An Awkward Pause

The author on the steps of the Stony Run Meetinghouse this spring. Photo courtesy of the author.

On March 22, Stony Run Meeting stopped holding worship inside our Baltimore, Maryland meetinghouse because of COVID-19. Our Ministry and Counsel Committee provided creative options for us to stay connected while we adapted to these challenging times: connecting to phone conferencing, Internet platforms such as Zoom, or waiting prayerfully in silence wherever we were.

I felt led to be physically present on the grounds of Stony Run at the time of our regular 11 a.m. meeting for worship. This option hadn’t been mentioned, but the weather was agreeable, officials had not issued a mandatory shelter in place, and most importantly, I felt being there was right for me.

Upon arrival, the vacant parking lot caught my attention, as it meant no Friends were present. This reminded me of the seriousness of the times. Also a vacant parking lot permitted me to park directly in the front. Oh, what a feeling!

What was surprising was the overwhelming number of children with their families on the nearby playground, plus joggers, runners, pet walkers, and cars whizzing by on North Charles Street. I sat down on the meetinghouse porch on the bench near the window closest to where I would regularly sit if I were inside.

Then I noticed how the porch faces south; the sunlight lit up the steps but didn’t reach the front porch benches. Relocating to the steps, I felt the warmth from the sun on my face. It felt marvelous! I could hear laughter from the children on our nearby playground, birds chirping, the rhythmic sound of a basketball bouncing on Friends School’s courtyard, and greetings from pet walkers. I noticed just how many tall trees there are on the property. The signs of spring were loud and clear. The experience was symphonic.

In my stillness, I discovered that the practice of patiently waiting in silence to receive the Light and the Teacher Within does not need to be void of real-time external stimuli. Going forward, I could no longer be miffed with a snore nor the sound of a ringing cell phone during meeting for worship.


In my stillness, I discovered that the practice of patiently waiting in silence to receive the Light and the Teacher Within does not need to be void of real-time external stimuli.


The ringing of the church bells at noontime sounded extra loud. Perhaps it was because I was outdoors and the air was moving faster than when I first arrived. Simultaneously, the silence from Stony Run was just as resounding.

I was not ready to leave, not yet. How does one hold the doors of a building in the Light? As I walked toward the front doors, I did just that, praying that they will soon open to all of us again. I then walked around the Stony Run Meetinghouse. It was a slow and deliberate walk. I looked at it the way a parent looks at their sleeping child, knowing that once awakened there would be much energy again.

Pausing at our rain garden signified that I had walked full circle. I took the time to enjoy the plants as well as read about the history of the garden. It was calming to reflect that, despite our state of pause, such works, even in our absence, continue to benefit the environment and bring forth life.

 

My grandson once gave me some digital instruction. After I lingered way too long by his standards, he impatiently told me, “Hit the reset button, Grandma!”

At some point, our reset button will be hit. In the meantime, benefiting from a pause is like taking a much-needed nap. When the rest is over, our interest in civil rights, the environment, social justice, the community, our youth, the elderly, economic equality, alternatives to violence, and obtaining peaceable solutions will all be strengthened.

My meeting for worship concluded. The only thing missing was some cheese and a peanut butter sandwich with half of a sliced banana with all of my Friends.

Debbie B. Ramsey

Debbie B. Ramsey is a member of Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore, Md., clerk of Ministry and Counsel, and former co-clerk of its Baltimore Peace and Justice Committee. A former Baltimore police detective, she is also the founder of Unified Efforts, Inc., which offers out-of-school programs for youth in Baltimore's Penn-North community. This article was originally published online on May 22, 2020.

9 thoughts on “An Awkward Pause

  1. I appreciated Debbie writing about her experiences. Our meeting, Cincinnati Friends Meeting (Wilmington Yearly Meeting) has a Zoom meeting with the pastor’s message and about 1/2 hour of meditating silence. Generally there are friends who offer there own observations that are generated on occasion by our pastor’s message.
    To feel God’s presence in my living room is gratifying and is the same as if iI were in the meetinghouse! As someone said last week “where 2 or 3 are gathered there I am also”. I always thought it meant in one place, but learned it could be anyplace in the world
    Thanks for sharing Debbie’s experience.

  2. Dear Debbie,

    I miss your presence in our Meeting room.
    I miss your messages!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts; it helps.

  3. Debbie, what a lovely experience you have described. Thank you. I wonder how many other folks have been drawn to their meeting place to wait in silence.

  4. Dear Debbie,
    I have considered attending a meeting since 1977 without success. Your words and bio- information reawakened my thoughts about attending. I am a former Detroit Police Officer. I spent more than a decade working in the city before changing careers to work with children.

    I hope to someday meet you!
    Thank you!

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