The experience of worship

“At the heart of vital Quakerism lies the experience of worship,” Paul Anderson writes in one of several short essays in Meet the Friends. “The Holy Spirit is constantly speaking and drawing us to God, so the question is not whether the Spirit will speak…the question is ‘will we listen?’”

In Quaker Meeting for Worship, Douglas Steere describes how he listens: “The first thing that I do is close my eyes and then still my body in order to get it as far out of the way as I can. Then I still my mind and let it open to God in silent prayer, for the meeting, as we understand it, is the meeting place of the worshiper with God. I thank God inwardly for this occasion, for the week’s happenings, for what I have learned at God’s hand, for my family, and the work there is to do. I often pause to enjoy this presence.”

Out of the silence, there may come vocal ministry, when one Friends stands – or sometimes several – to share a song, a scripture, a reflection, a story – whatever it is that the Spirit has prompted. In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Maurice Roberts speaks of a time God’s answer for his need was “immeasurably more ... than I could have orchestrated.”

Cleta Crisman writes in her introduction to this quarter’s collection of devotional readings in Fruit of the Vine that we may be hesitant to speak because of personal pain, because of vulnerability or fear. But she encourages us to share “from that space. It’s where we all really live so much of the time; we need one another to hold up our hands, to create a safe place for God to open our eyes, and to help us carry ... the limitations of our own humanness.”

And Steere continues: “When I feel drawn to share something in the quiet meeting for worship, I simply rise and say it as briefly as I know how, seeking ever to keep close to the root and to avoid all vain and distracting ornamentation. The other worshipers often do not raise their heads or open their eyes. If they feel in unity with what I have shared and if it speaks to the condition of the meeting, out of which it sprang, then it becomes a seed for their meditation. If it does not, they pay little attention to it and continue in their own worship.”

This morning, I’m taking some time to listen for the Spirit who is constantly speaking. I’m pausing in the early morning light to enjoy God’s presence. I’m paying attention to the places where I feel fear, vulnerability, or pain. And I pray that in each of my interactions today, I might say as briefly as I know how whatever it is I’ve been given to share.

Maybe you might join me, wherever you are. I think this goes better when we’re in it together.

Eric Muhr