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The New Quaker Monasticism and Liturgy

This Ash Wednesday, a few friends and I got together to observe the beginning of Lent. We shared a meal, and then we read the lectionary scripture for the day and settled into waiting worship. After worship had broken, we walked together over to St. Mark’s Episcopal church to attend their service. For me, the Episcopal service was at once foreign and familiar.

Several years ago, while in seminary at Earlham School of Religion, I lived as part of a new monastic community called Renaissance House. We lived together in a big, dilapidated mansion in the once-prosperous Starr District of Richmond, Indiana. We hosted public dinners three times a week where all were invited, and which were frequented by the mentally ill, the very poor, college professors, entrepreneurs, drug addicts, seminary and college students, and neighborhood kids. We lived off the land, dumpster diving for food and foraging for wasted wood and fallen trees to heat the house. We prayed together as a community four times a day.

As we explored what it meant to be a worshipping community, we visited a nearby Roman Catholic monastic community, the Sisters of St. Francis, in Oldenburg, Indiana. One of the surprising things we learned was that we at Renaissance House did a lot more corporate prayer than the “real” monastics did. We gathered for worship before breakfast (Matins), at noon (Sext), before dinner (Vespers) and in the late evening before bed (Compline). We prayed liturgy out of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, we sang, and we read the Scriptures aloud.

Because I had come to Christianity in the Quaker tradition, this form of worship was new and somewhat strange for me. I did not know quite what to make of spoken liturgy, especially because the Friends tradition that I was being steeped in put a high value on extemporaneous, “Spirit-led” prayer and vocal ministry. To have our prayers “scripted” seemed questionable. Despite my reservations about the details of our worship, I felt very committed to the worshipping community at Renaissance House. I believed in our way of life as a Christian brotherhood. I believed that our ministry to the neighborhood and wider community was meaningful; that we were truly “being the Church” in that time and place.

My experience at St. Mark’s this Wednesday surprised me. First of all, it became clear to me that Renaissance House was an Episcopal-inspired new monastic community. Having the chance to participate in a more formal Episcopalian service, I saw how almost all of our practice at Renaissance House was based in that tradition. Second of all, and far more shocking to me, I realized that I missed the liturgy. I missed the corporate recitation of the Psalms. I missed the congregational call and response. I missed the corporate confession of past failure, and repentance from sin. I missed the discomfort of being asked to say things that I would not normally say.

Recognizing that spoken liturgy has meaning for me, I feel the need to reflect on how this relates to my distinctively Quaker interpretation of my faith. I know that the early Friends rejected precisely the form of worship that I am now finding compelling. And I feel like I understand why they did. When the Quaker movement was emerging in the middle of the 17th century, the Church of England (now known as Episcopalian in the United States) was an oppressive force that demanded submission to an array of priestly codes, and which made the Gospel something that had to be mediated through educated, humanly authorized clergy. I affirm the early Friends’ rejection of human-based authority and the idolatry of Scripture and ritual.

But the early Friends did not merely leave the “apostate” Church of England and take up a revised liturgy on their own. They did away with the liturgy, with pre-arranged congregational singing, Scripture-reading and prepared sermons. They insisted that for worship to be conducted “in Spirit and in Truth,” there could be no pre-arrangement. True worship was when God was waited upon and women and men preached out of a sense of immediate leading by the Holy Spirit. The liturgy was a dead letter imposed by the human mind, but the Spirit gave life.

I think that this may have been the right answer for the early Friends. This first generation of Quakers had been filled to the brim with ceremony, liturgy, singing and Scripture. From their earliest childhood, the tradition of the Church was inculcated in them. The liturgy was practically in their DNA! The early Friends already knew the Scriptures, the creeds and the hymns of the Church by heart before they broke away from the deadening ritual and hierarchy that fallen humans had employed to take the Gospel captive. The early Friends rejected the abuses of Scripture, music and liturgy – but they retained full knowledge and use of them as they gathered to wait on the Lord.

More recent generations of Friends have not been as fortunate. We have been raised without as rich a sense of the tradition of the Church: without a corporate knowledge of our hymns; and without a regular corporate confession of our faith, our recognition of sin, and repentance. Many of us have lost even a basic awareness of the Scriptures.

