Gathering in silence, sharing in ministry
Different people will use different words to explain what happens in a Quaker Meeting for Worship. The common element in our meetings is listening in silence to our ‘inner voice’ in the company of others. For some that ‘inner voice’ is that of God, however we think of God. For others it may be the Spirit or conscience, moral inquiry or self-reflection. Sometimes people will stand to offer a message they feel prompted to share.
On this page:
- What to expect in Quaker Meeting for Worship - a Quaker Speak video
- Quaker Meeting for Worship - our style of worship in Aotearoa NZ
- Further links to videos about Quaker worship and gathering in silence
- Spiritual nurture in Quaker Meetings
QuakerSpeak is a project of Friends Journal in America.
In Aotearoa NZ all of our regular Meetings for Worship are ‘unprogrammed’. This means that we do not have ministers or any form of liturgy or predetermined pattern. We simply gather in silence, usually for an hour. During that time, anyone in the meeting is free to offer ‘ministry’ speaking from their heart as they are prompted by the Spirit within them. This often leads others to speak. However, in a Quaker meeting we allow time between contributions for what has been said to settle in our hearts and minds before speaking ourselves. Contributions are not in the form of a discussion and do not necessarily keep to a particular subject or theme.
When the time is right, normally after an hour, someone responsible for the spiritual care of the Meeting initiates the shaking of hands to signal the end of the Meeting. In some meetings there will then be a period when people are invited to offer thoughts and ideas that came to them during the Meeting. And there’s always time for a cuppa afterwards!
Quakers around the world follow different traditions, though all are based on the teaching and practices of George Fox and the early Quakers. In the UK, most meetings are, like in NZ, ‘unprogrammed’ when we allow the teaching or ministry to come out of the silence. There are many Quakers in Africa where meetings follow a set programme and resemble the evangelical churches of other mainstream protestant faiths. In the US there are Quakers from both programmed and unprogrammed meetings– as well as semi- programmed.
If you would like to explore other videos about Quaker Meeting for Worship, here are some suggested links for you to view:
- What do Quakers do in Silent Worship?
- The Challenge of Sitting in Silence
- Quakers and Silence
- The Difference between Programmed and Unprogrammed Quaker Worship
Quaker Meetings are essential for the spiritual nurture of those who come to worship together.
The need for a spiritual life is one of the reasons many Friends are first drawn to Quakers. They seek fellowship in Quaker community, and encouragement for living in accordance with Quaker values.
Meetings foster spiritual growth in different ways. They often appoint volunteers (known as Elders) or committees (for example spiritual and pastoral care committees) to care for the spiritual needs of the Meeting. Encouraging the deepening of the spiritual life of Friends in Aotearoa is also the work of the national Quaker Learning and Spiritual Development Committee.
Meetings, through their Elders or Pastoral Care Committees, provide opportunities for Friends to deepen their experience and knowledge of Quakerism and its roots, in the form of study groups, quiet days, and seminars. They provide religious education and opportunities for spiritual growth, for all in the Meeting, including children, and generally watch over the Meeting as a community founded on love.
Some examples of how Meetings are providing for spiritual nurture and building a loving community are:
- regular discussion sessions based on Quaker beliefs, Quaker writings and Friends' sharing of their own spiritual journeys
- sharing lunch together after discussions and talks
- retreat days focusing on spiritual nurture
- holding virtual Meetings for Worship for Friends from around the country.
- learning the same on-line course together. An example would be the “Radical Spirituality: the Early History of Quakers” run by Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and Lancaster University.
- mid-week home groups to share worship and thoughtful and inspiring discussion
- workshops examining Quaker Testimonies, and experience of the Light
- establishing an Experiment with Light Group. This is a Quaker discipline of focused silent meditation and discussion, based on the insights of the earliest Quakers. You can read more here: http://www.experiment-with-light.org.uk/