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Readings for Reflection: November 2012
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Quaker Worship in Community

by Michael Birkel


Michael Birkel is Professor of Religion at Earlham College.

Worship in community is more than prayer in solitude. It is not simply common purpose but a sense of felt togetherness that joins worshippers. We can experience one another at depths that challenge our ability to describe them. As put by Beatrice Saxon Snell, “those who persevere in group worship know that it differs from private devotion as the music of an orchestra differs from the music of a single player.” George Fox urged Friends to “Mind that which is eternal, which gathers your hearts together up to the Lord, and lets you see that you are written in one another’s hearts.” … A member of my own meeting once compared centering in worship to a magnet. First, like a magnet dangling on a string, the soul must be free to find its own true north. Then, as one sinks more deeply into worship, one can serve as a magnet, powerfully attracting others into the experience of God’s presence. Simply by being worshipfully present in a deeply centered place, and yet in relationship with other worshippers, one can draw them to inward depths.

Michael Birkel: Silence and Witness: The Quaker Tradition, New York, Orbis Books, 2004, pp. 44-45.


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