At our Quaker Meeting in Geneva, we worship together in silence. If anyone is moved to minister, they do so. Each month our elders read out a query that they feel may help the worship. January’s was read out today:
“Do you come to meeting for worship with heart and mind prepared, with an adventurous spirit? Viens-tu aux reunions de culte dispose de coeur et d’espirit, ouvert et audacieux?”
Hearts and minds prepared, eh? It’s an obvious question in Quakers, the phrase is used a lot. It’s something I mostly take for granted. Of course I come to Quaker meeting with my heart and mind prepared. Funnily enough though, I was thinking on this as I rode into Quaker Meeting this morning. The idea to go this morning had come a few days before as I sat down to make my new year’s resolutions. I wrote down a lot. Laurel suggested that we might make intentions rather than resolutions and I liked this idea. I’ve come across my old lists a lot of times before and I’ve rarely done much of what was on the lists, so making it an intention feels like when I don’t succeed at it, I might keep trying again. Adapt it, change it, develop it, evolve it.
Going to Quaker Meeting was on that list. Right next to it was ‘ride my bike more’. Great, I thought, I’ll combine the two. I reckoned it would take about 25 minutes to ride to Quaker Meeting so I set off with 25 minutes to go. After getting through the three doors with the 3 keys from my apartment to the bicycle room, I discovered that the bicycle lock key was not the right bicycle lock key. So back I went. Three doors, three locks. After a rummage, I had 3 bike lock keys in my hand. Back I went with all the keys for all the doors and just one lock. It’s always the last one that works, not least because you don’t carry on trying after you are successful. And so, I was on my way. A bit flustered and behind schedule.
Out on the roads, it wasn’t much better. Something I had not noticed from walking around Geneva and travelling by public transport was just how many sets of traffic lights there are. Geneva, it seems, doesn’t do roundabouts. I can only think of one or two in the whole city. So there are lots of lights. If I was open to new light today, as the Quaker saying goes, then that light was coloured red. I started and I stopped. I started again and stopped again. Sometimes I thought that I was going to get through, but no, I had to stop again. Oh, and apart from the first kilometre or so, it was up hill all the way.
I arrived at Quaker meeting late, hot and sweaty. If having a heart prepared means that it is beating rather fast, well, I was prepared! But what does it really mean, anyway? Recently I read an old article in the Guardian about people who have survived plane crashes. Someone suggested that a difficulty for people when they’re in a plane crash (besides all the other factors) is that in plane travel we are told what to do, where to stand, where to sit, when we can go to the toilet, when we can eat a meal and so on. We’re not proactive. And when we’re in a life-or-death situation we need to suddenly change and take control and for many people that’s hard. I wonder if sometimes I think of Quaker meeting as being a passive experience – I go, I try to empty my mind, I wait expectantly on God for some ministry or to receive others’ ministry. But it’s not me leading my way.
Coming into Meeting by bike, I’ve got to change all that. I’ve got to keep my wits about me. Can I get through this changing light? Where’s that car turning? Can the driver see me? Can I avoid an accident going over these tram tracks? Can a bike go up here? I’m making decisions. I’m proactive. So for me, especially today, having a prepared heart and mind was about being active, having the blood flowing, smiling and feeling good.
And so it was a great Quaker Meeting today. The query question chimed with my thoughts about my journey. There was another ministry of passing interest. And first Sunday of the month is French-speaking day for Geneva Quakers, so when thoughts came into my head I tried to think them in French. And afterwards I had a conversation in Franglais (the best I can do) with a French-speaking Swiss friend.
In one strong sense, I also realised that Quaker Meeting is a reward. I cherish the time spent there, alone in one sense but in many others together. Together with God, together with my faith community.
On the Janathon-related exercise side, well, I was using the Strava app for the first time. What I didn’t realise when I set off was that I needed an internet connection to start, so the recording didn’t work. On the way back, I had one and I recorded 4.3km in 17:56 (allowing for the fumbling at beginning and end, which might have been a couple of minutes extra). This was almost all downhill too, which was lovely and again the sun was shining and I could see mountains much of the time. Glorious.
The need for internet for the Strava app to work is a serious issue, which may be a deal breaker, especially since all Endomondo needs to work is a GPS signal.
No new birds seen today, but Laurel reminded me that we saw a pied wagtail on Thursday, which I hadn’t listed. Loathe to have to rejig the whole list, I’m adding it today.
24. Pied wagtail