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Meeting for Worship at CVFM

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Meeting for worship in a member's barn

Cannon Valley Friends Meeting is an "unprogrammed" Friends meeting, which means we follow the tradition of gathering in silence, without the services of a designated pastor or minister.  Meetings for Worship at Cannon Valley Friends are held on Sundays from 10:30 to 11:30 am at the Quaker Meetinghouse at 512 Washington Street in downtown Northfield, Minn. Occasionally Meetings for Worship are held at a different location, including the homes of members.  Please click on the link for "Monthly Calendar of Events" on the right-hand column of the Home page for more information.

Everyone is welcome at Cannon Valley Friends Meeting.  We have a special program for children called "First Day School" (the Quaker version of Sunday School), offered from September through May.  This is an adult-supervised time devoted to activities designed for children.  First Day School is held in a room next to the Meeting for Worship room.  Everyone starts in the Meeting room at 10:30 am.  Children are invited to move to First Day School approximately 10 min. after Meeting begins.  Children who wish to stay in Meeting for Worship with the adults are welcome to do so.  Child care is also available year-round on request for children who do not wish to remain in the Meeting for Worship.  On sunny days in the summer, children should come prepared to go to the park.

On some Sundays, the Meeting for Worship will be followed by a Program or a Business Meeting.  Everyone is invited to stay for these programs.  Occasionally we have a special program for adult members called "Adult Forum."  Recent Adult Forums have included a presentation of research on 17th-century Quaker women by a Carleton student, talks by members about their personal spiritual journeys, conversations about "Planning for End of Life" issues, etc.


 The following additional information about Quaker Meetings for Worship is adapted from a web page entitled "Traditional Quaker Worship" by the Quaker Information Center in Richmond, IN:

Worship begins when the first person enters the room and takes a seat. This means that if you are entering a room where people have begun to gather, you are entering a meeting for worship that is already in progress. Try to be quiet and unobtrusive within reason. It is OK to smile at someone you recognize, to whisper an apology if you tread on someone's toes, etc. 

The practice of sitting together in silence is often called "expectant waiting."  It is a time when Friends become inwardly still and clear aside the activities of mind and body that usually fill our attention in order to create an opportunity to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It is not a time for "thinking," for deliberate, intellectual exercise.  It is a time for spiritual receptivity, so it is important not to clog one's mind with its own busy activities.  Nonetheless, thoughts will occur in the silence.  Some thoughts will be distractions and should be set aside. (Try to make that shopping list later.)   But some thoughts or images or feelings may arise that seem to come from a deeper source and merit attention.  If you are visited by a spiritual presence, if you seem to experience perceptions that are drawn from a deeper well or are illuminated with a brighter light, then let those impressions dwell in you and be receptive to the Inward Teacher.  Each person finds his or her own ways of "centering down," or entering deep stillness during meeting.

You are encouraged to explore ways to center down, until you discover what works for you. It may help to talk to others, or read personal accounts, such as can be found in the links below by Douglas Steere and others. Basically, there are two common guidelines about entering worship:

  • To "come with heart and mind prepared." Worship will be more meaningful if you arrange to enter meeting in a relaxed and calm frame of mind, rather than in a rushed frenzy, and if you ready yourself during the week through prayer, contemplation, reading, or other practices; and
  • To bring "neither a determination to speak nor a determination to remain silent." In other words, if you offer a spoken message during worship, it should arise from a spiritual prompting that happens during worship--one that you are ready for but have not planned.

From time to time, an individual may be moved to offer a "message" (or "spoken ministry") to the group.  Spoken messages may occur many times during a meeting, or there may be none at all.  Such a message is delivered by an individual, but is understood to be coming through that person from God.  When such a message is delivered, no outward response is expected from you--in fact, it is not Friends' practice to offer vocal approvals, or even turn around in one's seat to look at the speaker. (It is customary to laugh at humor. If a message is given in the form of song, others may join in the singing if the singer invites it.)  Try to make yourself receptive to the message and let it reach you, even if you find yourself resisting it.  There may be a kernel of truth in it that will speak to you.  If that does not happen, trust that the message was meant for others, and return to your own worship.

If you find yourself "prompted" to offer a message, the first step is to ask yourself whether it is a genuine leading of the Spirit. Does the urge to speak seem to arise from a deeply spiritual motion, rather than simply being a desire to share your own active thoughts?  Does it seem that the message is intended to be given to the assembly, rather than being personal guidance just for you, or something you may feel called to say to an individual later?  Is your inclination to speak free of personal motives or "hidden agendas"?  Does it seem that now is the moment that you are called to speak?  (These are not easy things to discern, and it takes practice, including trial and error, to become confident.  Do not be afraid to be wrong!)

When you speak:

  • In most meetings it is customary to stand up. In very small meetings a speaker may remain seated. Speak loudly and clearly--many meeting houses have poor accoustics, and there may be people behind you.
  • While audibility is appreciated, rhetorical polish is not expected. If your words are awkward or halting, they will simply be accepted as authentic.
  • When the inspiration to speak ends, simply stop. Not all messages run smoothly to a perfect conclusion, and some of the most meaningful ones may break off in the middle or lack a neat closure. That's OK.
  • Allow a period of silence between messages. Do not speak for several minutes after a previous speaker.
  • It is considered inappropriate to dispute a previous message. Meeting for worship is not a time for argument or conversation, and each message should stand by itself, independent of any others. It is not uncommon, however, for a speaker to acknowledge that their thoughts have been inspired by an earlier message.
  • It is extremely rare for a person to speak more than once in a single meeting for worship.

Other behavior during worship:

  • Try to avoid making noise, but if you have to unwrap a cough drop, or get up to leave the room temporarily, just do it as unobtrusively as you comfortably can. It is usually considered inappropriate to enter or leave the room while someone is offering a message, however.
  • Some Friends will spend a short time in worship reading the Bible or other inspirational literature. There may or may not be Bibles lying around the room. If there are, you may pick one up and open it if you are moved to do so.

At the close of worship, someone will signal the end by shaking hands with a neighbor. Then everyone shakes hands with those around them. Customs vary from this point, but in many meetings, someone will stand and invite visitors to introduce themselves and there may be announcements before people rise from their seats.