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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001



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Contents page

ii: quaker faith and spiritual practice

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Worship And The Meeting

preface
pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
procedures
activities & organization of the YM
glossary
bibligraphy
appendices
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.

 

Meeting For Worship

 And it is especially to be observed, that in the whole New Testament there is no order nor command given in this thing, but to follow the revelation of the Spirit, save only that general one of meeting together; a thing dearly owned and diligently practised by us…

robert barclay, apology, 1676, 11:10

 Worship is the response of the human spirit to the call of the Divine. Friends seek communion with that of God within, which some Friends call the Living Christ, the Teacher with whom each one has a relationship. Corporate worship deepens our sense of the Presence and our connection to it. In worship at its best, we transcend ourselves: “Every individual man and woman” is brought“ to the Spirit of God…and Truth in their own hearts, [to] love one another and love enemies”

(George Fox, The Power of the Lord Is Over All, 1668, p. 235)

 The Meeting for Worship is at the core of Quaker practice. There, Friends gather together in expectant silence, waiting upon God. Typically, Meeting for Worship begins when the first worshipers settle into the silence at the appointed place and time. It ends when the Clerk or another designated individual shakes the hand of another person seated nearby.At that signal, Friends generally shake hands and greet each other.

 Meeting for Worship is different from solitary prayer. The strength and focus of the community draw one who is distracted back toward the Center. In the embrace of the Meeting, an individual may be more willing to be searched by the Light that exposes weaknesses and shortcomings, and challenges the worshiper to transformation. Together, we can more clearly see Truth; we can better receive and understand continuing revelation. William Penn’s query captures this spirit in the language of his time:

 When you come to your meetings…do you sit down in True Silence, resting from your own Will and Workings, and waiting upon the Lord, with your minds fixed in that Light wherewith Christ has enlightened you, until the Lord breathes life in you, refresheth you, and prepares you, and your spirits and souls, to make you fit for his service, that you may offer unto him a pure and spiritual sacrifice?

william penn, a tender visitation,
works, 1771, p. 441

 Thus conducting worship under the leading of Divine Will, Friends assemble in the silence without prearranged program. Each tries to still the inward clamor of personal anxieties and ambitions, listening for the voice of the Inner Guide, endeavoring to be faithful to its instruction. Such faithfulness may require an outward silence. It may require one to rise and speak words that do not come easily, which may not be fully understood, or which may be uncomfortable. It may require action, or restraint of action, by some individual or the whole Meeting, outside the Meeting for Worship.

 During worship, all share responsibility for vocal ministry. God may call upon any one, regardless of experience or education, age or gender, to be a messenger. No one is excluded from the possibility of such service just as no one is appointed in advance to preach or pray at a particular Meeting for Worship.When someone does offer vocal ministry, Friends seek to be open, notwithstanding any hesitations or imperfection in the speaker’s words. An unexpected message may touch hearts, reveal the wisdom from the Source, and encourage the growth of the Seed within.

 During Meeting for Worship, Friends seek connection to one another and to God dwelling among them. In some Meetings, the vocal ministry will have a common theme, each message deepening and enriching the other, and connecting to one’s own thoughts. Some Meetings are entirely silent. At a gathered Meeting, “the sense is present that a new Life and Power has entered our midst” (Thomas Kelly, The Gathered Meeting). Not every Meeting is a gathered Meeting, and not everyone has the same perception of a particular Meeting.

 The meeting comes to be truly gathered when most, if not all, of those present have themselves been drawn in to the depths of themselves so that even their thoughts have been stilled and their minds, while by no means empty, are in near perfect rest.

george gorman,
the amazing fact of quaker worship,
1986, p. 4

 In nurturing its worship, a Meeting that is experiencing an extended period of arid silence might try to encourage those who are reluctant to speak to be faithful to the call when it comes. Another Meeting, where many vocal messages have come from speakers with questionable discernment, may seek to encourage a greater spiritual depth in both the silence and the words. Seeking what George Fox referred to as the “universal, true, and perfect worship,” Friends return in faith to God for guidance.

 All of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 corinthians 3:18 the new jerusalem bible