After leaving the community at Maranatha, I began attending a Friends(Quaker) Church at the invitation of a fellow graduate student. I knew very little about Quakers, but what I did know I valued. They had led other churches in opposition to slavery, were committed to peace, and had always valued women in worship. I also thought they were silent. In the Western United States, however, most of the Quakers are Evangelical Friends, and their service is a combination of a sermon, singing and 20 minutes of silence. During the silence, if someone feels truly led by the Spirit, that person may stand and speak what they believe God has said for the gathered group. Despite how that might sound, in general words given are few, timely and appropriate.
I enjoyed the silence, but the music was something very different from the free joyous singing I had left at Maranatha. There were hymnals in the back of each pew, and the number we were to sing would be announced. Then we would sing together through the verses and stop when the printed text ended. It still felt Spirit-led, but in a very much quieter(these were Quakers after all!) way.
After I had attended there, had been joined by the man who would become my husband, and been married in a Quaker ceremony, some of the elders took an interest in our lack of musical knowledge. They loved old hymns, and they thought we were missing something by not knowing them. To my enduring gratitude, they gathered us with a group of about ten and, as one played the piano, they taught us many classic songs.
Those hymns included “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In the Garden,” and my all time favorite “It Is Well With My Soul.” The theology in all of these songs comforted and reassured me in the same way that “Jesus Loves Me” had done years before. This Easter season, I pause to thank them, now all passed, for their gift to us.