Friends General Conference Offering New eRetreat Courses in Spring 2020

The Friends General Conference (Quaker) offers two, new, eRetreat programs starting in April 2020. I have participated in two of the eRetreats in the past, and the eRetreats are excellent (they include part study, part community sharing via online fora, and usually a virtual online meeting once per week). The programs are open to all faiths and are welcoming to all.

eRetreat 1: What Canst Thou Say? – Spiritual Inquiry Grounded in Worship Sharing (April 11 to May 30)

Sign-up…

A new twist to the eRetreat format, What Canst Thou Say will foster spiritual community through a focus on worship sharing around the Bible and the Quaker tradition, using passages from texts by Friends (and others) and the Bible verses that informed them.

What Canst Thou Say meets weekly on Saturdays starting April 11th from 4:00pm to 6:00pm Central via Zoom for worship, worship sharing, and spiritual exploration. Friends and spiritual sojourners Mark Wutka and Mary Linda McKinney will facilitate our sessions each week. (NOTE: I have participated in a past course with Mary Linda and Mark and both are good facilitators.)

eRetreat 2: Living into Wholeness: Quaker Commitment to Honoring That of God in Everyone (April 12 to May 11)

Sign-up…

A Spiritual Deepening eRetreat  exploring and practicing 1) what it means to live into Beloved Community, 2) the ways we are called to recognize patterns of marginalization and exclusion and to act toward justice, and 3) tools for transforming and vitalizing our meetings and communities.

The Living into Wholeness eRetreat runs from April 12 – May 11, 2020. Weekly Community Building video calls are scheduled for Mondays at 7pm Eastern / 4pm Pacific / 1pm Hawaii, starting April 13, for five weeks. Michele Shields of Honolulu Friends Meeting will be the facilitator for this eRetreat. (Note: I have participated in another eRetreat offered by Michele. She has a good presence and actively participates in the programs.)

QuietChurch Moving to Jitsi.org for Virtual Meetings

I usually prefer an open-source solution to challenges. Future online, virtual meetings will now use the the open-source, Jitsi.org Meeting App. Jitsi provides video meeting conferencing capabilities, shared screens, and chat. Look for a Jitsi Meeting in the future.

Reflections on the 1980s and COVID-19

Just before the COVID-19 tsunami hit the United States, I spent a restless and sleepless night with general disquiet. Normally, I like the night for the quiet and peace that it usually brings. While many faith traditions seem to associate the night with Darkness or Evil, I find peace in the night. The Bible also speaks favorably of the stars and the night. So, I enjoy the night (albeit with some trepidation due to the nagging association with evil.)

On that sleepless night, I watched two movies: The China Syndrome (1979) and then The Day After (1983). Both still haunt me and launched me into several weeks of deep melancholy as yet another contemporary disaster unfolds around us in COVID-19.

Despite the melancholy, each movie offers some hope. The China Syndrome addressed the near-meltdown of a fictional, nuclear power plant set in California. The movie illustrates, through an excellent performance by Jack Lemon, the tragedy of corporate-greed (perhaps redundant terms), government ineptitude, and a cover-up that placed the fictional community at-risk.

United States Department of Energy - http://ma.mbe.doe.gov/me70/history/photos.htm Copyright status: Identified on DOE page as "DOE photo", i.e. not copyrighted.
Three Mile Island Disaster Source: Wikipedia. Government DOE source.

I lived through the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster and lived not too far from the plant. At the time, the projected radioactive plumes assuming an explosion would have affected our home. I recall vividly the fear, uncertainty, terror, and worry—fear and terror as you perceive through quiet voices from adults. I recall, even as a child, WGAL news (Dick Hocksworth and Bill Saylor?) anxiously reporting about a potential hydrogen bubble in the containment building, a possible explosion, and a subsequent nuclear meltdown. (Our naïve perception of the situation was that the equivalent of a nuclear explosion would occur.) I remember classmates at school suddenly disappearing as their families fled. I remember the raw fear and worry of parents and grandparents. I remember talk about fleeing to our family-cabin in southern Virginia. I remember whispers of the China Syndrome. (The movie, was released just a few weeks before the nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island.)

The Day After appeared as a television movie in 1983. I recall watching parts of it surreptitiously even as a youth. I recall, as a elementary and then middle school student, the persistent and genuine fear of sudden, nuclear annihilation. I recall thinking at night, for years, about my childish plans to survive. I thought that 30-minutes seemed a long-time then—about the time that it would take for nuclear warheads to arrive. While we never had duck-and-cover drills at school that I recall, we did regularly talk about nuclear war. President Reagan talked often of the threat of the USSR.

Seeing The Day After, today, brought even more horror for me. Perhaps with adulthood comes a different understanding of the magnitude of the dread of such events. No food. No medical care. Vigilante “justice.” Quarantine. I don’t think I have ever watched a movie more tragic, disturbing, or likely, accurate. Society largely collapsed the day after. Only post-human shells remained walking and living, for a time. The movie closes by offering a short paragraph suggesting that the movie likely underplays the outcome.

I do not recommend either movie—not because they are not well done but because they likely will leave deep wounds and long-standing scars on the psyche. But coincidentally, each movie, for me, offered a morbid, disturbing, and unexpected, quiet hope for today.

COVID-19 dominates the news. Fear, uncertainty, horror, empty store shelves, changed schedules, death, and unsettled anticipation of a changed future loom. But, we got through Three Mile Island (and Chernobyl and Fukishima). Thankfully, we have not (yet) experienced global, thermonuclear war.

So, what does this have to do with quiet worship? God can speak in the quiet provided by these apparent disasters and troubled times.

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Elijah said it again, “I’ve been working my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed your places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.” 1 Kings 19:11-14 (The Message)

Even amidst the figurative maelstrom that we are experiencing, and will likely continue to experience, growing quiet to listen to God, even in the face of a noisy clamor of “news” about COVID-19, may be a way to calm our hearts and our minds. We cannot lose sight of the power of the Source-of-All-Quiet, both external and internal—but also eternal.

So, grow quiet. Listen even in these fearful times. Perhaps God is ready to speak.

Quiet Forest Photos–Spring 2020

For many, March 2020 means COVID-19: fear, anxiety, isolation, and worry. Many remain quarantined in homes deprived of nature.

Yet, quiet worship offers some solace. And quiet worship with views of nature may offer even more solace. For those who cannot get-outside, quietly ponder each photo during your daily, quiet worship. Enjoy. Hope.

An Early-Spring Forest Quietly Awaits

2020-March A Forest Waiting

Longevity and Perseverance

A Mossy Rock

A Chipmunk’s View of New Beginnings from Quiet Rest

A Chipmunk's Home

 

Spring-Hope Springs

Crocuses and Snow Drops Emerge March 2020

QuietChurch.org Starting Online Meeting for Worship Church Services

QuietChurch.org plans to offer online meeting for worship, quiet church services starting on Monday, March 23, 2020, at 7:00PM (EST). Use the free Zoom application on PC, MAC, Linux, iPhone, or Android to access the meeting.

Zoom Login for QuietChurch

Start time: 7:00PM
End Time: 7:30PM

The host plans to start the online session at 6:58PM and close at 7:33PM.

Theme

March 2020 includes Lent. Lent precedes Easter. Silently think and pray about the following query:

  • Lent represents a time of preparation. With the cornavirus virus (COVID-19) upon us with preparations, how are you spiritually preparing this Lenten season?

What to Expect

QuietChurch.org programs emphasize quiet contemplation in corporate worship. The program opens with a short greeting. Then we meet in silence. At the close of the program, I will sound a brief tone to conclude the session.

Who Is Welcome?

Anyone seeking a quiet worship experience. The worship complies with Quaker meeting format for Quaker participants.

I Never Used Zoom Before and Need Help?

I plan to use the powerful but simple Zoom online meeting application. Zoom offers a Join a Meeting video tutorial. Also see more tutorials at Zoom.

 

Clarks Summit Church Hosts QuietChurch Services 2019

Need a quiet, time-out during the Holidays? Need some quiet time to reflect and think? Countryside Community Church invites community members to the QuietChurch services scheduled on Monday, November 25, 2019, from 6:30PM to 7:30PM, and on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, from 6:30PM to 7:30PM.

QuietChurch allows adults time to focus on silent contemplation, reflection, prayer, and listening to God in the stillness and quiet of a sanctuary. Thus, QuietChurch does not have preaching, singing, an offering, greeting-time, or hymns. Just come as you are and enjoy the seasonal decorations, candlelight, and peace that quiet worship can bring.

Bibles are available along with scripture suggestions and prayer-thoughts for the season.

The sanctuary opens from 6:30PM to 7:30PM for worship time, and you may stay for the full hour or for just a part.

Countryside Community Church, a United Methodist Fellowship, is located at 14011 Orchard Drive, Clarks Summit, PA 1841, near Red Barn Village in Ransom Township.

