What Do Quakers Do in Silent Worship?


I’m a little bit of an overachiever, so
I usually come in and I’m like, “I’m going to worship now. I’m going to sit here
and be the best worshipper ever, and this is going to be it.” And I really have to
let that go. I go to Quaker Meeting and I just let everything
open up. I think of it as this wonderful scan disk of my hard drive, helping me clear out
all of the gaps and be still and lay down things that are bothering me that really aren’t
that important, just getting me to a place of stability and clarity. It’s been really
important to me. Thinking about Meeting for Worship on Sunday,
the first thing that comes to mind is to share that Meeting for Worship is a much more satisfactory
experience if some spiritual preparation has been done in advance. The metaphor for me
is “preparing the soil,” so the soil is ready for the message or for the seed. It feels like it is very important to be part
of a group of people who are creating a container of deepening worship that is already in process
as other Friends arrive. I remember my first Meeting for Worship when
I was older that I could remember was really difficult because I wanted to talk or play
a game or go run around. So often the energy of life is a topsy-turvy
energy. It’s energy going in many different directions with many different pressures,
being pulled hither and yon, and it’s centered in many many different places and not in one
place. I usually need the first 10, 15, 20, 30 – however
long it takes – minutes to quiet myself. In the Meeting for Worship in the silence
I am trying to center myself, which means to lay aside distractions of the world, and
to listen carefully to the inward teacher, the inward guide, the inner Christ, that within
me which is within me and also beyond me. And for me that sort of involves that narrative
voice that I sort of have going in the back of my head all the time, just sort of letting
that go. It’s not so much about quieting it but just releasing it. The more I sort
of try to like, stuff it down, the louder it gets and so it’s just sort of about letting
it go. And that seems to make space for God to fill up. There’s a quote that means a lot to me from
Thomas Kelly’s essay, “The Light Within”, which is found within his volume A Testament
of Devotion: “Deep within us all, there is an amazing
sanctuary of the soul: a holy place, a divine center, a speaking voice to which we may continuously
return.” That describes a centered place for me. This
deep inner sanctuary of the soul. And I find meaning and value in trying to get there,
making my way back home. Making my way back home. Thich Nhat Hanh, who is of course a Buddhist
not a Quaker, talks about meditation as a process of sort of “tuning into the smile
channel,” and somehow that description was very helpful for me. Let’s tune into the
Spirit channel! Where in the body – in my body – do I perceive the Spirit moving among
us? I start by paying attention to my breath and
my body, and slowing down my breath and feeling my body. I love the sense of settling into
my body, and my body settling into space, and I feel my breath sort of going deeper
and deeper. Sometimes my mind will go to what has happened
the preceding week, and I’ll ask the question, “How can I identify the movement of Spirit
and what has happened for me in the week preceding this worship?” Something I do, I have these prayer beads
that I wear all the time, and I’ll think of all the people in my life and I’ll hold
them in the Light for a few minutes and let them know that I’m thinking about them and
giving them positive energy. Sometimes I focus on a particular phrase or
word or image and try to hold that as long as I can and then keep coming back to it. I mean, I think for me, it let’s me know
that even if somebody thinks they’re alone, you know, I can say, “No, you’re not.
I’ve been thinking about you. And I don’t know if it’s impacted anyone else, I’ve
never told anyone that so I guess, secrets out! Kristina Keefe-Perry
Sandra Cronk, in her pamphlet on gospel order, has a sentence in the beginning of the pamphlet: And
that sentence has been so important for me
to hold onto like a life raft, continue to hold expectation. I think that’s why we
call it “expectant waiting worship”, that positive expectation that we will experience
the presence of the Holy Spirit among us, and we are just waiting for it to show up.
It’s not an if, it’s a when. And then, when I get to that place, it’s
a communal effort, it’s not just about me and my relationship with the divine – although
that is an important part of it – but it’s also feeling the gathered assembly around
me, the gathered Friends around me and paying attention to what might be needed: whether
I’m going to be called to deliver a message or sing a song, or pray particularly for someone
in the group, or might just be mindful of someone. I see that as a very communal thing,
how the group comes together and is able to center in the silence.


8 Responses

  1. David Nettleton

    November 19, 2015 10:21 pm

    the silence is self explanatory once you experience it. dont worry watchers of this video you can still be a Quaker even if you didnt get the opportunity to get brainwashed in college, heck alot of the people who go to quaker church dont want to be quakers heck they dont even want other people to be quakers, well not unless you are destroying quakerism i guess. if you actually want to be a quaker im sure despite all the "quakers" you can still be one if you are determined enough.

  2. Sad Furby

    January 18, 2016 9:54 pm

    Even as a pagan I can very much so relate to what these people are saying. All religions and spiritualities are so beautiful.

  3. Peter Carlson

    December 9, 2016 12:47 am

    Listening in silence to God has been practiced in the Catholic church for centuries before Quakerism was invented.

  4. Scouter Stu

    July 30, 2017 11:43 pm

    All relgions are spiritual and beautiful!. Give your head a shake! Idol worship? Animal sacrifices? Caste systems? Eye for an eye and an tooth and tooth are besutiful? Why do you think George Fox wrote to the Moslem, Jewish world etc and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ? The thing that sticks in the craw modern so called Quakers is George Fox was a born again Christian who, upon that moment was told Jesus would lead him. Subsequently, when he gives his testimony of being taken up before Adam was etc he speaks according to and confirming, while speaking of the eternal paradigm the scriptures. And, affirms the Source in whom we move, live and have our being is PERSON, omniscient, omnipresent and personally intimate. Robert Barclay in his chapter on worship and silent prayer, collectively and individually speaks directly to the errors being advanced about be inwardly still/prayer etc by those in this video. The orginal generation of Quakers, though completly innocent suffered terribly yet even so went to great efforts to leave a clear teaching behind as to what prayer and worship are and the absolute need to do what is most unatural to the ordinary human mind,which to raise the attention above all mental machinations while allowing the heart to open to the Ever Present Light thus disolving the agony and the lie of seperation and KNOW a sunbeam can never be seperated from the sun. You have to wonder why those claim to have to do with the orginal Christ Illuminated Quaker's hold their teachings in such little regard

  5. Freddy Barneburg

    November 9, 2017 9:52 pm

    In Portland OR there is one at 835 se 162nd Ave (503)252-8415 Lynwood//4312 se Stark St (503)232-2822 Friends-Multnomah and many more


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