Quaker worship follows the form established by the earliest members of the Religious Society of Friends. Since the 17th century, Friends have gathered together in silence and tried to still our bodies, our minds, and our hearts so that we may be better able to listen to the Holy Spirit in our midst.
Our discipline takes the form of suspending our own wishes and expectations, our own knowledge and opinions, in order to be open to the living word of God. We come without prepared messages or written prayers, without arguments or agendas, and we wait together for what may arise out of our prayerful silence.
Settling into silence, it quickly becomes evident that the most relentless, demanding noise comes from inside ourselves. Since we believe that God may speak to all of us through any one of us, anyone may offer a song, a prayer, or a spoken message during this time.
Our guidelines for such offerings are very simple:
- If another person starts to speak at the same time, keep listening.
- If it is hard to understand what the speaker means, keep listening.
- If you disagree with what is said, keep listening.
Before speaking out of the silence, we try to examine our readiness by asking ourselves:
- Is this message meant only for me, or must I share it?
- Does it have to be in these words?
- Does it have to be given right now?
- Am I the one to speak it?
- Have I already spoken in this meeting?
- Has enough time passed since the last message for everyone to consider what was said?
- Am I merely answering someone, as in a debate, or am I speaking from a fresh direction in my soul?
- Am I being moved or tempted to speak?
If a message should depart from the tradition of Quaker worship, elders may rise as a reminder to the speaker that we are in worship.
Meeting is over when a designated person rises and invites all to greet one another. Following announcements and welcoming newcomers, a light lunch is offered as hospitality.