Coming to our Meeting for Worship – what to expect
Whether you are new to Quakers or have attended Meeting for Worship many times, we offer these guidelines in the hope they will help you to experience the meeting to the full. They are not intended to be ‘rules’, but guidance, ‘for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life’ .*
Before Meeting for Worship begins
Meeting for Worship starts when the first person enters the meeting room and generally Friends enter the meeting room a few minutes ahead of the published start time so that everyone has time to settle together.
During Meeting for Worship
Those in the Meeting are in silence and ‘centre down’, leaving the busy surface consciousness and finding a deeper place within themselves.
During the meeting some may be led to speak and these contributions are called ministry. Early Quakers associated ‘quaking’ with the trembling they felt when being compelled by an inner power to stand and speak. Today some Friends describe their experience in similar terms, though others may find different ways to describe what happens when they are called to speak. This is not an opportunity to express personal opinions or political views or to enter into debate. Instead, we wait in stillness, seeking the spiritual message at the heart of ministry, which may be silent or spoken.
If you are led to speak, stand, if you are able, and do your best to be heard clearly by all. Inspired ministry is often short: there is no need for lengthy contributions.
Before standing to minister, Friends consider thoughtfully as to whether their ministry is likely to speak to others, not just themselves. It is unlikely that a Friend will feel the need to minister at every meeting.
A time of silence before another contribution is essential so that everyone can take in and reflect on what has been said.
Our practice is for an individual to minister no more than once during Meeting for Worship, if called to do so. Friends are encouraged to be gentle with others’ ministry; it may well be speaking clearly to someone else.
There is usually a period of silence towards the end of the meeting to give time to take in and reflect on ministry that has gone before.
When Meeting for Worship ends
The Meeting for Worship is concluded by the shaking of hands, usually by the elders present. This becomes an opportunity for all Friends to shake hands with their neighbours.
Following this there may be notices of events and news about friends, a welcome to visitors and then time for a chat over coffee.
* quote from the Introduction to Advices & Queries