Having just completed our 31st (We had our first one in 1980, then skipped a year and have had one every year since) annual Friends Fall Festival at Downingtown Friends Meeting this past Sunday, it seems as good a time as any to post this, even though what I wrote has very little to do with the festival, except that this first appeared in the Festival Almanac, which is no longer published.
The FFF Coordinator, Bob Santangelo, dug it out, asked for my permission and posted it to the Meeting's website: http://downingtownfriendsmeeting.org/home.htm , but here it is if you don't want to link there:
Thoughts During Meeting
by Jamie McVickar
People sometimes ask me what I think about while sitting in a Quaker Meeting for Worship where there is no pastor to guide us in our thoughts and prayers. Depending on who is asking and what depth of answer I think they are expecting, I usually answer either by detailing the Quaker philosophy or by telling them that I simply think about whatever comes to mind. Those thoughts may range anywhere from trying to figure out the best batting order for the co-ed softball team I coach to thinking about how to change my attitude towards someone at work that I'm havinga particularly hard time getting along with.
One example of my process in Meeting for Worship is a good example of how one can go back and forth between spiritual and practical while drawing particularly from the people in meeting.
One cold Sunday morning in early December, I found my mind wandering from subject to subject, not really settling on any one topic when the woman sitting directly in front of me stood up to speak. She spoke of a recent computer conference in New York City she had attended. The seminar leader spent the final day of the week long conference detailing the role of computers in the nuclear arms race. The leader concluded the seminar by illustrating the likelihood of some sort of computer error unintentionally setting off a nuclear disaster. The odds of this happening, in our lifetime, the leader claimed, is roughly equivalent to the chances of our favorite foot-ball team winning the Super Bowl.
Having thus finished sharing her message, the woman sat down. Just then, two rows in front of her, a young child no more than one or two years old awoke from a nap in his mother's lap and began crying. Summoning all the spirituality in me, I saw this as a symbolic message from God showing us that we must do all we can to fight such an unfortunate possibility because of our children and the future they would not have a chance to experience. I began to think of the nuclear arms race and wars in general and what I might do to prevent them. I thought of writing my Congressmen and starting petitions and joining no-nuke groups. As my commitment grew, so did the intensity of the wailing of the child who had set me off on this activist tangent. Finally the mother decided the child was being too disruptive to the Meeting's silence and picked him up to carry him out. It was then that I realized that the green shirt the child was wearing was a Philadelphia Eagles T-shirt. Reflecting back to the message, I reconsidered God's symbolism and decided perhaps we aren't in as much danger as I had originally thought. The Eagles lost that afternoon 33-14.
I'm sure I thought that quite clever when I originally wrote it, but when Bob sent it back to me last year, many years after I'd originally written it, I didn't understand it all until i read it a second time. And then I thought, how facile, yet clever.