We worship in silent expectant waiting on God’s spirit. Unlike most other churches, we do not have a programmed service that is led by a pastor with a set order of liturgical elements that might include Bible readings, hymn singing, pre-written prayers, prepared sermons, and so on. (Thus, you'll sometimes hear our worship referred to as "unprogrammed" because there are Quaker meetings who do have programmed worship services.) Instead of a programmed service, we gather together in silence, focusing inwardly on the Light within us, and on God, on the well of the Living Spirit in our midst, following Jesus’ injunction to the Samaritan woman at the well, to “worship in spirit and in truth.”
The gathered meeting. As the silence deepens, we hope to sense the Presence in our midst. Sometimes, the meeting feels so covered in the Holy Spirit that we are lifted up into a shared sense of joy and unity in that Presence. We call this a gathered meeting.
Feel free to wear whatever clothing you’re comfortable in. Please avoid wearing perfume or strong scents, to avoid allergic reactions and distraction from the worship. Sit wherever you like; we find that sitting close together fosters the gathered meeting.
Worship begins when the first person enters the meeting room and begins to center down in the silence. So we ask folks to arrive on time and to enter quietly. If you do come late, we ask that you enter as quietly as you can and, if someone is speaking, to wait until they are done.
Vocal ministry. Oftentimes, some Friends will feel led to speak out of the silence with a Spirit-led message. We call this vocal ministry.
Worship ends when a designated Friend turns and shakes hands with the folks around her, whereupon the rest of us great each other also.
Following formal worship, after the hubbub has subsided a bit, this Friend invites worshippers to remain in a spirit of worship while we share joys and sorrows—important things that are on the hearts of some of us that we want to share with the rest of the community.
Introductions follow joys and sorrows. If you are visiting us for the first time or have been with us for only a few meetings for worship, we hope you will stand and introduce yourself.
Social hour. After introductions, we adjourn to a room across the hall from the meeting room for refreshments and socializing. There will usually be a table hosted by a welcoming committee who can answer your questions put you on our mailing list if you desire. (We also have a visitors book at one of the entrances to the meeting room, but this will not put you on any list; we invite you to sign it.) At some point during the hour, there are announcements.
Programs. We often have programs that start around 1:00, and sometimes before meeting for worship at 9:30. Adult religious education programs, programs on peace and social action, times for sharing our spiritual lives, and discussion groups are among the possibilities.
Meeting for worship with attention to the meeting’s business. On the second Sundays of the month, we conduct the meeting’s business in a special meeting for worship, from 1:00 to 2:30; sometimes we also hold a business meeting that morning at 9:30. You can learn more about how we conduct our business here.
The goal of these messages is to open us to the Truth and to lead us deeper into worship. Naturally, some ministries feel more Spirit-led than others. Nonetheless, we assume that any message could be speaking to someone in the meeting and so we receive each message accordingly. Messages may include song and even movement.
Some guidelines for speaking
We ask worshippers to
- stand when they speak and to speak loudly enough for all to hear; some of us are hearing impaired; if you are hearing impaired yourself, ask the greeter at the door to set you up with one of our electronic aids;
- wait an appropriate time before speaking in order to allow the meeting to deepen, for the silence to reach some depths and for the worshippers to find their center, typically twenty minutes or so;
- leave some time after someone has spoken before speaking yourself, to give us time to follow the message to its center;
- avoid directly responding to a previous message or entering into a discussion about subjects raised in previous messages;
- only speak once; and,
- most importantly, to wait upon the leadings of the Spirit (and not prepare a message beforehand), asking ourselves: is this of the Spirit, and is it for me alone or for those who are gathered?
QuakerSpeak.com—a link to all their videos on Quaker worship
Faith and Practice on Meeting for Worship—Faith and Practice is the book of basic history, beliefs, and practices of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, our denominational organization.
Our library—our meeting has an extensive library with lots of resources on all things Quaker, including our worship. Feel free to ask someone about access to its materials.