There’s a startling contradiction at the heart of Quaker worship. While modern Friends tend to be strong believers in quantifiable truth and are careful to speak to truths to which we can personally attest, in worship we invite mystery into our spiritual lives.
We all have our own worship routines. I like to settle into my seat, check my breathing, and then slowly look around at the worshipers around me. I’ll close my eyes and listen for the noises—the creaking bench, the audible sigh—that signal we’re moving together into gathered worship. Thomas Kelly described it as “a blanket of divine covering [that] comes over the room.”
Thin spaces is a term mystics use for those places where our human world and the Divine come closer together. They’ll often cite those historic sacred spaces that catch our breath when we enter, locations where one can feel the echoes of generations of worshipers.
But for Friends, every place has the potential of being a thin space. Indeed, perhaps every place is already brimming over with divinity and only waits on our ability to settle. Our physical spaces testify to that ethos by making worship rooms plain, unconsecrated, and functional, and our worship is based on a divine imminence that needs no pastor or liturgical ritual.
In May Friends Journal will look at Thin Spaces. Some questions we have.
- How exactly do we reach for and connect with the Divine?
- How do we create the setting for a gathered meeting in our worship?
- How do we drop our intellectual guard to be swept away by a mystical experience?
- How do we bridge other thin spaces in our lives, like births and deaths?
As always, these ideas are just suggestions. We’re happy to read whatever readers think about the current state and future of our Quaker institutions.
Submissions due February 10, 2020.