How is Spirit inviting us to go deeper in our worship, our relationships, and our daily lives? How do we invite each other into community? What does a practice of invitational worship look like? This retreat explores Quaker community-building and spiritual deepening through the theme of invitational spirituality.
Presented for Alaska Friends Conference Spring Retreat, May 2023
Early Friends were able to be so radically inclusive precisely because they were powerfully clear about the invitation they were offering. They knew what they were about, and they shared it. (Noah Merrill, Friends Journal 2017)
I can feel the excitement, even in me, starting to become obvious! Early Quakerism set up such a list of grand claims: unmediated spiritual experience, spiritual equality, personal transformation, perfection, salvation, the second coming—I can hear kettle drums beating—such vibrancy, such excitement. Friends, this experience, if we want it and if we are prepared to open ourselves to it fully, is still there for our taking and living and communicating, our living and breathing and acting. Let us embrace the passion and the joy and go forward authentically, with integrity and, as I have learned recently, with absolute confidence. (Ben Pink Dandelion, Friends Journal, 2009)
(The early Friends) made the discovery that silence is one of the best preparations for communion (with God) and for the reception of inspiration and guidance. Silence itself, of course, has no magic. It may be just sheer emptiness, absence of words or noise or music. It may be an occasion for slumber, or it may be a dead form. But it may be an intensified pause, a vitalised hush, a creative quiet, an actual moment of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with God. The actual meeting of man with God and God with man is the very crown and culmination of what we can do with our human life here on earth. (Rufus M. Jones, Testimony of the Soul, 1937)
God’s Invitation to Us
“In this humanistic age we suppose [woman] is the initiator and God is the reponder. But the living Christ within us is the initiator and we are the responders. God the Lover, the accuser, the revealer of light and darkness presses within us. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ And all our apparent initiative is already a response, a testimonial to God’s secret presence and working within us. The basic response of the soul to the Light is internal adoration and joy, thanksgiving and worship, self-surrender and listening.” (Thomas R Kelly, 1941)
We are called to live in the New Creation, a life lived in accord with the Beatitudes and other teachings of Jesus. A life of simplicity and integrity evidences a life transformed so thoroughly that greed, or fear, or the opinions of popular culture are no longer central. In such lives, and in such communities, the Light shines so clearly that the City of God becomes visible. (Marge Abbot, Friends Journal, 2006)
Now all you who thirst after your beloved, come into Wisdom’s house… Oh! love truth and its testimony, whether its Witness be to you, or against you, love it, that into my Mother’s house you all may come, and into the Chamber of her that conceived me, where you may embrace, and be embraced of my dearly beloved one, Love is his Name, Love is his Nature, Love is his life, surely he is the dearest and the fairest. (Sarah Blackborow, A Visit to the Spirit in Prison, 1658)
Our Invitation to God and Others
Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand. (Isaac Penington. 1667)
The most important ingredient I can bring with me to worship is an attitude of expectancy. Meeting for worship is a time I choose to spend in the presence of God. Silent worship is about becoming friends with God. I glance across the room, and God meets my eye. Attracted, I glance again, and shortly we are conversing. I begin to change, and I like my new self so much, shortly I am making regular dates to meet my new Friend. We meet in the silence more and more often. I change some more; I am unmade and remade—several times. I like who I am with God, who I am becoming. In the silence I am comforted, given new thoughts to think, challenged to become whole in spite of brokenness—whole with the brokenness. I become more a person, and I love the Person who taught me how, who first called me to personhood. Just as in being with a dear friend, being with God is full of variety. It’s never the same twice. There’s no agenda, but something special happens each time. Just as I come to be with my friend with expectancy, I come to be with God with expectancy. I hang out with my friend God, becoming more who I am as I learn more about who God is. Silent worship is about relationship with the Author of all that is. (Mariellen O. Gilpin, Friends Journal, 2000)
The more challenging the times become, the more we need strong spiritual “muscles” in order to do the work required of us. This demands the discipline of learning and practicing…. Probably the single most important factor is one’s intention. Am I doing this to open myself — to leave my soul ajar, as Emily Dickinson wrote — to the love and presence and guidance of That Which is Within and Beyond Me? (Marty Grundy, A Call to Friends: Faithful Living in Desperate Times, 2020)
Seed Group Queries:
- What is our invitation as a community / a meeting / Alaska Friends Conference / the Religious Society of Friends? Who are we invited to be?
- How can we invite one another to the mountain where we are changed? (Noah Merrill, 2012)
- How can we nurture openness to the magic and grace of God’s love in our Meetings?
- How do we invite God to be with us during conflicts?
- Your group may also choose to reflect on queries from the flipchart papers
The activities below create space for Spirit to move among us, giving us intentional time to listen to how we are being invited. (Solo or in Community)
- worship sharing
- walk in silence
- walk with a friend
- listen to music or a podcast
- play outside / play a game / tell jokes
- listen to guided meditation (Experiment with Light)
- read a spiritual text
- watch a QuakerSpeak video
- journal (queries to consider)
- movement / yoga / body prayer
- spiritual conversation
- art cards
- pray in color
- connect with nature
- develop a ritual
Ingredients for an Invitational Life (or an Invitational Meeting)
Settle into worship and consider the queries below. You may want to write in a journal.
- What are the essential “ingredients” for building an invitational life, as I understand it? These ingredients could include beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, practices, or relationships.
- What actions can I take to build this life for myself and others?
- What challenges do I face as I seek a life of deep meaning and connection? What do I need to let go of in order to live more fully?
- What prayer do I offer to Spirit for help and guidance?
Consider creating a visual representation of your Ingredients for an Invitational Life that can serve as an anchor for you. You could create:
- a list of “guideposts” or “pillars”
- a prayer
- an illustration
- a recipe card with ingredients and instructions
- a letter to yourself or to God
- a to-do list
- a photo collage
- a ritual
Paulette Meier’s Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong