Put God at 
the center of your life.

 

  BROWN BAG DISCUSSION 3
 
Preparing for Meeting for Worship  

Moderator:  Dean Bratis

The moderator introduces the topic at a recent Brown Bag Discussion.The wonder of religion for me is the mystery of the unknown. How little we can learn in one brief lifetime... only underscores, my ineptness and humility that can only lead to continuing revelation. 
Sir Arthur Eddington

Worship lies at the core of every religion. For Friends, Meeting for Worship speaks to the essence of our spirituality. So how do we prepare for it and make the most of our worship time together? That was the question posed to a group of about a dozen Friends in a Brown Bag Discussion on November 22, 2009.

Our moderator, Dean Bratis, began this discussion with a quote from his book, Quakers: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives. "Nothing might hinder us from the most steady attention to the voice of the true shepherd. It is not possible to attend to the voice of the Lordís true shepherd if we are not quiet. It is here to the silence becomes enormously important. It is our faith that only out of such silence can come a message and a sense of guidance from the inner Christ. We are told in the scriptures to be still and know that I am God. And stillness is probably a better description than silence.

John Greenleaf Whittier said, "We do not simply seek a quiet hour of meditation. Silence comes from the outside, but stillness comes from the inside." On another occasion Whittier put it well when he said, "The world that time and sense have known falls off and leaves us God alone."

What are the major tenets of our worship?

A member of Meeting voices her opinion on Meeting for Worship.We began with stillness. John Woolman once said, "It is in this stillness, rooted deep within, where we can wait upon the Lord and discern the still small voice of the spirit. For us that means that we can find God best if we are quiet. Only when the mind is silent can the soul truly dance." This is as relevant today as it was when Friends first gathered under the leadership of George Fox.

Thereís a difference between individual and corporate worship. As Quakers, we believe that there is that of God within, and that each of us brings a facet of our own light so that together we create enough light to illuminate for all of us. Some call our method of worship expectant waiting on the Divine, others call it expectant anticipation. One of our Meeting members said, "A gathered meeting is one in which someone else says your message so that you donít have to say it."

Another added, "Each of us has our own doorway to the nonphysical inner divine and without that none of the other things work. We are not separate from the Divine, we are the Divine in some form."

In addressing this expectant waiting, another member related his experiences with Toastmasters. For this group, he had to prepare speeches, researching a topic and preparing it to inspire others.

"For me, Meeting for Worship is exactly the opposite," he said. "You donít have to prepare a message before going there. Thereís no preparation. We donítí plan, we donít prepare to speak in Meeting about a particular thing."

Isnít that where our values rest, where our Quaker faith rests in us? During the week, we may get angry, hateful, snobbish, or taken up with ourselves? These are things we shouldnít bring into Meeting for Worship.

So then, how do we prepare for worship?

Two men listen intently to the discussion.If we get up the morning of Meeting with all sorts of things running around in our heads, we should try to put them aside so that when we get to Meeting weíll be able to be quiet and still.

And hopefully weíll have an insight to God. We shouldnít have a planned response. We should just wait. But some find that hard.

Another Meeting member offered a way of settling her mind by using a basket. "I see my life for my other six days as preparation for Meeting for Worship," she said. "I picture a basket where I place all the things that are going through my mindĖthings that I donít want to deal with, canít deal with, even good things. Sometimes, even good things are difficult to think about, so I think about putting them in my basket. And I remember one of our elders saying, ĎI bring all my troubles and lay them at the feet of Jesus.í I bring mine and lay them at the feet of Meeting. I see it as corporate assistance. Itís there and mine arenít the only eyes that are looking at them."

The moderator's wife speaks her mind on the topic.

Eight things that you can do to 
prepare for Meeting for Worship

1. Engage in daily prayer, worship, and meditation.
2. Practice stillness.
3. Remove obstacles.
4. Deconstruct your own ego.
5. Open yourself to Divine messages, especially from Nature.
6. Take a cleansing breath.
7. Make sure your comfortable.
8. Repeat a personal mantra.

She continued and asked, "Do you find it difficult to stay centered in this world thatís so loud and noisy? Weíre stuck with this world. It isnít going to go back to being easy. I think of instances where two things really helped meĖkeeping my mouth shut and being centered in the moment.

Even in a loud family gathering, I shut my mouth and find the stillness. And that can happen in the outside world and not just at Meeting for Worship. I donít think thatís impossible to do in this world. It might be difficult, but Iím sure people in the past had to cope, too."

If some act during the week opened a chasm between your soul and God--efforts must be made to bridge this gulf. 
Howard Brinton

Do we get a sense of clarity from gathering in a group in Meeting for Worship?

A newcomer to Meeting added, "I believe thereís only so much I can do by myself." Have an open mind and be open to receive.

Do we need fellowship in our worship?

Some said it didnít matter, but others disagreed, adding that by knowing others in Meeting on a social level, they felt confident in sharing their messages with them. It takes a significant amount of trust to stand and share your deepest spiritual feelings. Some felt this would be impossible without fellowship.

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