Okay, so once a month, it is my job to hold the container for worship and close Meeting at the end of the hour. This seemingly simple job has created a number of issues for me, which I have blogged about before.
For a time, I deliberately went to Meeting without a watch and trusted in the promptings of Spirit as to when to close Meeting. At first this worked well, but then I realized that it took too much of my attention. So much energy went into discerning how long worship should go that I didn't feel like I had enough left to monitor the pulse of the Meeting or tend my own worship.
So I started bringing a watch.
The next problem was that I don't ordinarily wear or carry a watch. In the midst of getting the family ready for Meeting, I needed to remember to scoop my watch out of my jewelry box and put it in my purse.
Fortunately, my husband carries a pocket watch, so he could act as my back up.
When I last came to close Meeting, I forgot my watch. As we were pulling into the Meetinghouse, I remembered, and asked to borrow my husband's. I slipped it into my pocket, slid into my chair, and fell into worship.
Some time later, I checked the time. The hands of the watch were frozen at nineteen minutes to five. Meeting for worship runs from 10:30 to 11:30.
I went back into worship and asked God to tell me when it was time to end Meeting.
Worship continued in fullness and beauty, and I imagined myself holding it open all day. Several individuals gave heartfelt ministry, and we sat there in the peace of deep worship.
Finally, I rose. "Friends," I said, "it's my job to close worship today. My watch says that it's nineteen minutes to five, and that seems about right to me. I have no idea when we should close worship."
Friends started shaking one another's hands and wishing one another good morning. Later evidence suggests that I was 10 to 15 minutes late closing worship, but I really have no idea.
As we rose, I thought that perhaps I am not meant to close worship. Perhaps my struggles with the clock, and with speaking at all after worship, mean that I should do different jobs for the Meeting.
A record number of Friends came up to tell me how much they enjoy it when I close worship. "You're so light and funny," they said, "you have such a wonderful spirit about it."
Indeed. On the mornings I close Meetings, there is always laughter and lightness of spirit as I try to find the words to welcome everyone to Meeting. My struggles to rise from worship and speak from a script are a continual source of entertainment to my Friends.
Ah. I have missed my calling. I am meant to be a Quaker stand-up comic, playing at the Meetinghouse on First Day mornings. Don't miss my "I seem to have forgotten my name and what I'm meant to be doing here" act followed by "I'm delighted to be with you all. Let's just beam at one another for a moment while I try to remember how to do this."
And, the truth is that I am delighted to stand there, blinking, and welcome everyone. I'm happy to invite newcomers to our Meeting and tell them how wonderful it is that they shared worship with us. I am filled with joy at the opportunity to facilitate announcements. After worship, I am so happy to be in the heart of the gathered Meeting that it doesn't matter that I stumble over the words I'm meant to speak.
It's even okay with me that God sees fit to tell me that it's nineteen minutes to five, whatever that means.