About Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting's Worship
Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting welcomes members of other religions, friends and relatives of members and attenders, visitors from other meetings, neighbors, and those who may simply be curious about Quakerism. Most of our current members came first to our meeting as visitors; we have always found that the presence of visitors enriches our meeting. We hope that this information helps you understand more about us.
Meeting for Worship
Our Meeting for Worship takes place at 10:30 every First Day (Sunday) morning. Ours is an unprogrammed meeting, meaning that the worship service centers on an expectant silence. The basis for this is the Quaker belief that each person has the capacity to know directly the will of God, without the interpretation of an intermediary. The goal of our corporate worship is to enter the divine presence. The silence may be broken when a worshipper feels moved to rise and speak out of spiritual experience. Silence follows messages as Friends reflect on what has been said. Often other messages follow the first. It is possible – and quite acceptable – for a meeting to pass entirely in silence, but messages from the Spirit, through Friends, are the most tangible part of our worship together. Meeting for Worship is not the only time Friends look for "that of God" in everyone: we strive to keep that expectation foremost in all our dealings with others. Attending Meeting for Worship is how we prepare ourselves to do that for the rest of the week.
The meeting ends when a designated person shakes the hand of a neighbor; all present then shake hands with their neighbors. It is our custom for the person breaking meeting to ask first-time visitors, or those who have been away from the meeting for a long time, to rise and introduce themselves and tell us where they are from, and perhaps something else they wish to share. After announcements, Meeting for Worship is over and Friends disperse, often pausing for light refreshments before leaving. The first First Day of every month brings Coffee Hour, when Friends linger over more ample refreshments and visit with other members and attenders.
Programs for Children
The children who are old enough to sit quietly join their parents for the first 15 minutes of Meeting for Worship, after which they disperse to age-grouped First Day School classes. These classes are held from October through May, and cover a thematic curriculum under the supervision of the Religious Education Committee. During the summer months a less formal program for children is in effect.
Pre-school children are under the care of a paid childcare worker; a parent may stay to help if the number of toddlers is large. When very young children are upset at the departure of a parent, the parent is welcome to stay in the child care room with the child.
We have small radio receivers available for Friends who need help to hear meeting messages more clearly. They are available in the Gathering Room; ask a greeter for help with one.
Name Tags, Guest Book and Newsletter
We keep name tags for members and regular attenders on a board in the Gathering Room; we find that they make getting to know others in the meeting much easier. You can request a name tag by signing the Name Tag Request list by the Guest Book near the front door.
We ask our visitors to sign the guest book; we enjoy having a record of where our visitors come from. In the guest book you can indicate that you wish to receive the monthly newsletter of the meeting; this is a good way to get a sense of the activities of the meeting beyond Meeting for Worship.
After Meeting for Worship, a member of the Outreach Committee is available in the Gathering Room to answer questions you may have about what took place (as well as what doesn’t happen) during the Meeting for Worship, and about other aspects of Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting.
Meeting for Worship for Business
On the third First Day of each month we meet to conduct the business of the meeting. The search to know the will of God also guides our business meetings. At business meetings members and attenders make decisions by seeking the sense of the meeting on agenda items including, among other things, finances, membership requests, committee activities, and our participation in the wider Quaker community and our neighborhood. Visitors are always welcome; attending business meeting is a good way to learn more about issues of concern, and what happens to keep our meeting going.
On the second First Day of every month a Forum follows Meeting for Worship at about noon. Topics cover a broad range and include formal presentations as well as informal discussions, each one led by meeting members and attenders, or by invited speakers. Childcare is available.
Visitors are often puzzled because our worship service does not include a formal collection. The meeting encourages members and attenders to pledge an amount annually; these contributions comprise the primary source of money for our operating expenses. Visitors who want to make a contribution may do so by leaving it in the box marked "Contributions" located on the bookcase near the front door. Some members and attenders opt to make regular payments by mail to support the meeting.
Every other month, theOutreach Committee hosts a discussion with refreshments at the meetinghouse. This is a chance for people new to the meeting to get to know each other, and to learn about possibilities for more involvement in meeting activities.
You will find our library holdings in the bookcase in the Gathering Room. If you want to borrow a book, please record the information requested in the black loose-leaf binder on top of the bookcase.
These are groups of 8 or so members and attenders who meet monthly at each others’ homes for informal fellowship, often around a shared meal or desserts. Groups reorganize every three months. Some groups choose to have an agenda; others meet without a program to enjoy a relaxed social gathering. Ask a member of Overseers or the clerk for more information.
The Care and Counsel committee has divided the members and attenders into these groups to help the meeting community take care of its own. Each committee member is responsible for a care circle. Some care circles meet occasionally, and some have instituted a buddy system to pair people who check regularly on each other. If you don’t know who the overseer of your care circle is, or if you are too new to have been included already, ask the clerk or a Care and Counsel member about it.
We are hopeful that visitors who begin to attend regularly and find a spiritual home at Chestnut Hill Meeting consider applying for membership in the Society of Friends. Everyone is invited to apply who is comfortable with Friends’ religious practices and beliefs. For more information about the process, read the section on membership in Faith and Practice, or speak to the Question Corner person after meeting. Please note that we are not all "married with children," and that single people, unmarried couples, gays and lesbians all are welcome to worship with us and to apply for membership.
Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends was founded in 1924. It is a monthly meeting of Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM); members of Chestnut Hill Meeting are by definition members of those two bodies as well. Faith and Practice, a book that serves as the handbook and spiritual guide for Friends in the Greater Philadelphia area, is published by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Copies are available at the meetinghouse on request.
"Come with Hearts and Minds Prepared."
Faith and Practice reminds us to come to meeting
for worship with hearts and minds prepared for worship
through daily prayer, meditation, and study. Preparation
also means entering the Meeting house on First Day
in a worshipful manner, minimizing extraneous talking
and socializing before meeting.
Meeting etiquette for latecomers
We’ve all been late for Meeting, and we all know the desperate feeling of rushing to minimize our lateness; sometimes it can’t be helped. But there are a few things to remember if you do arrive after 10:30:
Thoughts on Speaking in Meetingfrom Quaker Quotations on Faith & Practice, Leonard S. Kenworthy, 1989
Speaking in Meeting
The most satisfactory ministry in the Quaker meeting of today arises out of a flash of insight, felt in the silence and delivered with brevity and a deep sense of concern. Howard H. Brinton in Prophetic Ministry.
When one rises to speak in such a (gathered) meeting, one has a sense of being used, of being played upon, of being spoken through. Thomas R. Kelly in A Testament of Devotion.
Brevity, earnestness, sincerity, and frequently a lack of polish - characterize the best Quaker speaking. Thomas R. Kelly in The Gathered Meeting.
If there is One who gathers the meeting inwardly and who is communicating and drawing at our lives unceasingly, and if vocal ministry in such a meeting is focused and irradiated from below the surface mind, it should not surprise us if several persons .... were at the same time moved to minister on roughly the same theme. Douglas V. Steere in Speaking Out of the Silence.
Ministry from the diffident and shy who seldom speak is often most helpful to the meeting, and the very simple prayer or message may be of great value when it has the authentic ring of deep personal experience. Vocal ministry should not be lightly undertaken. It is not the utterance of careless surface thoughts that flit through the mind, not even the sharing of merely intellectual level of riches won from reading and reflection; it is the offering of experience won in thought and in life which through prayer and obedience has led to a deeper vision of God and his ways of dealing with men. London Yearly Meeting's Church Government.
The highest vocal exercise in a Meeting for Worship is spoken prayer. Howard H. Brinton.
Vocal prayer, poured from an humble heart, frequently shifts a meeting from a heady level of discussion to the deeps of worship. Thomas R. Kelly in The Gathered Meeting.
Underlying and undergirding the unprogrammed worship of Friends is prayer; the prayerful corporate waiting which takes place in any meeting when it has centered down. As we go deeper and deeper, prayer is our task as individuals and as a group .... Another form which prayer may take ... is vocal prayer in meeting. As those present are stirred and uplifted as a result of the silence or the ministry which comes from it, vocal prayer may provide a focusing point which witnesses to the spirit at work in the meeting. At other times a prayer may instill life into a silence which has previously appeared dead, or bring unity to a meeting whose ministry has seemed scattered and discordant, or gather up and bring into focus a number of fragmentary messages. Helen G. Hole in Prayer.- The Cornerstone.
Even though the words of vocal prayer may sometimes barely be audible, the whole meeting may enter into its spirit, simply and humbly, in thanksgiving, adoration, intercession, petition, or dedication. London Yearly Meeting (1959).
Messages Which Disturb Us
The attender at a Friends Meeting must accustom himself to hearing much that he feels is unprofitable, at least to himself. His forbearance in respect to speakers who are struggling, perhaps blindly, toward the Light and missing the way, is in itself a valuable exercise. Howard H. Brinton.
When we are inclined to "pass judgment on the ministry," or feel out of unity with what is said, let us ask ourselves whether the reason may not be that we are listening to a truth to which our own psychological make-up has made us blind and which therefore has a special value for us. W. Russell Brain.
A Friends Meeting for worship finds no room for debate or for answering (still less for contradicting) one another; if this is desirable, it will be left for another occasion. And if anything should seem to be spoken amiss, the spiritually-minded worshipper will have the wit to get at the heart of the message, overlooking crudity and lack of skill in its presentation, and so far from giving way to irritation at what seems unprofitable, he will be deeply concerned for his own share in creating the right spiritual atmosphere in which the harm will fade and the good grow. A Neave Brayshaw.
Occasionally a message will come like a bolt of lightning out of the blue. It may be delivered in a burst of anger or with a deep sense of frustration. Worshippers should try to think of such a message as a cry for help, a plea for a lifeline. Someone should feel moved to offer a prayer for Divine Guidance or to utter words of compassion, understanding, or helpful advice. Moreover, one or two Friends should also feel called upon to sit down quietly after Meeting with such a disturbed person and counsel with him or her.
Leonard S. Kenworthy in Quakerism: A Study Guide to the Religious Society of Friends