P is for Presence

I find myself using the word ‘Presence’ more and more to describe ‘that which cannot be named’, so I thought maybe I should have a go at describing a bit more what I mean and why I use that term.

I don’t actually envisage ‘Presence’ in the very visual way portrayed in the famous Quaker painting ‘The Presence in the Midst’ – but I do have a sense of what the artist was (I think) trying to portray.

I am, sometimes, very aware of something beyond myself, beyond ourselves, being present in our meetings for worship. I may call this God, but Presence also seems a good word for it. I sense that others are aware of it too. Sometimes it just is, sometimes it seems to require a response from me. I may, inwardly, respond ‘Here I am, Lord, with all my failings and weaknesses, but if you can use me as I am, I am willing’. I may just say, inwardly, these are all the things that are bothering me right now, let me hand them over for a while, maybe then I’ll see them in a different light, or maybe I’ll feel strong enough to take them up again, or maybe I’ll see that I can lay them down for good.

Recently, and in my childhood, I am sometimes aware of the Presence as a young man, whom I would name Jesus, who stands just behind my left shoulder, or, if I acknowledge him, beside me, who is calm, supportive, and does not make demands, but appreciates being acknowledged. I find it hard to acknowledge him – I fear I am ‘asking Jesus into my life’ and will sound like an Evangelical Christian – but he is very patient with me, at least so far. It feels good to have an awareness of a Presence that walks besides me.


On the memorable occasion of my wedding the depth of worship was so strong that we (Jim , Sheila (our registering officer) and I) could feel it outside the meeting room in a quite tangible way. That I would also describe as an awareness of Presence.

On another occasion, when I was quite distressed by my life circumstances, I sat in meeting for worship and became aware of being held (by the meeting? by something beyond the meeting?) as a mother might hold a baby wrapped in a blanket. Somehow there was a sense of Presence in that experience too.


To me, the experience is often very tactile, rather than visual or auditory. All in all, it’s a very hard thing to describe, but the word ‘Presence’ seems, at the moment, to serve as well as any.



1 thought on “P is for Presence

  1. Don’t be afraid to take Jesus into your life. You will never regret it. Don’t be held back by those who view that in a narrow way with which you do not want to be identified.

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