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INSPIRATIONS: Meeting for Worship Pt. 1

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Mid Thames Area Meeting by John Perkin
Meeting for Worship. Part I
Volumes have been written about the unique form of Quaker Worship.  This is the first group of inspirations in words, video, music and art collected on the topic for this project .  The selection is almost random -- restricted to the works I have on hand and ones that I believe speak to the heart of the topic.   One of the unique aspects of Quaker Worship is its corporate nature.   Lloyd  Lee Wilson writes:   "Corporate worship is not merely individual worship or meditation at the same place and time as others are worshiping or meditating, but a truly corporate experience where we enter into a communion with other worshipping souls that enables all of us to enter into the divine presence more fully . . . "  Additional pages on Meeting for Worship and subtopics   including the "Gathered Meeting" and "Vocal Ministry" will follow along with topics ranging from "The Peace Testimony" and "Art and Spirit."    I welcome anyone  who feels led to join me on this project.   Abbreviations after a citation are a abbreviations of the sources title.   Full information and commentary on the text can be found under "Resources" and then "Annotated Bibliography."  MTK
Where  two or three come together in my name, there am I with them:  Matthew 8:20
Be Still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10
Stand still in the Light." George Fox Ep.  10,  1652.
All Friends mind that which is Eternal which gathers your Hearts together up to the Lord and lets you see that ye are written in one another's Heart. George Fox. Ep. 24, 1653. 
ART:  Mid Thames Area Meeting  by Quaker artist John Perkin 2012.
Just two of several videos on the topic:
QuakerSpeak approximately 7 minutes   
The Challenge of Sitting in Silence.  Quaker Meeting for Worship Pt 1.
QuakerSpeak. Approximately 6 minute
MUSIC:  All People That on Earth Do Dwell. from Worship in Song:  A Friends Hymnal  #3.    Texts and simple score. (This is not a Quaker hymn per se but one that Quakers enjoy in a Quaker hymnal.)
POETRY:  "Draw Breath", a poem by Geoffrey Weeden.
  • What is the ground and foundation of the gathered meeting?   In the last analysis, it is, I am convinced, the Real Presence of God.    "The Gathered Meeting". Thomas R. Kelly 1940
  • Meeting for worship is the primary setting for the fundamental experience of the Divine Presence. [Early Friends] understood that the Light Within could be experienced without the help of trained clergy and liturgy by all who seek it.   God spoke to them and through them in the silence.   Any -- and all - of them were ministers of the Word of God, spoken and unspoken."   (website).  Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
  • Our corporate search for God's word is the heart of the Quaker Meeting for Worship.   We believe that God, the Light, the Truth, is part of our being.   We say, "there is that of God in everyone."  Truth is continually revealed to us, often through a gathered mystical experience.   We learn to recognize the truth by experience.  (1)Faith and Practice.  Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. 2001.
Lloyd Lee Wilson's third essay in Part One of  his "Quaker Vision of Gospel Order" (QVGO) is devoted to Meeting for Worship entitled "Waiting Worship."   The following are a few of the quotes from his essay:
  • Calling our practice waiting worship rather than silent worship or unprogrammed worship emphasizes the nature of the divine-human relationship central to Conservative Friends' understanding of worship;  but other than this clue of nomenclature and a few quotations . . . there is little written to instruct newcomers in the Conservative understanding and expression of worship". QVGO (31)
  • Waiting worship is an act of corporate listening to God.  . . As practiced by Conservative Friends, worship is a simple opening of one's entire self to God in the midst of the faith community, acknowledging the awesome and wonderful reality of who one is and who God is;   it is giving one's entire self to God and waiting to receive whatever God may offer.  QVGO (32)
  • A commonly evoked metaphor for meeting for worship is that of many individual candles brought together to give a stronger light, but this overemphasizes what we bring to worship as individuals and slights the action of the Holy Spirit . . . A more appropriate image is that each worshiper brings that amount of silence which (s)he has been able to nurture through daily practices and disciplines , and together the assembly creates a large silence in which the eternally present divine Word may be more clearly heard.  QVGO (35)   
  • Corporate worship is not merely individual worship or meditation at the same place and time as others are worshiping or meditating, but a truly corporate experience where we enter into a communion with other worshipping souls that enables all of us to enter into the divine presence more fully, and hear the divine Word more clearly, than we could alone. . . The practice of corporate waiting worship, therefore, requires individual preparation on the part of each worshiper.  QVGO (36)
Thomas R. Kelly published a tract called  "The Gathered Meeting" (TGM) which has become a classic:
  • Worship, and preparation for worship, begin before one has left one's home.   They begin when one wakes up Sunday morning, before one has gotten out of bed.   Worship in a meetinghouse with one's friends should be only a special period of a life of worship that underlies all one's daily affairs. 
Howard Brinton has chronicled the history and wisdom of the Society of Friends in his "Friends for 300 Years" (F300Y).   (There is an updated version:  Friends for 350 Years.)   Brinton devotes an entire chapter to Meeting for Worship and many other chapters that relate to it.
