‘A seed’s been planted today.’

Unusual things can happen at Meeting. Jonathan Wooding tells of the one where he lost his religion

‘In the silence of this Meeting I am coming to the realisation that the kindly bishop has inadvertently rumbled me.’ | Photo: emma valerio / Unsplash.

The upstairs room is narrow with a low ceiling, a thin crossbeam painted black giving a sense of some antiquity. The walls have been whitewashed, and on the floor is a cream, marble-effect linoleum. There is a small sink at the other end, as if this were once a bedsit room, and there is space enough for only some thirty chairs – some with a shaped metal frame, others wooden and rickety. The chairs form something of a circle around a low table which supports a single yellow rose in a tall glass, two tumblers and a jar of water, a bright red large-print edition of Quaker faith & practice, a book entitled A World Religions Bible, and a copy of the A6 booklet Advices & queries. Two sash windows, rising almost from floor level, look out onto a mews, and I find myself reluctantly sitting with my back to them, claustrophobic, remembering ironically the elation discerned in D H Lawrence’s character Will when he enters Lincoln Cathedral in my A-level text, The Rainbow: ‘Then he pushed open the door, and the great, pillared gloom was before him, in which his soul shuddered and rose from her nest. His soul leapt, soared up into the great church. His body stood still, absorbed by the height. His soul leapt up into the gloom, into possession, it reeled, it swooned with a great escape, it quivered in the womb, in the hush and gloom of fecundity, like seed of procreation in ecstasy.’

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