Today I continued my Tour of Bay Area Quaker Meetings by visiting the Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley.
I arrived at the location a few minutes late, where I found a dozen or so people sitting in on folding chairs in the middle of a school courtyard. "I guess this is the Meeting," I thought to myself, taking a seat among them. I was surprised by how small the meeting was, considering what a large city Berkeley is. But it wouldn't be the first time I was at a Meeting for Worship with just a handful of attendees.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning to be sitting outside with Friends, silently worshipping. The heat of the sun felt good on my face, a gentle breeze occasionally cooling the air. I felt myself slip into a deep state of meditation. I realized that it had been too long since I have been at an outdoor Meeting for Worship, and how special it is. I thought about how the natural light can help remind us how the Light of God is in every one and every thing….
..and then, without warning, everyone got up and made there way into a nearby auditorium.
Inside I found another forty or so worshippers sitting together, in the actual Meeting for Worship at Strawberry Creek Friends. After sitting out in the sun for 15 minutes, the auditorium felt cold and dark.
Only later did I find out that the folks sitting outside were the latecomers. Apparently Strawberry Creek Meeting has implemented a practice in which those who come after the start of meeting wait outside for a few minutes to allow those inside to not be disturbed by the constant influx of people. An interesting solution to an issue that lots of Quaker Meetings around the world face.
The only problem I can see is that the "punishment" of forcing people to wait outside in the sun is so pleasant that it might encourage folks to purposely arrive late! I certainly enjoyed it.
The rest of the Meeting for Worship was pleasant and gathered, with a mostly silent worship peppered by just 4-5 messages. After breaking the silence, we went around the room and everyone said their names, with newcomers and visitors like me introducing ourselves. When my turn came around , I mentioned that I was new to the Bay Area and I was "Meeting shopping." In response, everyone said "Welcome" and one replied, "This is the best one!"
Afterwards during coffee hour, lots of folks introduced themselves to me, and some of the younger friends invited me out for brunch, which was very sweet.
All-in-all, I got a nice feeling from Strawberry Creek Meeting. It seems like a diverse, active and healthy community. I must admit that the setting of the Meeting, inside of the auditorium of a school, is not as nice as meeting in an actual Quaker Meetinghouse. But a Meeting is more than a building, of course. And I look forward to returning to this one.
Strawberry Creek Meeting is located at Derby and Martin Luther King Way in Berkeley. Their regular Meeting for Worship is at 11. See their website for more info.