The use of hats and garments dyed with a dye hurtful to them and wearing more clothes in summer than are useful grew more uneasy to me, . . . [but] the apprehension of being singular from my beloved friends was a strait [strain] upon me, and thus I remained in the use of some things contrary to my judgment.
And Friends meet together, and know one another in that which is eternal, which was before the world was.
So near evening I was at their meeting, where the pure gospel love was felt, to the tendering some of our hearts. And the interpreters, . . . found some difficulty, as none of them were quite perfect in the English and Delaware tongue. (they gave up interpreting and later) . . . Papunchang spoke to one of the interpreters, and I was afterward told that he said: “I love to feel where words come from.” (Meeting with Indians along the Juniata River.)
Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all with the measure of the light which is pure and holy may be guided, as so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, —-not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.
Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. That is it which moulds up into patience, into innocency, into soberness, into stillness, into stayedness, into quiteness, up to God, with his power.
True and acceptable worship of God stems from the inward and unmediated moving and drawing of his own Spirit.
The love of God is love past knowledge, which bears all things, endures all things, hopes in all things, envieth not, thinketh no evil. And the love of God is the ground of all true love in your hearts.
Words may help and silence may help, but the one thing needful is that the heart should turn to its Maker as the needle turns to the pole. For this we must be still.
And so I find it well to come
For deeper rest to this still room,
For here the habit of the soul
Feels less the outer world’s control;
The strength of mutual purpose pleads
More earnestly our common needs;
And from the silence multiplied
By these still forms on either side,
The world that time and sense have known
Falls off and leaves us God alone.
Friends ought to put the meeting for worship and its service in the forefront of their lives, for it stands as a public testimony to the two great essentials of their experience - the assurance that all men who seek God in their hearts can find Him, and the knowledge that both as individuals and as groups those who ask and accept His guidance are led of Him. The meeting for worship is the centre of the corporate life of the Society, and its health is a condition of our usefulness. It is also a possible channel of much blessing to many outside our fellowship.
The early Friends made the discovery that silence is one of the best preparations for communion with God and for the reception of inspiration and guidance. Silence itself, of course, has no magic. It may be just sheer emptiness, absence of words or noise or music. It may be an occasion for slumber, or it may be a dead form. But it may be an intensified pause, a vitalised hush, a creative quiet, an actual moment of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with God. The actual meeting of man with God and God with man is the very crown and culmination of what we can do with our human life here on earth.
A Friends meeting, however silent, is at very lowest a witness that worship is something other and deeper than words, and that it is to the unseen and eternal things that we desire to give the first place in our lives. And when the meeting, whether or silent or not, is awake and looking upwards, there is much more in it than this. In the united stillness of a truly ‘gathered’ meeting there is power known only by experience, and mysterious even when most familiar. There are perhaps few things which more readily flow ‘from vessel to vessel’ than quietness. The presence of fellow-worshippers in some gently penetrating manner reveals to the spirit something of the nearness of the Divine Presence. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in His name’ have we not again and again felt that the promise was fulfilled and the Master Himself was indeed ‘in the midst of us’? And it is out of the depths of this stillness that there do arise at times spoken words which, springing from the very source of prayer -have something of the power of prayer - something of its quickening and melting and purifying effect. Such words as these have at least as much power as silence to gather into stillness.
"I want queries that look beyond expected behavior. I want queries that go deeper than proper responses to Quaker concerns. I yearn for something that. touches my core, that holds me to my center, that speaks primarily of inward essence. If I am centered in the power of the Spirit that dwells in me, I reason, outward manifestations will take care of themselves. I think of ancient stories about properly tended vines bearing good fruit. Our lives are filled with calls to action, with causes to be won or lost, with cries for attention to this person ‘s need and that person’s plight. My need is not so much to respond to all the clamor, but to function within the Light. For me the powerful queries are ones that cleave me to the Light."
Read the full Friends Journal article, A Query Buff Looks at Queries.
Inner silence, calming the agitations of our hearts and minds, letting go of all that is stubborn and grasping, is essentially an expression of the love of truth. To be dispassionate, not to let one’s own needs or prejudices or emotions color one’s actions, is essentially to put truth before everything else. To love truth in this way is to love God, who is Truth. Thus the practice of inner silence is the same as the love of God.
I am not talking about listening with the human ear. I am talking about “discernment,” which means to perceive something hidden and obscure. We must listen with our spiritual ear, the one inside, and this is very different from deciding in advance what is right and what is wrong and then seeking to promote our own agenda. We must literally suspend our disbelief and then listen to learn whether what we hear expands or diminishes our sense of Truth.
