Friends General Conference

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About Expectant Worship

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Why Quaker Worship is More Than Just Silence

Each week we gather as a community in silence to "wait upon God," seeking to discern the movement of the Spirit among us--within ourselves, in our spiritual community, and in the world.

This period of communal worship is a sacred time in our community. It is more than a mere absence of speaking. We seek not an empty but a living silence. We gather in the presence of what Friends have variously called the Inward Light, the Seed of God, the Christ Within, or the Holy Spirit. We try to quiet our minds, still our persistent thoughts, and open our hearts to the divine mystery, to be gathered into communion with this living Presence.

At times the quality of the silence may become very deep, connected, and profound. Friends call such an experience a "gathered" or "covered" meeting.

The depth of our meetings for worship is affected by the preparation we each bring--by our faithful attendance, by our daily practices at home of worship, devotional reading, and prayer, by our arriving on time, coming to meeting in a worshipful frame of mind, and entering silently.

We have no one minister who leads the meeting. Any of us may be called by the Spirit to minister. Sometimes a Friend may rise in the midst of the silence to share a brief message. Such vocal ministry is not intended as an opportunity for expressing our thoughts and ideas, or even our feelings, nor for expounding political opinions, but to share what comes to us from a deeper Source and seems to be intended for others as well as ourselves. It is unusual for a Friend to speak more than once. If another Friend should also rise to speak, he or she will leave a period of silence so that we may take in and hear the previous message in our hearts and return to the living silence. Early Friends became known as Quakers because they trembled when they spoke in meeting, in awe of the Holy Spirit.

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