Meeting for Worship
Dover Friends practice an open meeting for worship. There are no pastors and no set music, prayers or liturgy. We gather together in silence to pray, meditate and contemplate our spiritual lives. From time to time, someone may feel moved to give a message. The person simply stands and speaks. Others listen in silence and we let that silence continue while we absorb the message delivered. Some days, no one feels moved to speak. Other days, several people will stand over the course of the hour. No one is obliged to speak, some never do.
The Dover Meeting House dates from 1768 and was built on a traditional design with two doors and two separate spaces divided by movable shutters. This architecture allowed men and women to worship and minister together, but hold meetings for business separately. For though Quakers believe that the soul does not have a gender, they did recognize the deep cultural bias of the time that made it difficult for women to express themselves freely in the presence of men when discussing matters of business. The two groups met separately, but recommendations and decisions of both groups carried equal weight in the Meeting. In 1886, this practice was discontinued in Dover.
When you join us for worship, plan to arrive before the 10:30 a.m. start. Please turn off or silence completely your cell phone -- even those on vibrate are clearly heard in the silence of meeting. Enter the right hand door into the entryway. From there you will see two additional doors: the right leads to the worhip space, the left to the social space. If you need a hearing aid, you will find devices on the right wall of the entryway. Enter the worship space and take a seat on one of the benches on the sides or in the back near the door. If you are early and wish to socialize, enter the left door where you can also hang up your jacket. By 10:30, people will have gathered quietly in the worship space and the silence will begin to deepen. Messages are rarely given in the first 15 minutes to allow people time to "center down" or become fully part of the silence.
Around 10:45, the Friend sitting on the bench at the front of the room will thank the children for joining the worship and they leave for their own First-day lessons. At this time, latecomers who waited in the social space may also enter to join in worship. People arriving after 10:45 simply enter as quietly as possible whenever they arrive. Around 11:30, the clerk will break the meeting by shaking hands with her/his neighbor and everyone does likewise. Worship is followed by greetings and announcements. Afterwards, we all adjourn to the social space for refreshments and time to meet, greet, and catch up with each other.
We provide this detailed description of meeting for worship so that you can feel comfortable joining us. Don't worry about doing anything "wrong" on your first visit with us, just come and feel the silence, love, community and spirit of worship, Quaker-style.