by convincement we have been remarkably quick on our journey to this stage, our time as Attenders being more easily measured in months than years, really. This does feel like a beginning, now, for both of us. It will be good to see where it leads…

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