Last updated Sunday, Feb 21, 2013
Meeting for Worship begins at 10:00 a.m. On the second Sunday of the month worship begins at 9:30 a.m., (except July & August) and is followed by Meeting for Worship with a concern for Business at 10:30 a.m.
WELCOME to a new experience of worship.
We welcome you to our Meeting for Worship in the hope that through our shared experience each of us may increase in inward peace and joy, understanding and strength.
Please feel at ease; you are among friends. There are no outward forms to be observed. In the quiet let your spirit join with ours. From whatever may be spoken, gain all you can. At the end of the hour let us greet you.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Forgive our foolish ways -
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find
In deeper reverence praise.
Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm.
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire,
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm.
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
As you have opportunity for reading and reflection, the following paragraphs may prove helpful.
Quakerism is but one of the many fruits of the Christian heritage; from its beginnings 300 years ago it has been one effort to regain the spirit and the simplicity of the earliest Church. But it has developed a method of corporate worship unique among Christian groups. A brief background explanation and a few suggestions may help you to participate with greater understanding and at some deeper level.
Our form of worship is the logical extension of our belief that the Divine Spirit speaks directly to each individual soul. No priest or minister is necessary to mediate between humanity and God. God's grace is not confined by any required sacrament or liturgical form, but flows freely to all who truly seek the experience. We have no test of faith by creed or dogma; our common ground is the common experience of worship in which we are all seekers. Christ taught us to see one another with eyes of love, as children of the one God. We try to apply the light of reason to our religious beliefs as to our human relationships, but we have found that we need not be able to define God logically in order to know Him experimentally.
As we gather in silence, some find it useful to choose a subject for meditation-a Bible verse, poetry, an aspect of nature or a problem of life. Some find this time their best opportunity for examining carefully and candidly their own words and actions of the past week. Still others--in the mystical approach which is such a strong element in the Quaker tradition--simply try to bring the inner self to complete quietness, the better to hear the "still small voice." However we prepare ourselves, it is essential to try to be completely open and sensitive so that we may be freely led by the Spirit to new insights. Moral and spiritual growth comes largely through finding new ways of looking at familiar subjects, sometimes in ways opposite to views we have held previously.
No one has composed a message or sermon in advance, but general preparation on the part of each individual is helpful to a good meeting for worship. Valuable material for meditation may be provided during the week through any of the ways in which we may seek Truth and Beauty-through science and the application of reason to carefully observed facts, through the perception of beauty and harmony in nature or in human creations, through the experiences of those who have been close to God and who have recorded their insights, especially in the Bible.
Of course the preparation needed most is for each of us to live daily in constant awareness of the presence of God. Yet we do forget. We are willful -- and so, important than advance preparation is simply to come to worship with humble and contrite hearts. God will reach out eagerly and lovingly to draw us in.
Should a meeting be held entirely in the silence, this does not-or at least need not-- mean that nothing is being said; perhaps the most powerful Voice of all is speaking directly to each listener. But usually, out of the background of silent meditation and prayer, a worshiper will give a message that person feels may be helpful to others. For the most part the acceptable message is fairly brief, stated in simple language *, and affirmative, searching and prophetic rather than inviting to argument. Some personal experience may have suggested the opening thought, but it is desirable to avoid all personal references not entirely necessary for clarity. As Howard Brinton writes: "The speaker should think of himself as an instrument through whom the Spirit speaks He must eliminate himself as possible in order that what is greater than himself may flow through him."
A message should be conceived in a religious rather than a secular framework. "In a religious focus, one endeavors to see the matter as God would see it rather than as man would see it .... An academic discussion of economic problems would interfere with the spirit of worship, but a solemn, reverent appeal for greater sensitivity of conscience in economic matters might deepen the meeting."
Controversial subjects that are not clearly related to accepted Friends testimony, concerns involving extended or technical treatment, and personal problems are generally not suitable for meeting for worship. There are other channels that are more appropriate. The Clerk and other officers of the meeting are available to discuss any subject with members and attenders.
Following the first message, succeeding speakers may choose to develop the same thought further, so that a single thread may run through all of the vocal ministry in that hour. Some of the most memorable meetings are of this kind. But there is no rule to be followed, and if the first message does not elicit such a response an entirely different subject may be taken up. Sometimes the messages will seem to be on quite unrelated topics and yet a closing word will draw them together in a very satisfying way.
One need not be a polished speaker or a "weighty Friend" in order to contribute most acceptably, nor must a message be perfectly structured. It is suggested that a newcomer have some opportunity to become sensitive to the needs of group worship based on silent waiting before attempting to speak. Nevertheless, the first brief and halting message of a young Friend or of a new attender may have more spiritual significance than the best effort of one who speaks frequently. Too many Friends even regular attenders- seldom if ever speak. To come to meeting without being open to the promptings that may lead to sharing a thought with the rest is to come only partly ready for worship; to come with mind set on speaking is also to be insensitive to the currents that may stir the whole group.
Although a meeting will commonly be described in terms of the spoken ministry evoked, listening is as important as speaking. We listen to a message in meeting not to find something to take issue with, but to find out how much of what is said applies to us and can become part of our own meditations.
If it seems not to apply at all, we should still realize that it may be helpful to others, or consider how it bears on the speaker's own situation. While of course some messages are less broadly helpful than others, there are few from which the perceptive listener cannot derive some benefit. If a speaker does raise inappropriate questions or produce a negative reaction, objections or counter-arguments should not be voiced during the meeting. One may talk privately with the speaker afterwards- always careful to do so in a loving spirit. If there seems to be some problem of a more extensive nature in the vocal ministry this should be taken up with a member of the Committee on Ministry and Worship, which has general care over the meetings for worship. Where a message has been especially helpful, it is not amiss to express appreciation to the speaker after meeting, however, as indicated by the traditional Quaker phrase "I thought thee was well-favored today," we believe that true credit should be given to the higher source from which we seek to draw our inspiration.
There is no specific rule as to the time which should elapse between messages. The interval should allow the worshipers to reflect on what has just been said, and before introducing a new topic it is well to see whether Someone is moved to follow up on the first one.
The meeting begins at 10:00 A.M. on First Day (Sunday), but starts at 9:30 A.M. on the second First Day when there is a meeting for worship with a concern for business (see below) The first minutes of centering down are very precious, and while a person unavoidably delayed had better come late than not at all, attenders should regularly make it their business to be in their seats a few minutes early so as not to create a distraction through late arrival. We encourage those who arrive early to leave space near the door for late comers. We also expect that no one will leave or re-enter the room during worship unless absolutely necessary as this may distract the attention of worshipers. It is especially important not to do so during vocal worship. Meeting lasts about an hour. Its close is indicated when those sitting at head of meeting shake hands, after which everyone shakes hands with his neighbors. It is customary to linger for a time when meeting is over and greet one another. To this important part of our religious fellowship we also welcome you.
Our monthly Business Meeting, held the second First Day, September through June, represents the corporate search for right action in relation to our testimonies and our business affairs, following the traditional Quaker practice. This is also unique in that we try to find the sense of the whole meeting rather than taking a vote. Attenders are likewise welcome at these sessions.
*At Langley Hill the children and teachers share in the first thirty minutes of the worship hour before going to their classes. Because of this, a message will sometimes be given earlier in the hour than would be true in a meeting with a different arrangement. While a message may be given with children in mind, the effort should be to state a basic concept clearly and in simple words without patronizing or speaking down to children.
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