Friday, November 30, 2012

where to worship

A couple of days ago Eleanor and I went to look at a room at the Peoples' Centre with a view to considering it as a possible venue for Meeting for Worship once a month. Currently we meet in each others homes once a fortnight-ish in the evening, the sort of once a fortnight that means if everyone is away or inundated with visitors one week we'll skip a week and meet the next. It is all very well for meeting the needs of those of us already coming but it isn't particularly practical in terms of outreach and advertising that we have a Quaker presence in the Far North! Also for those further out of town evenings aren't that great, especially in winter.

Another of our group was already familiar with the room and wasn't overly keen on it but we thought we'd have a look anyway. It was smaller than I had expected and certainly didn't have the lovely green outlook Cherry Park House in Kerikeri does where Bay of Islands Friends meet once a month. But it was big enough for our small worship group, had facilities for making hot drinks and into the bargain we'd be able to store a box of books etc there which would mean we didn't have to guarentee the same person would be there each month or keep dropping things off with each other inbetween times.

Recently Eleanor and I were in Kerikeri for Meeting, along with visiting Friends Ronis & Michael. We were rather envious of their ability to have a small library easily available, information laid out for enquirers and the fact that we didn't sit there with the lingering smell of someone's tea or the gentle hum and slosh of the dishwasher in the background! This renewed our determination to check out the room we knew was available and see what we thought.

It was funny how the fact that there was an old fireplace and a couple of period leaded windows made all the difference for us both. It gave the space some character. But surely it shouldn't matter what the room looked like to be a venue for Meeting? Well maybe not in theory but how a room feels certainly makes a difference to the quality of Meeting for me. When I was on the wardening team at Edinburgh QMH I sometimes got to show people round who were wanting to hire a space - so often people would walk into our Meeting Room and exclaim 'wow, what happens in here?' there was something about the atmosphere in that room that exuded calmness and peace. Given how much overseers (of whom I was one) and elders were being exercised at the time over various tensions and issues in the Meeting it was a good reminder that actually yes, there is something about that space that has become special. Not because it is sacred space in itself in the usual sense but that in that space Friends sought, and indeed found, a deeper connection with the Spirit.

So could we imagine worshiping in that room in the old museum building? We decided that yes, we could. It is light and airy, there is good parking, it is a well known building, it is 2 mins walk from where I live and only about 5 mins from another. It would be a big step to book somewhere and create a fixed point in our lives for sharing worship together. Would we, in an attempt to be more accessable to others make life more difficult for those already coming? Possibly, but BOI Friends say that despite the times when they end up with only one or two Friends present they wouldn't change the arrangement they have. I hope we too can keep the faith that we can make it work and go ahead with it next year. I'll miss the discussion about it on Sunday as I'll be in Auckland in order to attend MM, but I'll be holding them in the light. Fingers crossed the next step will be deciding how and where to advertise our presence!

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