A Quaker Meeting for Worship is based on stillness as we wait and listen. There may be stillness and silence for quite some time, perhaps half an hour or more.
In the stillness of a Quaker meeting, we seek to become united in love and strengthened in truth, so we enter a new level of living, despite the different ways we may account for this life-expanding experience.
As we are caught up in the still spirit of the meeting, we try to come nearer to God and to each other, without reciting creeds, singing hymns, or repeating set prayers. We do not worship in isolation: we try to hold ourselves aware of all those gathered with us, uniting in a common purpose, so that the waiting and listening become an act of sharing.
We meet in this way because we feel the need to worship together. It is important to us. Meeting for Worship starts as soon as the first person enters the room and sits down. It helps if the meeting can settle a few minutes before the appointed time.
Go in as soon as you are ready. Sit anywhere you like but, if possible, leave seats near the door and at the end of rows for latecomers. Children may be present for a time at the beginning or at the end of meeting but will have their own activities in another room.
You may find it easy to relax in the silence and enter into the spirit of the meeting, or you may be disturbed by the strangeness of the silence, by distractions outside or by your own thoughts. Don't worry about this. We all find it difficult to settle at times. Try, if only for brief periods, to be quiet in mind, body, and spirit. Bring whatever is pressing on your mind to the meeting. It can be a time of insight, revelation, healing or calm.
Many people seek to explore what God means for them at some time in their lives, even those who find it hard to believe that God exists. Using a different image or concept such as 'spirit' or 'light' can be helpful.
The silence may be broken if someone present feels called to say something which will deepen and enrich the worship. Anyone is free to speak, pray or read aloud, as long as it is done in response to a prompting of the spirit which comes in the course of the meeting. This breaks the silence for the moment but does not interrupt it.
Listen with an open mind to what is said. Each contribution may help somebody, but our needs are different and can be met in different ways. If something does not speak to your condition or need, try to reach the spirit behind the words. The speaker wants to help the meeting, so take care not to reject the offering by negative criticism.
Each of us bring our own life experience to meeting. Some people will have a profound sense of awe and wonder because they feel that God is present. Others will be far less certain. They may only be ready to hold an awareness that their experiences in life point beyond themselves to a greater whole. Some will thankfully accept God's love as shown in the life of Jesus, the promise of forgiveness and the setting aside of past failure. Others may find their direction as a seeking to be open towards all people in a spirit of love and trust.
After about an hour, two people (usually called Elders) will shake hands to mark the end of the worship. The clerk may then announce forthcoming events and give news of absent members. Afterwards, when we move next door for coffee and tea, do feel free to speak to anyone, particularly if you wish to know more about Quakers. Literature is usually available, and books can often be borrowed.
Updated 5 August 2021
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