To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.
~ John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807-1892
In Meeting for Worship we gather in silence for about an hour, without minister or liturgy, in expectant waiting for experience of stillness, a sense of divine presence, guidance of the Holy Spirit, and/or a felt unity with fellow worshipers, others, earth creatures, and the cosmos.
We “center down” into an inward stillness, letting go of thinking, planning, worries and problem-solving, to listen to the mysterious depths of being within, we call by many metaphoric names: Spirit, Light, Seed, Truth, Inward Teacher, and the eternal Christ.
Worship may continue in silence throughout the hour or a Friend may feel a deep urge, a “leading of the Spirit,” to rise to give a brief message arising from the spiritual depth of his or her life. Each message is followed with a period of silence, allowing the words and spirit in which they were spoken to deepen in our hearts.
Silence and speaking are both ministry. If what is shared does not “speak to your condition,” let the message go and continue in the silence. When vocal and silent ministry speaks to the condition of many of those present, deepening us in the Truth, we are experiencing what we call a “gathered meeting,” a sense of spiritual community that freshens and delights. Messages in a gathered meeting intertwine in unanticipated ways and carry us deeper into the inward silence.
Meeting for worship ends with attenders greeting each other with handshakes. The children, who left the gathered worship to attend First Day School separately, are asked to return. Guests may introduce themselves and sign our guest book, then expressions of joys and/or concerns are requested. The children are asked to share their morning learning experience. After announcements are made, we break for tea and coffee, often followed by a Forum exploring various aspects of Quaker life and social justice issues. The first Sunday of the month, instead of a Forum, we reconvene for our Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, followed by a potluck lunch.
Here are some observations on Quaker worship, from the QuakerSpeak service on YouTube: