Built For Silence…..or Why I Am Not A Quaker

As most of you probably know, Earlham is a Quaker school. What some of you might not know is that ESR has an integrated relationship with Bethany Theological Seminary (the seminary of the Church of the Brethren). They both share the northeastern corner of campus, which Earlham College students call “the Holy Corner”.

With this integrated relationship comes many things. One of those things is the joint worship services that happen every two weeks in either Quigg (the worship space for ESR) or Nicarry (the worship space for Bethany). Today’s worship was in Quigg.

The worship service was very nice. What made it for me though was a comment made during the open part of the service, where someone said “what I notice every time  I’m in here is how much this room is built for silence. However it cannot hold back the sound when a group of people gather together and sing.” I was really glad that someone, besides me, talked about the acoustics of the room. It also made me really take the room in and try to determine why I’ve always felt uncomfortable in it. Finally it came to me; the room is too austere for my taste. 

When that person said something about the room being built for silence it made me realize why I will not ever become a Quaker: I am NOT built for silence. Nor I am austere.

I am a church girl. Have been all my life; comes with being a deacon’s daughter. So I’m always looking at what church spaces convey to someone who has never stepped foot in a church. Quigg really does convey silence (and to me a certain kind of coldness). Nicarry, on the other hand, conveys the most overwhelming sense of warmth. What senses do UU churches convey?

I am not built for silence. Nor austerity. What I am built for I’m still trying to discern.


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