  • . . .worship for the Society of Friends attempts to realize as its center the divine Presence revealed within."    F300Y (59)
  • . . . Individual seekers are not searching independently of one another.   Their search is a group search in which those who are further advanced help those who have not gone so far.'"  F300Y (60)
  • Quote from William Penn in F300Y:   "When you come to your meetings . . .what do you do?   Do you then gather together bodily only, and kindle a fire, compassing yourselves about with the parts of your own kindling , and so please yourselves, and walk in the "Light of your own fire, and in the sparks which you have kindled" . . .?  Or rather, do you sit down in True Silence, resting from your own Will and Workings and waiting upon the Lord with your minds fixed in that Light wherewith Christ has enlightened you until the Lord breathes life in you, refresheth you, and prepares you, and your spirits and souls, to make you fit for his service that you may offer until him a pure and spiritual sacrifice."  F300Y (65-66)
  • In the vast sum of Quaker literature there is very little which can be used as a guide in silent worship . . .The true Guide is the Spirit which, like the wind, bloweth where it listeth.    F300Y (72)
Surrendering into Silence. (SIS):  Quaker Prayer Cycles by David Johnson
  • The traditional Quaker path pursues solely the contemplative practice, disposing of all devised cultural practices and rituals, to attain a pure attentiveness to God.   SIS (2)
  • The Quaker method and path. both in personal prayer and in communal worship, is to learn to pay attention to the Inward Light and to follow the Light.  SIS (3)
  • First Friends left no specific manual though many advices related to prayer are in their writing.   One specific advice, upon noticing thoughts, is to look at the Light that illuminates them.   Lift the inner gaze towards the Light and its joy, not to the intrusive thoughts.  The next advice is to 'mind the Light', that is to pay attention to it and the final advice is to 'love the light' welcoming its message since it is illuminating a matter to make us purer in heart.  SIS ( 3)
"Holy Silence The Gift of Quaker Spirituality" (HS) by J Brent Ball. Chapter 5 is devoted to Communal Silence
  • The only thing I can compare it [Silent Worship] to is the Catholic belief that in the celebration of Mass, Christ is really present through Holy Communion to the assembly gathered in his name.   Silence works the same way for Quakers.   Friends believe that Christ is actually present -- except we have no host to elevate or priest to preside.   Rather we believe that when our hearts, minds and souls are still, and we wait expectantly in holy silence, the presence of Christ comes among us.    HS (3)
A Quotation by Beatrice Saxon Snell in "A Joint and Visible Fellowship" Pendle Hill Pamphlet # 140. Wallingford PA. Pendle Hill 1965.
  • As [silent meeting] goes on, we may all be lifted together above our ordinary lives into a wonderful sense of unity and peace. . .Our small separate lives, that before seemed like small boats, drifting along sluggishly or carried into the backwater of wrongdoing and isolated there, are swept into the main current of God's purpose.   We know that we have a place in God's purpose."    spoken by  by Beatrice Saxon Snell JVF  10
Faith and Practice publications from Yearly Meetings are rich sources of insight into Quakerism, including Meeting for Worship. 
"Christian Faith and Practice" in the experience of the Society of Friends
London Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends 1959. (CFPESF. LYM)
Chapter 4. The Meeting for Worship. 225 to 245
Part II
Quaker Faith and Spiritual Practice
Worship and the Meeting section    (25-28)
This publication includes a bibliography on the topic. 
  • With diligence meet together, and with diligence wait to feel the Lord God to arise, to scatter and expel all that which is the cause of leanness and barrenness upon any soul;   for it is the Lord must do it, and he will be waited upon in sincerity and fervency of spirit;  CFPESF. LYM  (236).  quote by Stephen Crisp, 1663
  • 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 . . . CFPESF LYM (262) quote by Alexander Parker
"The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship" (AFQW)  by George H Gorman. As the title suggests, the topic of Gorman's book is Quaker Worship, both history and approach.  Swarthmore Lecture 1973
  • . . . our intention must be that it [corporate worship]  should be a corporate exercise. -- a lending of our minds to one another.   AFQW (95)
  • The silence of religious experience is never a silence in which the soul shuts itself up in isolation.   It is a silence which opens out on the infinite in a true community of minds and hearts, in a real unit founded on respect for diversity . . a soul gathered in silent worship is never alone with God.  It is always in communion with the soul of all other worshippers:   its silence plunges it into that inward light which lightens everyman;   quote by Pierre Lacout  AFQW (96)
The Spirit of the Quakers (SQ)   by Geoffrey Durham is an inspired and exhaustive compilation of quaker writing by topic including a chapter on  Quaker Meeting for Worship.
Yale University Press   2010
  • When a Meeting for Worship comes to an end, we must hope that those who have attended it have found meaning.   As they leave the meeting house, that meaning can turn to purpose.   And so, with meaning and purpose in their lives, Quakers find themselves not just willing, not just able, but impelled to work for change in the world.  For them, through the Meeting for Worship, meaning has become purpose and purpose has become meaning.   . . . SQ (40)