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What to Expect in Quaker Meeting for Worship

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What you can expect in Quaker Meeting for Worship on Sunday morning: A guide for newcomers on the basics.



Discussion Questions:

  • Have you ever experienced a “Gathered” Meeting for Worship? What was the experience like?
  • What is the most significant or memorable Quaker Meeting for Worship you have experienced?


Josh Brown
Quakers believe that if you want to find out what God has to say, you need to listen. And so we spend a lot of time listening in quiet prayer. That quiet prayer time, which can happen anytime, anywhere, is the heart of the Quaker religious experience.

What to Expect in Quaker Meeting for Worship

Maggie Harrison
If you are going to go into Quaker Meeting for the first time, first of all, congratulations. So you walk in, sit down, be quiet. What to expect when you’re there, besides just “go with the flow” is different things depending on where you are.
What Should I Wear?

Vanessa Julye
Unlike some other churches, you don’t need to dress up with suit and tie or a fancy dress. Most of the folks come in jeans, t-shirts, or shorts/t-shirts. Whatever you’re comfortable in.
Should I Bring My Kids?

Maggie Harrison
So you’re thinking about coming to Meeting and you have children. You really need to know that you have to bring them. They may or may not enjoy themselves but we’re always so thrilled to have young people join us. They come and they’re bringing their alive-ness and their love and their genuine-ness. So please, yes, bring them.

Entering The Space:
A Plain Setting

Maggie Harrison
So if you come into this space and you’re looking for images or words on the walls, some kind of direction, and you’re going to notice that there isn’t going to be any there. From the very beginning of Quakerism, its about the inside. So it’s about you not looking around you for that, but really going inward for your own wisdom, for your own piece of the divine that’s been given to you.

Kody Hersh
Sometimes a worship room will look like a really old building with benches that have been sat on by thousands of Quakers over hundreds of years and sometimes it will look like the basement of another local church.

Entering the Space:
Where Should I Sit?

Kody Hersh
Something that’s common to them is that people often will enter already in silence, find a place in the room and sit down in silence. Anyone coming into the room can sit anywhere, there’s not a right place or a wrong place to sit.

The Service:
Learning to Listen

Christie Duncan-Tessmer
So before you go into Meeting for Worship for the first time, I’ll tell you what I’ve always told my kids when they were little, every week before we went in, which is just, “remember when you go in, to just sit down and listen for God. God is here with us and this is a space to listen.”

Charlotte Cloyd
The first time I went to Quaker Meeting I didn’t know how to listen. Because I had never listened in church before. I had to work on that process of figuring out: what am I listening for? Am I listening to myself? What’s going on? What is everyone else listening to and how does that affect the community and me?

Maggie Harrison
So in that quiet-ness you walk in, you say, “Ok, everyone is sitting there quietly, when are the directions going to come? What am I going to do?” Just follow suit.

Christie Duncan-Tessmer
Just sit down in that space. Just feel the space and the people around you and open yourself as much as you can. Just continue to notice how you can be aware of all that’s around you and all that’s within you, and how that’s all connected to everybody else in the room.

The Service:
There is No Program

Josh Brown
It’s called “unprogrammed worship” because there’s no sermon, there’s no hymns, no Bible readings, no prayers written out ahead of time. The whole idea of unprogrammed worship is to spend quiet time in prayer with our hearts and minds open to God.

AJ Mendoza
If God has ever spoken, then God is still speaking. And expecting God to move, through somebody… maybe through me, maybe not through me, maybe just internally and the message is just for me, maybe one that needs to be shared – and I think that is so provocative. It’s provocative to say, “there’s no guidelines here!” I want to know what I’m expecting. And I don’t! I don’t know what I’m expecting every Sunday, but I know that I’m expecting.

The Service:
Anyone Can Bring the Message

Josh Brown
Sometimes during that quiet time, people will feel moved to speak. It might be just a couple of words or it might be several minutes. And then there will be some more quiet time and then someone else will speak. They might continue what the first person says or they might go in a different direction.

Vanessa Julye
We’ve had people dance a message, we’ve had people walk a message, we’ve had people sing a message in addition to the usual standing up and giving a verbal message.

The Service:
Ending with a Handshake

Maggie Harrison
And it might just be like that for an hour. And then, what to expect at the end? It’ll be like it’s just somehow, it just started happening, everyone will start shaking hands.

Ross Hennesy
Which sort of signifies the changing from the spiritual to the secular world of sorts

Maggie Harrison
And then we’ll all be aware that’s happening and we’ll all follow suit, so all of this hand-shaking is going to happen and this greeting.

After the Service:

Ross Hennesy
Generally Quakers have a litany of announcements of various activities that are going on, what protests we’re involved with this time around, or good organizations to be a part of or what potlucks are happening, things like that. And then, usually, Quakers gather for coffee, tea, catch up with each other, things how things are going on throughout the week.

Kody Hersh
Particularly when I’m new to a community, I want to sneak in and sneak out again and I find that it’s a good discipline for me. Often there’s this community-building conversation activity that happens after worship, which is really an important part of the worship experience. Building connections with one another that make the worship experience richer and deeper

Ross Hennesy
And that’s about it. That’s a Quaker Meeting for Worship.

Quaker Worship

Comments 3

  1. Sue

    Thank you so much for such a clear, concise description of Meeting for Worship! Definitely want to share this one far and wide

  2. Jim Herr

    I’ve loved the whole year. And this one might just be the best! Thank you so much for all you are doing for the Religious Society of Friends.

    This is one I’m going to link to our meeting’s website if I can.

  3. Amanda

    This is an awesome video that I will definitely be sharing. Also, I’m just starting out teaching religious education and feel this would be excellent for use in school so I’ll definitely be sending this one around!

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