Our Worship & Vocal Ministry
Our Worship is silent and unprogrammed, and subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A period of time, perhaps twenty minutes, is used to center into an inward stillness.
Spoken messages come from the spiritual depth of one's life and from the leading of the Holy Spirit.
To be absorbed, each message needs to be followed with a period of silence which allows for deepening.
Spirit-led listening is the most important task of everyone attending the Meeting. Attenders are urged to listen deeply, both in the silence and when someone is speaking.
When the vocal and silent ministry speak to the condition of those present and is developed and deepened in the Truth, a profound sense of spiritual community occurs that freshens and delights. This is what we call a "gathered Meeting."
Meeting for Worship ends after about an hour when the head of Meeting, on the facing bench, shakes hands with those nearby. We then greet those sitting around us in a similar manner.
About Vocal Ministry
From Britain Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice:
Remember that to every one is given a share of responsibility for the meeting for worship, whether that service be in silence or through the spoken word...Pray that your ministry may rise from the place of deep experience, and that you may be restrained from unnecessary and superficial words. Faithfulness and sincerity in speaking, even very briefly, may open the way to fuller ministry from others. Try to speak audibly and distinctly, with sensitivity to the needs of your fellow worshippers. Wait to be sure of the right moment for giving the message. Beware of making additions towards the end of a meeting when it was well left before.
- Advices 1964
Each Friend who feels called upon to rise and deliver a lengthy discourse might question himself - and herself - most searchingly, as to whether the message could not be more lastingly given in the fewest possible words, or even through his or her personality alone, in entire and trustful silence. 'Cream must always rise to the surface.' True. But other substances rise to the surface besides cream; substances that may have to be skimmed off and thrown away before bodies and souls can be duly nourished. 'Is my message cream or scum?' may be an unusual and is certainly a very homely query. Still it is one that every speaker, in a crowded gathering especially, should honestly face. Some of the dangers of silent worship can best be guarded against by its courtesies.
- Violet Holdsworth, 1919
The intent of all speaking is to bring into the life, and to walk in, and to posses the same, and to live in and enjoy it, and to feel God's presence.
- George Fox 1657
From Encounter with Silence:
It is stillness, I am sure, not the absence of noise, which is the sign of true Friends worship. Stillness is a personal quality, not something in the environment... [Stillness] is a state of great attentiveness, not of abandon. It involves an awareness of one's being, not one's doing.
...words are a part of the Quaker tradition. If the ministering Friend has been faithful, the words will have come at a cost. If the Friend has not been, the words will not have been spoken 'in the life' as Friends say. One of the skills in listening to ministry is to tell one from the other. This difficulty is also felt by ministers. Part of their struggle, as they strive to find words for the messages that rise in their minds and imaginations, is to distinquish the true divine leading from the purly human one.
- John Punshon