THE MEETING THAT WOULDN'T BREAK UP
ALL little Quaker boys and girls know that a meeting for worship comes to a close when two Friends in the gallery shake hands. Now I am going to tell you a story about a meeting that would not break up. Did the Friends at the head of the meeting forget to shake hands, you are wondering? No, that was not the reason, but let me tell you the story.
In the year 1797 there was a young people's meeting held in the old Abington Meeting House, a youth's meeting they called it in those days. The meeting gathered into a wonderful quiet; even the very little children felt the power of that stillness. "Heavenly Father," they prayed in their hearts," what can I do to help this meeting?" Minute after minute passed and the Friends sat motionless, each in his own heart praying to his Heavenly Father.
After a time James Simpson, a stoop-shouldered man, arose in the gallery and began to speak. His face was so earnest and his voice so full of feeling that no one seemed to notice how bent was his form or how strange his costume. Many of those present thought to themselves, "He speaks to my condition." "God has sent him in answer to my prayer." He sat down and a deep silence again came over the meeting. In that stillness every one had a feeling of nearness and love for every one else.
Then Nicholas Waln rose to his feet. He preached for about an hour and then he knelt and prayed. When he had finished many eyes were filled with tears and many souls had resolved to follow more closely in the Master's steps. It seemed that the Heavenly Father Himself had come into the meeting to love and bless those gathered there.
At last, after a very solemn stillness, those at the head of the gallery shook hands in token that the meeting had closed. But the meeting did not close, for no one moved. No one was willing to break that silence; no one was ready to leave the glowing beauty of that hour. After a while Nicholas Waln said, "Under the solemn covering that we are favored with, perhaps Friends had better separate." A few young men near the door then rose in a very quiet manner, but seeing that no one else followed, they sat down again. And again that sweet and awful silence prevailed. Then Richard Jordan broke forth into the song of triumph which greeted Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, "Hosanna! blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" And he spoke words of praise for the wonderful realization of God's presence in their midst. After a pause he shook hands with the Friend by his side and the meeting ended. But all the Friends were so moved by the power of the meeting that they did not stop to chat but quietly went their separate ways.