Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Bright Silent Worship

photo courtesy Marjorie Isaacs
Workshop Number: 
Marjorie Isaacs
Who may register?: 
Open to All
Experiential Activities: 
half gathering attenders welcome
First half (Monday-Wednesday)

Enrich your silent worship with new skills and gain tools to share them with children, adults, or multi-age groups. Simple cooperative games and relaxation experiences will prepare us to use guided imagery in silent worship. Hands-on learning, brief explanations, interactive discussion. Bring your full self!  Take home Gathered Meeting energy.

Workshop Description

Through our time together, we will create a spiritual space to work and play, finding the Inner Light in everyone. Silent worship can be strengthened by both practical skills and flashes of spontaneity. This just might be a fun and exciting adventure.  Just imagine, our little group of Friends earnestly playfully focused on helping each other get closer to that ultimate source of strength, wisdom and love. That sure will make God happy.

I believe Quakerism has something special to offer today, a simple approach to the direct experience of Spirit. In this fast-paced rapidly changing world, having a positive experience with silent worship is both precious and improbable for children and many newcomers to Meetings, without some supportive education. Through this workshop participants can gain confidence and experience with some fresh silent worship activities they can take back home. They will gain knowledge and skills to strengthen their own worship and perhaps to share.

In the special place we create, each person will be able to:
-Learn and improve skills for guiding silent worship
with children, teens, adults, and intergenerational groups.
-Play cooperative games to open up and come together. Many of these games are based on theatre improvisation exercises. Some are specially selected by Patricia Ryan Madson, a Quaker professor of theatre, for encouraging Friendly spirit. The games nurture an active sense of community. All of them are designed so that everyone can join in, regardless of age or fitness.
-Reflect together on the silent worship activities we try out, and our other worship experiences at Gathering. 
-Talk about previous experiences with silence.
               -hopes and dreams of improving both individual and group silent worship
               -good times, and activities that worked well in other places.
               -some worship problems, and how they might be resolved
     By telling our stories from home, we can learn from each other's successes, and protect each other
     from "finding things out the hard way."
-Strengthen relaxation skills you already have, and learn new ways to relax in a variety of places. Feeling calmer will make it easier to help children and adults try out new worship activities. Relaxation will include deep breathing, mindfulness experiences, visualization, and alternative forms of muscle relaxation.
                -increased personal flexibility and spontaneity 
                -new confidence in guiding activities that support silent worship
-Feel the excitement of taking reasonable risks.
-Enjoy the humor and wisdom that can shine forth when things don’t go exactly the way they are “supposed" to.
-Have fun learning, sharing, and discovering.

                 As you probably already guessed, this is active, hands-on learning.  There is a touch of creative expression, right-sized for each person. We will have short and intermediate length silent worship, gently structured worship sharing, some direct teaching, and discussion. Activities are based in knowledge of spontaneity and community building skills from theatre, plus psychological theory.  Outside of Gathering, Marjorie is a practicing psychologist, but, not to worry, this will not be a therapy group, and Marjorie will not diagnose or treat anyone at the workshop. She will use principles of group dynamics to help bring out the best in everyone, be supportive, and offer some easy-to-apply concepts to take home. We will incorporate a few good Bible stories. Experiences, practice, and discussion will help make the information and ideas stay with you, ready to apply in your life and perhaps at your own Meeting. Bring yourself, ready, just as you are, into this unique place in time, and take some transformative energy home.

Who will benefit from being at this workshop? All ages welcome. Parents of young and older children will bring understanding of current family life and take back activities to use at home. Teens are welcome because they do not know things are impossible and still know how to play. And, anyone who has genuine interest.

The most important preparation for this workshop is to be well rested as you can be, ready to learn, discover and share. Two books are suggested but not required as advance reading. Both are (or soon will be) available at and will be in the Gathering Bookstore. Both provide easy yet informative material, likely to help get you a little excited and curious about what we will be doing. Do not feel discouraged from choosing this workshop if you do not have time to read.
During the Gathering, plan on getting the best sleep you can—we need your active participation, and you deserve the fun and discovery that will result.

Finding the Light in You:Bright Silent Worship With Young Friends by Marjorie McKelvey Isaacs gives simple step-by-step directions allowing the average good-hearted Quaker to help children and adults enter into the direct experience of God through guided imagery. It is recommended that workshop participants have a copy of this book at Gathering.
Marjorie wrote this book with plenty of great feedback from Friends, and divine assistance, so it is attractive and easy to use. During our workshop we will see if we can solve the mystery of why people remain hesitant to try it out.

Improv Wisdom by Stanford University professor Patricia Ryan Madson explains how improvisational games are an experience in Quaker values of community, simplicity and service. Light within you calls forth and answers the Light within fellow improv players, while increasing general spontaneity and confidence. A working improv group is something like a gathered meeting in motion.

Leader Experience

 FGC Gathering 2011 - art workshop:  guided imagery as inspiration for creating art and increasing personal relaxation.

Joint Quarterly Meeting, Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting October 2015 - Field testing a draft of the handbook, Finding the Light In You, Bright Silent Worship with Young Friends.

Friends World Committee for Consultation World Plenary Meeting February 2016 Pisac, Peru - The Direct Experience of God through Guided Imagery, a multilingual workshop with simultaneous translation. Center for Bilingual Studies, La Paz Bolivia, February 2016 - Guided Imagery in the direct experience of God - workshop in Spanish;  also led this experience at a pastoral Quaker Meeting  in La Paz, with a mixed-age congregation of 16 people.

Quaker Religious Education Collaborative summer meeting 2016 - Finding the Light In You, hands-on learning: how to use this handbook

Quaker Religious Education Collaborative summer meeting 2017 - Cooperative Games and Theatre Improv as expressions of Quaker values

FGC Gathering 2018 - brief informal meetings with Bookstore customers, supporting them as they used the handbook to give each other brief experiences with Finding the Light In You; several unprepared uninformed adults were able to guide other adults, achieving a degree of centered relaxation. Finding the Light In You was one of the top ten bestsellers at Gathering.