A Meeting in Silence
Have you ever been to a meeting that takes place in complete silence? Let’s sit still, be quiet, and the meeting shall begin.
What traditions does the community have?
In Monteverde, Quakers hold weekly meetings at the Monteverde Friends School. One thing about these meetings is that they are held in silence. You arrive, go into the meeting hall and just sit in silence. If you are moved to speak, then you speak and share your thoughts. If not, you can just sit quietly. Does this sound interesting? If it does, chime in and learn about the story of the Quakers.
What tradition did I learn about?
Monteverde is home of the Quakers, members of a religious movement that is based on Christian beliefs. Quakers, or commonly known as Friends, believe in non-violence and peace. The first group formed in England in the 1700’s. I thought it was interesting that there are a group living in Costa Rica today, so I went to visit their meeting house in Monteverde. Each week, they have community meetings which are held on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Meetings take place at the Monteverde Friends School (grade K-12), about 2 kilometers from the station where I live.
When I arrived, I did not know what the Quakers movement entails. With curiosity, I decided to attend the Wednesday Friends meeting at the school. After breakfast, I walked on the dirt road to the school with one of my friends from the program. Around 8:45 AM, we arrived at the front entrance. There are two single-story buildings at the school and they are in the process of constructing a third one. The school is shaded by trees and I could hear bird singing as I walked in.
A staff person welcomed us and told us to be very quiet as we approached the meeting hall. We entered the room. It was a small room with about 15 benches forming somewhat of an oval. I nodded as I walked into the room. There was silence. I took two more light steps and sat down with my friend on the bench closest to the door. A group of students came in accompanied by a teacher. By 9:00 AM, there were about 35 people in the room: the two of us, kids, students, teachers and adults in the community. Then silence ensued. About 15 minutes later, the room was still in complete silence, except for a cough and a sneeze here and there. I looked over to my friend, he had his eyes closed. I stared at the floor, looked up at the ceiling, and took random peeks to see what other people were up to. Most people sat in silence.
At 9:30 AM, one person stood up and told the group about a youth query of the week. The query was to meet people from other cultures and welcome them to your home. She sat down and the room went back into silence. Around 9:45 AM, another lady stood up and shared with us her experience traveling to Southeast Asia trying to find her true religion. Both speakers talked in Spanish then translated everything to English. By 10:00 AM, meeting adjourned and the lady with the query stood up to thank everyone for coming. Recognized by everyone that we were new to the meeting, my friend and I introduced ourselves briefly and thanked the community for this opportunity to sit in a Quaker meeting. Then everyone shook each other’s hands. We said ‘thank you’ and walked back to the station. To sum up my experience: sat in silence, listened, and shook hands at the end of the meeting. It was a strange, yet interesting and unique experience.
Why does the community have this tradition?
The town of Monteverde was founded by a group of Quakers in 1950s. The Quakers came from the U.S. in the state of Alabama. They chose Costa Rica for its cool climate and non-violent constitution. Since then Quakerism has been the main religious movement in Monteverde. April 19 is officially known as Monteverde Day in celebration of the arrival of the first Quakers on horseback in 1951. It is an annual community potluck where everyone comes together and enjoys each other’s company. I was fortunate to be able to celebrate Monteverde Day. The food was amazing, especially the desserts. It was absolutely refreshing having lunch with the community while observing hummingbirds drinking nectars from plants.
Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?
Quakers believe in peace and non-violence. They believe that the quiet meetings help people to be more spiritual and peaceful. Once inspired, the individual stands up and shares his or her thoughts. Everyone listens and encourages the sharing of message from God. I find this approach to religion quite unique and interesting.
With the founding of Monteverde, the Quakers community has recognized the importance of preserving the greens of Costa Rica. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was formed and serves as a way to conserve the rich biodiversity in Costa Rica. With Monteverde being one of the most popular tourist attractions, the community establishes eco-tourism hoping to educate people from all over the world about the necessity of preserving biodiversity. Go greens! Pura vida!