|Yearbook photo, next to|
William Penn's hitching post.
Me: "I went to a Friends school in New York."
The other person: "I wasn't asking about your friend's school. I was asking about yours."
When you say a Friends School is operated by Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends), people aren't sure what to make of that either. I only knew one or two Quakers at my high school, Friends Seminary. Actually, a good percent were Jewish.
So what about the Quaker part? The philosophy guided our school. Quakers believe in the inner light in everyone and in working for peace and social justice. It is hard to say it without sounding corny, so I'll send you to the Friends Seminary website.
When I was in 10th grade, the school organized a bus trip to Washington for a silent vigil around the White House to protest the Vietnam War. That is the kind of thing we did. Silence is another key component of a Friends education, specifically the one-hour silent meeting for worship that we had every Wednesday in the meeting house. There is no program; you sit in silence, and if you are moved to speak, you stand up and begin. This website has a good explanation of Quaker Meeting.
|Meeting house, left, and Friends Seminary|
Wherever I live, I usually find a Friends meeting. For example, when I lived in Brookline, I went to the Friends Meeting at Cambridge.
Some time ago I went to the Mount Toby Friends Meeting in Leverett, but I hadn't been for a while. Sunday mornings I usually either go to a spinning class at the Holyoke Y or a yoga class at the Hampshire Regional Y in Northampton.
I bring this up now because in the past two weeks I went first to the Friends Meeting in Northampton, and then this past Sunday to Mt. Toby. A friend from Friends and I had talked about wanting to go together, and I was curious about the meeting in Northampton (on Center Street) because I pass by it all the time.
Given the terrorist attacks of the previous week, it seemed like a good time to go sit with the peaceful people. So that is what we did. He wasn't available, so I went by myself to the Mount Toby meeting. It is easy to find – it's on Route 63 – but, if you know me, you know I can get lost in South Hadley. I misread the directions and took one wrong turn, which led to another, and another, with Siri being of no help and saying, infuriatingly, "I'm sorry, I seem to have lost my Internet connection."
Here is the description on the website: Mount Toby Friends Meeting is a welcoming faith community. We come from many different religious backgrounds, including birthright Quakers, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Pagans, and those with no previous affiliation. Believing that every human being shares in the universal Light, we join together each Sunday to create an expectant silence where the spirit may enter. Our Meeting is “unprogrammed,” which means that there is no formal order of worship, but those who are moved by the spirit can speak. Thus we all are ministers as well as attenders.
Friends education gave me the gift of being able to return to meetings and feel connected and gain a sense of inner peace wherever the meetings are. The gym will be there the rest of the week. My friend from Friends and I are going to return.