READING AND DISCUSSION
The Meeting strives to provide Friends of all ages with educational opportunities that will help them recognize and explore religious experiences. Reading and Discussion is one part (forums, seekers’ meetings, called meetings, study groups etc. are others) of the Meeting’s spiritual education for adults (middle-school & high-school age youth welcome).
Reading and Discussion has resumed for the Fall.
The Quaker practice of ‘Worship Sharing‘ is a “mix of worship and discussion” that focuses on specific topics, themes, or questions (Kelly, 2015). It facilitates sharing and exploration more deeply than in a typical conversation or discussion. “It seeks to draw us into sacred space, where we can take down our usual defenses, and encounter each other in “that which is eternal”” (FCG, 2018).
The practice of ‘worship sharing’ is recorded in Friends Journal as being formulated in 1959 by Rachel Davis DuBois, a member of New York Monthly Meeting. DuBois adapted for Friends’ ministry, “Group Conversations”, a teaching technique she had developed. She called it “Quaker Dialogue”. It was aimed to help small groups of Friends share informally their ideas and concerns, to become more inwardly aware of the religious process, and to stimulate spiritual growth (Kelly 2015). In contrast to the unprogrammed Quaker meeting for worship, ‘worship sharing’ is a more directed form of worship.
According to some Quaker sources, ‘worship sharing’ grew out of dialogue techniques such as those used by Alcoholic Anonymous that arose in the 1960’s. The ‘worship sharing’ group sits in silence to contemplate a particular query, everyone taking a turn to say how she or he feels about the issue. Participants are urged to avoid cross-talk and to listen deeply to each speaker. The silence is allowed to return between speakers, giving everyone a chance to root again in the power of the quiet.
Participants might want to keep in mind that in worship sharing it is customary to not respond (in praise or refutation) to what has been said, to leave a period of silence after each speaker before speaking yourself, and to typically only speak once till everyone has had a chance to speak.
Friends General Conference (FCG) recommends the following guidelines for Friends to consider in their practice of ‘worship sharing’.
- The convener or leader should define a question as the focus for sharing which is simple, open ended, and oriented toward individual experience. The question should be chosen prayerfully, to meet the particular needs of the group at that time. (There are no stock questions.)
- The convener then explains the basic rules for sharing:
- Reach as deeply as you can into the sacred center of your life.
- Speak out of the silence, and leave a period of silence between speakers.
- Speak from your own experience, about your own experience. Concentrate on feelings and changes rather than on thoughts or theories.
- Do not respond to what anyone else has said, either to praise or to refute.
- Listen carefully and deeply to what is spoken.
- Expect to speak only once, until everyone has had a chance to speak.
- Respect the confidentiality of what is shared.
- Some leaders feel that going around the circle makes it easier for everyone to speak. Others prefer to ask people to speak as they are ready. Explain which practice you would like to follow. In either case, participants should know that they have the option of “passing” or not speaking.
- Allow at least half an hour for a group of five or six to share their responses to a single question, and at least an hour for a larger group. If you have more than a dozen people, it would be better to divide into smaller groups to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate.
- Enter into worshipful silence, and begin.
1 FGC (Friends General Conference) (n.d.). Worship Sharing Guidelines. Quaker Resources FGC: Philadelphia, PA
2 Kelly, Martin (2015, April 1). 60th Anniversary: Worship Sharing Comes to Friends. Friends Journal. Friends Publishing Corporation: Philadelphia, PA
3 Reno Friends Quaker Meeting (2019, February 1). What is Worship Sharing?. Retrieved from https://www.renofriends.org/what-is-worship-sharing/