from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel
This month’s Reading provides two passages on meeting for worship. The first is an excerpt from the draft of the newly revised Ann Arbor Meeting Handbook.
Meeting for Worship
Worship in the manner of Friends is the individual and communal experience of the presence of the living God. Openness to divine leading or the inner voice (“that of God in every person”) is most easily achieved through the discipline of stilling the outer and inner noise, of growing into the interior silence that is the foundation of Quaker worship.
Meetings for worship are the central experience of the Religious Society of Friends as a corporate body, and all of the life and testimonies of a Friends meeting spring out of this experience. Meeting for worship involves the gathering together of Friends in quiet anticipation for the purpose of waiting upon God. As the mind and the body become still, individuals are able to join in a communal attunement to the Inner Light. These public meetings are grounded in silence and without program or the mediation of an individual between the worshiper and God.
Sometimes the Spirit brings us—any of us—a message that seems clearly to speak to the condition of others gathered here; when we are convinced that such a message is within us, we may rise to give that message as "vocal ministry." Such ministry may take many forms, such as prayer, praise, song, witnessing, or sharing a meaningful experience. Preplanned messages or meditations are usually out of place in meeting for worship, as are argumentative statements or critical responses to other messages. It is appropriate to leave time for silent worship between spoken messages. A deep, shared stillness in the meeting for worship may continue without spoken messages from the arrival of the first worshiper until meeting closes.
The second reading is a list of questions compiled by the Worship & Ministry Committee of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting to help visitors, attenders, and members decide if their message needs to be spoken. If the answer to each of these questions is YES, then the Spirit may be calling you to speak:
Is My Message Led by the Spirit?
1. Have I come to worship free of any determination to speak or not to speak?
2. Have I become centered in the Silence?
3. Am I receiving a message from within?
4. Is my message intended for anyone but me?
5. Is my message intended for anyone but the last speaker?
6. Are others unlikely to mistake my message for either a political announcement
or a lecture?
7. Do my words point the way to something higher than myself, rather than point
primarily back to me?
8. Must I speak?