LIFE IN THE MEETING – QUAKER MEETING ETIQUETTE
As I entered the local YMCA swimming pool one morning, there was a sign saying “Swimming Pool Etiquette.”
It immediately popped into my head – what about “Meeting for Worship Etiquette?”
1. Arrive at meeting for worship five minutes before the appointed time.
2. Find your seat and settle into the silence without speaking to others.
3. Begin to center yourself in the Spiritual Presence that is already in the meeting place and that surrounds you and others.
4. As the meeting progresses, practice emptying your mind so that you are not distracted by all the multitudinous things that are going on in your life.
5. Instead, be open to the Divine and wait patiently for a sense of the nearness of God, the divine energy that is everywhere.
6. Commit yourself to being vulnerable so that a divine message can come through to your heart.
7. When a message comes, ponder it with loving care. Ask yourself how it applies to you and to life around you. Absorb the meaning of it, and allow yourself to be open to the feelings that come with the deeper meaning.
8. As you contemplate the message, you may find that the Divine wants you to share it with the meeting. Your heart quickens. Your pulse begins to beat faster.
9. At this point you may be scared. You are being asked to be a channel, a spokesperson for the God spirit. You may feel like turning off the mystical experience of Quaker worship and escaping to your ever waiting mental activity.
10. Instead, you may ask the Divine for help to stand up and say what has come to you, what is in your heart.
11. There is no need for you to rehearse what the Divine has given to you to say. Simply begin to talk and the words will come. They will be given to you by the Spirit.
12. Should you stumble, need to take some silent space to get it all out, or if you feel like crying because of the beauty of what you are experiencing, such things will only increase the meaning and the value of what you are saying.
13. When you have finished and you sit down, others may be spiritually led to build on what you have been saying and feeling. When such things happen, those present are in the midst of what is called a “gathered” meeting.
14. When the meeting is over, you may not recall what you said. The Divine may have given the words to you for someone else in the meeting.
15. When the speaking is coming from the Divine, it is usually short and to the point.
16. A member or members may feel clear that they have received a genuine message without the Divine’s calling on them to share it. This is to be expected.
17. A Friends meeting in which there is no speaking at all may still be very much of a “gathered” meeting. One can sense when the silence is alive and deep and how it builds up toward the end of the hour.
18. It is a mistake for a member to be concerned there has been no speaking at a particular meeting up until the last five or ten minutes. They won’t wait for a divine leading, but will speak from some personal experience in order to fill what they believe is a vacuum, or they think that, without speaking, it will be a dead meeting. It is unlikely that either would be the case. Let us treasure our completely silent periods of worship when they occur.
19. If someone isn’t familiar with the core of Quaker meeting or doesn’t believe that it is possible for the Divine to speak to us directly, one may mistakenly speak from the mind or from one’s ego.
20. When the presiding member closes the worship with a hand-clasp, and the rest of us follow suit, remember that we are not greeting each other just to say hello or to wish others well, but in a very special way. It is a recognition that we have been together in a sacred place and felt the Presence of God in very special ways. In that experience, we have been deeply united.
Kent R. Larrabee | Mount Holly (N.J.) Meeting