Your First Visit

 If you have never before attended an unpro­grammed Friends (Quaker) meeting for worship, your first meeting may surprise you.

While all Quakers meet in worship to hear more clearly God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), Friends in the unprogrammed Quaker tradition base our worship entirely on expectant waiting. We take the Psalmist’s advice literally: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

We meet in plain, unadorned rooms because we have found that, in such places, we are less dis­tracted from hearing that still small voice. There are no pulpits in our meeting rooms because we minister to each other. Our benches or chairs face each other because we are all equal before God. We have no prearranged prayers, readings, ser­mons, hymns, or musical orchestrations because we wait for God’s leadings (guidance and direc­tion) and power in our lives.

During worship, a message may come to us.

Friends have found that messages may be for our per­sonal reflection or for sharing on another occasion.

Or they may be a leading to stand and speak. Friends value spoken messages that come from the heart and are prompted by the Spirit, and we also value the silence we share together. Following a spoken mes­sage, we return to the silence to examine ourselves in the Light of that message. Meeting for worship ends when one Friend, designated in advance, shakes hands with his or her neighbors. Then everyone shakes hands. No two meetings are ever the same.”  –  Marsha D. Holliday, Silent Worship

 

The meeting for worship is the heart of every Friends’ Meeting.  It is based on faith that men and women can enter into direct communion with God.

In the excitement of their discovery that Christ was alive and had “come to teach His people Himself”, early Friends gathered for worship fully expecting the Spirit to be present, and out of their hushed expectancy they entered into a fellowship with God that changed their lives. In the course of such worship came new revelations of Truth and a force that drove Friends out into the world to spread the news and to serve humanity.

Friends in New England try in their meetings for worship to capture the same spirit, a sense of God’s presence in the midst, and to be open to new revelation. Some New England Friends gather in silent waiting upon God without designated leadership or program. Some are led in worship by a pastor whose function is to encourage and cultivate the ministry of each individual. In either case, for the meeting to be successful, all must share and respond.

Preparation for worship is essential. Preparation is a continual process of prayer, of reading the Bible and other religious literature, of learning from human experiences, and of daily practicing the presence of God. Some come on Sunday morning expecting to receive God’s revelation with no previous effort on their part. For the cup to overflow on Sunday, however, it must be filled up all through the week. Early Friends came to worship with their cup overflowing, and it was then that the power was given to go out and to share the Truth that had come to them.

In the unprogrammed meeting, as the worship proceeds, out of communion with God a message may come to one of the worshipping individuals. Sometimes the message is purely personal; at other times it seems to belong to the meeting. The worshipper is then under divine compulsion to share it with fellow seekers, to contribute to the vocal service of the meeting, however haltingly.

In the meetings with pastoral leadership, the pastor may prepare a message and an order of service during the week, but the pastor is only a worshipper among worshippers, and the life of the pastoral worship depends on the response of the group. Ideally the prepared message arises not just from the pastor’s own spiritual resources, but from the worship of the group.

Not all meetings, whether pastoral or based on silence, achieve a high level. Yet God does break through the crust of apathy, of worldly preoccupations or lack of preparation. We are humble learners in the school of Christ, and our weaknesses and failures should not deter us. When a meeting for worship gathers in active expectancy of God’s presence with complete openness of heart and mind, the power to change lives will arise.”

from Faith & Practice of New England Yearly Meeting, 1985, p. 95

inside meetinghouse