Walking for Worship- A Quaker Reflects
When we first went into Lockdown back in March -it seems like years ago now- I started walking the lanes between 10:30 and 11:30 on a Sunday.
When we first went into Lockdown back in March -it seems like years ago now- I started walking the lanes between 10:30 and 11:30 on a Sunday. It probably marks me out as a Godless heretic but I do not like Zoom or the Skype system that preceded it - or social media, for that matter. Computers are wonderful tools for getting jobs done, I am using one now, but I am not comfortable sitting and staring at other people on a screen. I will, reluctantly use it for MfWfB (Meeting for Worship for Business) when my presence is required but otherwise, I will keep away.
On the other hand, I enjoy walking and I use my daily walks to map out letters I have to write or plan articles or work out technical problems on tricky model making tasks. That is not to say that I am oblivious to the world around me and all the surprising and wonderful sights that present themselves ( like the polecat last Sunday) but the rhythm of the walk leaves the conscious mind free to roam. It seemed a natural progression to adopt walking for Worship.
At this point you are probably thinking this sounds more like meditation than Meeting for Worship. Where is the communal gathering? For several years before I applied for Membership, my reading and understanding of Quaker Worship was to hunker down, clear one’s mind of extraneous thoughts and be open to the small quiet voice from within. Several times in Meeting in those days, a Friend would minister on almost the same theme that I had been contemplating and I saw this as the effect of Gathered Meeting. Then I met and talked with Arlo Tatum. His approach to Worship was to reach out, and encompass those in the meeting and beyond and hold them in his thoughts. It came as a revelation to me and it is this approach I use in Walking for Worship.
In the days of steam, when a locomotive had to start a heavy freight train, firstly, the crew would set the train back against the brakevan’s brakes so that all the couplings were slack and the buffers compressed. The throttle would be opened gently so that the locomotive moved forward at a constant low speed, picking up one wagon at a time till the whole train was moving. It could then be accelerated to road speed. Too careless or harsh use of the regulator could result in broken couplings or, in extremis, the guards van and guard being catapulted from rest to 20mph in an instant with hilarious results… I spend a few minutes to allow my mind to settle then I try to envision Ffriends at Meeting, gathering one at a time, working my way round the circle like the locomotive picking up the wagons. I can’t do it for very long, and there are always distractions but I go back to the beginning and start again. Walking for Worship seems to work for me.