Many who are new to Quakerism wonder if they should speak in meeting for worship. Experienced Friends have found that some messages coming to them during meeting are for sharing immediately while others are for personal reflection or for sharing on another occasion. Ideally, spoken messages in meeting for worship come from one’s experience and are prompted by the Spirit.

Often, those led to speak in meeting for worship find themselves powerfully moved. The name “Quaker” became attached to early Friends when George Fox told a judge that he should tremble at the word of the Lord. The name stuck because it accurately described the Quaker experience of ministry, in which speaking from a deep sense of leading can leave one trembling or shaken, overcome with a feeling of awe. Today members of the Religious Society of Friends refer to themselves interchange- ably as “Friends” or “Quakers.”

So that they can reflect upon each spoken message, Friends try to allow a time of silence after each message. Sometimes a later message builds on an earlier one, but messages are not challenged, discussed, or debated in subsequent vocal ministry, as this would interrupt expectant waiting. Sometimes a Friend will describe a message from a meeting for worship as one which “spoke to my condition,” meaning that the message addressed his or her needs.

As valuable as the vocal ministry is, Friends also value the silence of expectant waiting because it allows them to listen for God’s leadings in their lives. As breaking the silence to give a message in meeting is a weighty matter, Friends who are moved to speak tend to do so with humility, with a scarcity of words, and are enjoined from speaking more than once in the same meeting for worship. Corporate worship is so important to Friends that even children and babies attend part or all of meeting for worship.

Source: Page 8 of Exploring Quakerism: A Study Guide, Participant’s Edition by Marsha D. Holliday, copyright 2006. Used by permission of Quaker Press of FGC

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