I don’t know about you, but I love the Highlander film (well, the first one anyway). It features hilariously unrecontructed macho posturing, pretty scenery, Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert, sword fighting action, ridiculous beheadings and music by Queen, leaving little if any room for a plot. That is my kind of film for a Saturday night!
But EBL, the title of this post implies that it forms part of the Quaker Alphabet series! What have these things to do with quiet English people wearing odd hats and grey clothes? Or bleeding heart liberal tree-hugging hippies like yourself?
Well my dears, I’m glad you asked. It’s because there is some Quaker jargon which overlaps rather with the film itself, with amusing (although hardly hilarious, I’m sorry to say) consequences. It means that as a Highlander fan I have to try quite hard not to snort out loud when the phrase is perpetrated in a Quaker context.
The film refers repeatedly to the Gathering, the time when all the immortals come together and fight it out until only one is left. In my head this equates verbally with Quaker name for the sense of a meeting for worship in which the participants reach a sense of spiritual unity as part of their worship. No beheadings are enacted and no Quakers are harmed during this experience. In fact the opposite of the film’s Gathering is in fact the case. We are gathered and united by something greater than ourselves, rather than competing viciously and terminally for supremacy.
That’s more likely to happen over tea if insufficient biscuits have been provided, although in more genteel fashion than Messrs Lambert and Connery.
The sense of a gathered meeting is really quite special and will not always happen in every meeting. In fact, it may not happen too often at all. However, it did occur in a recent meeting for worship in our little group, and it was a wonderful thing.
One minute you are sitting there, enjoying the peace and quiet, thinking about what to have for lunch, listening to the companionable rumble of stomachs nearby, and generally floating along without a care in the world. Or perhaps you are pondering deep and intellectual matters, perhaps you heard a news headline that was particularly troubling, or you are holding a friend in the Light by wishing them peace and strength and courage to face a problem you know they are encountering. You may be reviewing a conversation at work or watching the clouds scud past the high windows.
Then suddenly you are swept up into a sensation which I am struggling to find words to describe. It’s a little like those moments of transcendence described by the likes of Rogers or Maslow, but it happens within a group rather than to a lone individual. A term often used is “covering” and indeed it can feel like being swaddled or embraced or simply netted up like a fish. You are not alone; others in the group are there with you, and together you are in the presence of something greater than you as an individual. For a time, indeterminate and endless yet indescribably brief, you are stardust, golden. Without doubt it is a mystical experience, and is better described by Thomas Kelly, an American Quaker writer.
What I can tell you is that while I was there, no thoughts of allegedly immortal Scottish swordsmen crossed my mind. It was far more important than that.
Today I share my gratitude for that time with you.