"As I have visited Quaker meetings, I have observed Friends faithfully following the form of Quaker business practices without necessarily understanding the importance and purpose of the forms. George Fox challenged the people around him to seek the power rather than the form. He condemned many as engaged in religious practices that were empty forms, where people followed their practices without understanding the deeper meaning and so had lost contact with that meaning. We are in danger today of living out what George Fox railed against. Accepting the responsibility to keep the Quaker tradition living and vibrant requires that we work to understand why we use the forms that we do, so that the practices are not empty but rich with life. Within the Quaker practice of corporate business there is a treasure that the world needs. It is a way of coming together as individuals with different experiences, needs, agendas, and perspectives and engaging with each other to strengthen relationships and make decisions that affect the community positively.
The pillars that I see undergirding the forms of Quaker business practice are:
- that the meeting is rooted in worship;
- that the meeting is clerked;
- that there is enough time, a sense of spaciousness; and
- that decisions are made by sense of the meeting."
Read the complete Friends Journal article, Four Pillars of Meeting for Worship.
How to Use Grounding Quotes
Here are some suggestions for exploring the introductory essays, texts, and videos in the Grounding section of each topic. Be creative and consider using different processing techniques over time in order to spark the various learning styles of your participants: discussion, personal reflection, artistic expression, music, worship sharing, creative writing, and deep listening.
Friendly Bible Study
The Friendly Bible Study process applies to Scripture as well as other materials. This process is good for a group of newcomers and old timers, allowing participants to speak about what is exciting and what is problematic about the text.
Find the Truth
Choose one idea or sentence that rings true for you. Share with a partner an experience you have had that relates to that sentence/idea.
What Do You Notice?
Shorter variations might be: What one phrase or idea sticks out for you? Sit with it for a few minutes and see what rises for you. Now journal/share with a partner.
Draw or doodle in response to this text. Allow yourself to be Spirit led – what color do you want to pick up, and how do you want to use it? This is not art for to view. This is exploration and expression. Alternatively, invite participants to make a visual or 3D response to the text using art materials such as clay or play dough, magazines for collage, paint, mural paper, pipe cleaners, objects from nature (acorns, feathers, grasses, flowers, seeds, bark), or building blocks or Legos.
Visit the Text in Worship
Sit in worship with this material. Let it work on you. Try not to “think” about it – just let it sit on your lap and soak in. Now, turn to your partner and share something about your visit with this text.
Write your reaction to the text, how it applies to your life today, what you’re grappling with, or what you’re grateful for. Use one of the General Questions for Reflection or free-write. In general, journal writing is kept confidential.
Set it to Music
If you have a group that is willing to be creative, break into small groups and ask each group to write a tune for the quotation or an excerpt (or assign a different quotation to each group). Tunes are a great way to “memorize” quotations so that they will stick with you. Check out Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong for some beautiful examples.
Share a quotation, introductory essay, QuakerSpeak video link, or set of quotations with group participants. In preparation for the next Spiritual Deepening group session, give the participants some “homework” to do. This could include:
- reflecting on the text during their daily spiritual practice or during Meeting for Worship
- journaling about their response to the text
- rewriting the message in their own words
- writing a prayer about the topic
- finding a song, object, or image that represents to them the theme of the message
- creating a piece of art that illustrates their response
As part of your next group sessions, invite participants to share or report back on their homework assignment.
Ask a question that will elicit one-word answers or short phrases. On a flipchart paper, record the responses as participants share. Consider questions such as: What word stands out to me in this text? What feelings arise in my body as I consider this message? What question do I want to ask Spirit about this message? Invite participants to comment on what they notice about the brainstorm list.
Invite participants to briefly contemplate the quotation and then respond to a writing prompt. Create a prompt specifically related to the text or choose one of the General Questions for Reflection.
Pair-Share or Triads
Divide the group into pairs or sets of three to discuss the quotation. Return to a large group and share any themes that arose.
Make it Personal
Rewrite the quote in your own words or to reflect contemporary society and language.
General Questions for Reflection
- How is the Divine/Truth/Love speaking to me through this text?
- What experience in my life reflects the message of this text?
- What do I have to learn from this message?
- What resonates with me in this quotation?
- What stands out to me in this text?
- What surprised me about this message?
- What questions arise about my life as I contemplate this message?
- What canst thou say? (What do I have to say in response to this message?)
- What feelings arise in my body as I consider this message?
- An image that comes to mind as I listen to this quotation is…
- Where is the growing edge for me around this issue?
- If I could rephrase this message in my own words, I would say…
- This Truth tastes like… (smells like… sounds like… feels like… looks like….)
- In relation to this topic, I used to be.…., but now I’m ……
- I’d like to ask Spirit / the Universe / God / the Inward Teacher ……. about this message.
- The point on my spiritual journey when this idea has been most alive in me was…