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?
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
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
So then, how do we prepare for worship?
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."
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.
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
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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