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Frequently Asked Questions About Quaker Meeting for Worship


Sitting in silence doesn’t mean it’s quiet
all the time. It doesn’t mean that your mind is quiet,
it doesn’t mean that the spirit is quiet, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the
surroundings are quiet. It’s more about focus, it’s more about
where you place your attention, and I think the quiet of a Quaker meeting is the quiet
of an inward focus. Silence is rare these days, it’s really
rare. Emptiness is another way to think of it. Emptying yourself out so that you can receive
something. There is the admonition in the Old Testament
of, “Be still and know that I am God” and sometimes in our moving, sometimes in
our speaking, we get so bound in our own egos that we aren’t able to experience the peace
of God, the love of God—and so sometimes we just have to get still. I think of worship every time we sit down
together as being an opportunity, and there’s something deeply hopeful about gathering in
that space. If each of us are listening inwardly, waiting
and listening for the truth that’s within, that we bring some new truth to bear whether
anyone speaks a message or whether anything happens in that time, there is something very
hopeful about reaching in and doing that in community. One thing I did as a child which I still do
occasionally, particularly when I’m in a new situation, was to imagine drawing a web,
a line from my center, my heart, to the heart of everyone else in the room, to recognize
that I’m not sitting here in silence for an hour by myself. Some people close their eyes in worship–I
do it because the visual can be distracting. I like to look at leaves and sunshine but
if I start to look at faces I start, you know… I mean I do like to look at faces, too, but
I think that’s the main thing, is just temporarily blocking out all stimulation. It’s not about sitting in silence, it’s
about gathering, and waiting and listening, and sometimes closing our eyes helps us to
focus inward. I think that you should do whatever you’re
comfortable doing that will allow you to receive, that will allow you to receive what the spirit
is bringing. If you need to open your hands in order to
open your mind and heart, then do that. And if you need to close your eyes to hear
what the spirit is saying to you, then do that, but do whatever makes you comfortable
in terms of being in receptive mode. Some people say that Quakers have no ministers. That’s what you might think initially when
you walk in and say that there’s no one in charge here, there’s no minister. In fact, as Quakers we believe that we are
all ministers, and therefore the silence gives each of us an opportunity to either be a minister
or be ministered to as the spirit leads. We are all invited to both be listening inwardly
and sharing outwardly. Friends speak about being moved to speak,
being moved by the spirit, hearing a message. We often talk about asking ourselves 3 questions
as a test, as a way of querying ourselves and testing whether or not to stand. The first question is, “does this message
feel like it comes from spirit? Does it feel like it comes from within? Does it come from here and not here ?” The
second question would be, “Is this message for me or is it for others? Is this message for me to share?” The third question is, “Is this for now
or is it for later?” In a worship environment, I think that the
best thing to do is listen to a message and feel how the words affect you. If you formulate a response to something then
you’re not really listening. So hearing it and paying attention to how
you feel will give you the ability to listen. Quakers think that there is that of the divine
in every person, so if someone is saying it in a situation like this, it’s coming from
a divine place. So there’s something of God in that message
for me and my job now becomes to figure out what that is. This is a message to the community and I need
to be under the weight of this somehow. So my prayer needs to be, “Help me to hear,
help me to see. Help me to be a vessel.” You absolutely should bring your children
to meeting. There are a couple of different answers of
what to expect might happen with young people who come to worship with their families. One is that they are certainly welcome to
be in worship with the gathered body. In many meetings you will find that there
also is a program for young people. At Green Street, the children join the adults
at the end of meeting. I feel like that’s really great, positive
energy. Children that have been in a group and then
come together are almost always happy, so it means that your meeting experience ends
with happy energy. Most Quaker meetings for worship end with
a handshake. It’s usually the people who have care of
meeting that start the handshake and then everyone is invited to shake the hands, basically
greet the people around them with a handshake, sometimes a hug. When people start shaking hands, you should
start shaking hands with the people next to you, turn around and shake hands with the
people behind you. Say good morning. They may introduce themselves. They are happy to meet you. That means that the quiet part of meeting
is over, and then there will be announcements. Sometimes there might be a space for people
to share sorrows or joys so that a relative or situation can be held in the light. Many meetings have some sort of coffee hour,
but some don’t. But that’s the general flow. So if you see everyone starting to shake hands
around you, chances are meeting is over.

Otis Rodgers

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3 COMMENTS

  1. RodCornholio Posted on December 8, 2018 at 5:36 am

    In my opinion, this is THE most defining aspect of Quakerism; the heart, the thread, the common denominator.

    Reply
  2. b phillip Posted on December 27, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    now go about a do a more detailed programmed meeting QandA, but ask these of different members and pastors from different question, not just one person.
    Great video!

    Reply
  3. Rhiannon imnottellin Posted on January 16, 2019 at 1:27 am

    The Quaker faith is very much calling to me; how does one become a Quaker?

    Reply
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