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Readings for Reflection: February 2011
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Douglas Steere, a Harbor Beach, Michigan native, was professor of philosophy at Haverford College from 1928 to 1964. He wrote several books on the practice of worship among Friends.

Participatory Worship

…Since we have no minister, all of us have a responsibility – it is not the abolition of ministry but the abolition of a passive laity that the Society of Friends has ever striven for. One never brings anything to meeting with the certainty of giving it there, but one tries not to come empty. Under the influence of quiet prayer and [the] sense of unity in the meeting, what light one brought is often completely set aside, or one feels that this should be reserved for another occasion, or it is made over, or new accents, new illustrations, new simplifications are effected. The mind is drawn to an entirely fresh seed that unfolds itself there in the consciousness of the worshipper.

When I feel drawn to share something in the quiet meeting for worship, I simply rise and say it as briefly as I know how, seeking to keep “ever close to the root” and to avoid all vain and distracting ornamentation. The other worshippers often do not raise their heads or open their eyes. If they feel in unity with what I have shared and if it speaks to the condition of the meeting, out of which, if it be genuine, it originally sprang, then it becomes a seed for their meditation and something to search themselves in regard to. If it does not, they pay little attention to it and continue in their own worship. If this or something given by one of the other members of the meeting interprets the common need and exercise of the meeting, it is often added to by others, and a common theme is developed that grips the mind of every participating worshipper who is present. I say “participating” worshipper, for it is possible to come to a Friends meeting and just “sit” or perhaps wait, often in vain, for someone to “say something.” Perhaps in no service of worship is so much left to the worshipper as in a Friends meeting.

Excerpt from Quaker Meeting for Worship
Douglas V. Steere
FGC Pamphlet, April 1960

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