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Readings for Reflection: August 2010
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

What Happens in Meeting for Worship?

These three passages, all from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice (1972 edition), describe what happens in meeting for worship, especially in a “gathered” meeting. All provide perspectives on “What Happens in the Silence?” the query we shall address in worship sharing on August 15.

The first that enters into the place of your meeting…turn in thy mind to the light, and wait upon God singly, as if none were present but the Lord; and here thou art strong. Then the next that comes in, let them in simplicity of heart sit down and turn in to the same light, and wait in the spirit; and so all the rest coming in, in the fear of the Lord, sit down in pure stillness and silence of all flesh, and wait in the light…. Those who are brought to a pure still waiting upon God in the spirit, are come nearer to the Lord than words are; for God is a spirit, and in the spirit is he worshipped. … In such a meeting … there will be an unwillingness to part asunder, being ready to say in yourselves, it is good to be here: and this is the end of all words and writings – to bring people to the eternal living Word.

Alexander Parker (1628 – 1689), “To Friends,” written in 1660

In a truly covered meeting an individual who speaks takes no credit to himself for the part he played in the unfolding of worship…. For the feeling of being a pliant instrument of the Divine Will characterizes true speaking “in the Life.” Under such a covering an individual emerges into vocal utterance, frequently without fear and trembling, and subsides without self-consciousness into silence when his part is played. For One who is greater than all individuals has become the meeting place of the group, and He becomes the leader and director of worship. With wonder one hears the next speaker, if there be more, take up another aspect of the theme of the meeting. No jealousy, no regrets that he didn’t think of saying that, but only gratitude that the angel has come and troubled the waters and that many are finding healing through the one Life. A gathered meeting is no place for the enhancement of private reputations, but for self-effacing pliancy and obedience to the whispers of the Leader.

Thomas R. Kelly, The Gathered Meeting (1945),
Tract Association of Friends leaflet

The living power of a Meeting for Worship depends not only on the sincere dedication of heart and thought on the part of each individual member, but also on united communion in the presence of God wherein each one overpasses the bounds of his individual self and knows a union of spirit with spirit, bringing him into a larger life than that which is known in spiritual separateness. There is no relation to God which is not in practice a relation to man, and therefore we cannot come to a true understanding of life’s purpose apart from knowledge of one another in the deepest place of our being…. Out of such fellowship there will arise a sense of a common purpose in life, and the united worship will be deepened and enriched by the consciousness that in varied fashion all are ministering in the service of God.

Drafted by 1925 Revision Committee, London Yearly Meeting

All Readings for Reflection
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