Sitting in silence with a group of people every week can be an intimate experience. How do Quaker worship spaces encourage that?
I don’t pretend to be a great artist in any sense of the word. I’m just an amateur in some ways, but when I go to a museum and look at a famous painting and it makes me feel a certain way, I think that’s not that different from creating a building that when people walk into it, makes them feel a certain way.
The Intimacy of Quaker Worship Spaces
My name is Paul Motz-Storey. I live in the Denver area, and my Quaker meeting is Mountain View Friends Meeting. I’m a real estate agent, I also manage property and I’m also a general contractor, so I’m a little bit of 3 or 4 different things that I do for my day job.
Construction was something I grew up with. My father had a construction company when I was a kid, so my earliest memories were of being around construction sites and I loved it, and I still love it. I love that notion that you can create a space in which people work and live that makes them feel a certain way.
Practicing Being Still
Well my mother would probably (and probably still does) laugh that I gravitated towards Quakers because as a child I couldn’t sit still. My barber hated me. And to this day, I have a problem with that, I can’t easily sit still for long periods of time. So I see it as a discipline that I have to practice, probably more so than other people, but that in the process of doing it I find great value because I do feel that God is that still, small voice. It’s not yelling at me, it isn’t going to come in over the top of my busy mind. It’s only going to happen if I can be quiet and quiet that noise and listen.
The Aesthetic of Quaker Spaces
So Notre Dame is much in the news, and I remember visiting Notre Dame as a child. I remember the guide that took us around the building said, “You are meant to feel small. That’s the point of this.” You walk in and this soaring ceiling and the light and the scale is intentional. You are meant to feel small. God is big and you are small. The church is big and you are small.
Quaker meetings I think offer a completely different aesthetic. They don’t always particularly look like a church of any type. The scale is small, but it doesn’t mean that God isn’t big. It’s just a different feeling that you as the individual have in that meeting space.
Speaking from the Heart
I think the scale being small is important because it gives you the opportunity, encourages you to speak. Because how intimidating is it (especially for an introvert like me) to speak in meeting anyway, but to speak in a huge cathedral? I’m not going to stand up and talk in that setting. What do I have to say that’s of any important?
So yeah, I think the building matters, and a certain feeling that we are gathered here in a space and in a size and in a format that’s conducive to somebody being able to stand up and speak without a microphone from their heart, from what they feel moved to say without it feeling like somehow it’s a performance, because it’s not meant to be a performance.