Silent Night

Silent night, Holy night, all is calm…

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent Night, Holy Night UMC Hymn #239, J. Mohr

Starting with a single, reverent word, silent, we become transported to that night over 2000 years ago to the birth of our Savior on a silent night in a small town in a simple stable.

Traditionally, churches sing Silent Night at the close of a Christmas Eve service. Lights dimmed. Calming shadows in the sanctuary. Candles lit, casting a shimmering glow. The familiar verses sung emotionally with simple accompaniment. Tearful eyes imagining the Birth.

While the Bible does not directly speak of a literal silent night, see Luke 2, we can nevertheless appreciate the work of Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr. Mohr and Gruber capture those peaceful, quiet, and magical moments just before the crescendo of a Heavenly Army announced the Birth to nearby shepherds. Luke 2:10-14.

Silent Night speaks to us today. Those anticipatory moments before the first verse starts and the emotional moments after the last stanza ends reflect the Wonder of Christmas. The quiet wonder of a world-changing event. That moment of the Birth. A welcomed pause amidst the otherwise frantic-ness of the time leading to today’s Christmas and the clamor of Christmas Day.

Silent Night remains profound and popular for a reason–it speaks deeply to us and our recognition of the magnitude of the silent night 2000 years ago.

So, to paraphrase Scrooge’s nephew, “I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

—A peaceful, quiet, and joyous Christmas from QuietChurch.

Clarks Summit Church Hosts Quiet Church

On December 13, 2018, from 7:00PM to 8:30PM, Countryside Community Church (United Methodist) plans to hold a Quiet Church Service. Countryside Community Church is located at 14011 Orchard Road, in Clarks Summit, PA 18411, and is near Red Barn Village.

 

 

Lectio Divina and Quiet Worship

[Lectio Divina’s] natural movement is towards greater simplicity, with less and less talking and more listening. Gradually the words of Scripture begin to dissolve and the Word is revealed before the eyes of our heart.

Order of Carmelites

Persons enjoying quiet church might appreciate lectio divina, or “divine reading.”  Lectio divina arose in the early monastic orders as a practice of thoughtful and engaged reading of the Bible and as a way to listen for “that still small voice” of God.

Lectio divina involves four flexible steps:

  • read
  • reflect
  • pray
  • contemplate/take action

You thoughtfully read a passage of scripture. Then reflect or mediate on the scripture. Then pray for wisdom. And then silently listen for what to do in response. Some resources provide general prompts or issues to ponder when reading Scripture but such structure is not necessary. The focus remains on taking a short time to encounter Scripture in quiet, silence, and reverent listening.

Lectio divina is but one way that someone might participate in a Quiet Church service. A number of resources exists to get started.

Lectio Divina
Some Getting-Started Resources

C.S. Lewis—Evil Loves Noise

In 1942, C.S. Lewis suggested that noise and clamor serve Evil.

Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of these abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.—C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters: Revised Edition, Macmillian, 102-03 (1982)(emphasis added).

Today, many recognize that Lewis’ insight applies even more profoundly. Loud diesel trucks, un-muffled cars, deafening motorcycles, ATVs ripping through natural areas, useless leaf blowers shrieking, throbbing boom cars, thudding basketballs, music blaring in parks, libraries turned into raucous entertainment centers, movies with audio so loud it shakes the building, smartphones streaming “content” everywhere (earphones no longer trendy, apparently), loud cell phone conversations in grocery store lines, televisions in restaurants drowning conversation—”We [,Evil,] will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” Perhaps we’re close.

One ponders how C.S. Lewis would view the world of today. One anonymous author poses an answer in The Kingdom of Noise: A Screwtape Letter for the 21st Century. In Screwtape style, the author observes:

Good news! The latest commendations have arrived from the Council of the Pit. … They have heard of your proposals to the Noise Proliferation Committee (NPC). Indeed, places of solitude and moments of silence grow ever more scarce in the Enemy’s vast and vulgar dominion. Oh, what euphoria to see his insufferable creatures constantly multi-tasking, rushing to fill the dead air with  a cacophony of cell phones and muzak, leaf blowers and motorcycles, 24-hour news and ipods—not to mention car stereos cracked up to full blast and serenading the city-scape with the hellish sounds of hip-hop and heavy metal…Remember: our greatest ally is constant and pervasive stimulation.

C.S. Lewis understood that NOISE interferes with our ability to hear “that still small voice” of God. See 1 Kings 19:11-13. Perhaps our increasing challenge to resist NOISE and distraction corresponds with our challenge to remain Faithful—to retain our “saltiness.” C.f. Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34.