Given our present context and condition, I wonder whether some form of liturgy might not be a good thing for Friends. What is the balance between us waiting on Christ to lead us in every step and us taking initiative to respond to Christ’s call?  What would be a Quaker way of doing liturgy?

  • To me a Friends Liturgy would be like the following: When does the service (Liturgy?) begin? When worship is over.

    I think an appropriate Liturgy (Action taken in worship meant to draw close to Christ/God in worship)
    Since worship can occur at any place or time, a Meeting acting together in service would seem to be very appropriate. “Feed the hungry, Clothe the naked, … house the homeless, provide coats to those without one, work for peace-making, etc. Of course the majority or at least a strong core of the Meeting would need to participate together for liturgy, but there are many “services” which could be undertaken: A quilting bee; A day or weekend at Habitat for Humanity; Quaker (or non-Quaker Workcamp); Retreat to Wm Penn House including significant service; (lobbying? for peacemaking); A clothing drive that is sincerely held, involving examination of 2 coats –> no coats, working at a Food pantry; etc.

    I have experienced and know the disappointment when only a very few show up for such actions, AND have experienced a real “communion” with each other and Christ at such an event.

    I am not sure the percentage of those undergoing liturgy in worship who truly experience the intent, and wonder that Friends would experience the indwelling of the Spirit by adding a liturgy into Meeting for Worship.

    I also think we do need to develop some understanding of the traditional Friends liturgy of “Waiting on the Spirit/Christ/God.” In addition, another form of Friends “liturgy’ is the response of oneself to share their leadings through verbal “messages”without presenting their view but being used as an instrument of God. Another “liturgy” is the act of “listening to where the words come from.”
    I think it would be important under any circumstance to clearly represent the helpful “messages” as such (eldering?) Also we would need to represent “Worship of ‘Service'” as important, in many ways, as the Meeting for Business (MfWfB if you prefer).

  • Not so sure about the kind of worshiping “liturgy” you spoke of, Micah, but I’ve long felt Quakers could benefit from developing kind of “liturgical calendar”, on which a set of significant dates, associated with important persons and events in Quaker (and maybe some other religious history) would be noted, perhaps with queries for reflection and discussion.

    IMO this idea would be of most value if it included, not only the usual self-congratulatory stuff (“July 19 — Seneca Falls Womens Rights Convention, 1848; Quakers are cutting-edge pioneers again! And so humble, too.”), but also some listing of our big screwups, occasions for repentance and humility.

    (E.g.: December 5 — in 1933, Prohibition was finally repealed. This ban on alcohol sales had been a top Quaker priority in all branches for many decades, but in practice it was not only a terrible failure, it also loosed terrible evils on our society, e.g., the mafia, that are with us still, many decades later, along with alcoholism. Query: Do we really know how to fix all the evils of society that we so confidently name and protest?)

    Like that. But it should also include people: Penn, Mott, Woolman, and others, whose example and work are worth recalling the way other churches have their “Lives of the Saints.”

    What do you think?

  • I noticed that all the of the Valient 40 came from more.. organized backgrounds. Most of the bright stars of Quakerism were convinced as well… perhaps us birthright Quakers miss out… so I visit liturgical services as well.

    I have thought that it might be good to at least study the formal liturgy, and Orthodox Christianity — if nothing else to learn that Christian faith is broad and open to people of different opinions. We get caught up in our own arguments — a knowledge of wider Christianity could teach us to be more broad in our thinking.

  • also — I attended a European meeting that “Felt” liturgical.

    One hour silence. Someone read an extract from Fox… that was followed by shaking of the hands and sharing coffee and chocolate.

  • We need to be Spirit-led, which can include in advance, contrary to the presupposition of some Quakers. This presupposition attempts to limit God, which is blasphemy.

    There shouldn’t be a standard Quaker liturgy, but Friends should feel free to adopt liturgical elements as led. This could be a counter to the tendency to lose the substance and retain only the form of meeting for worship.

    Friends in Christ had some beautiful experiences combining liturgy with open worship, such as a communion service in which Bible readings and queries were interspersed with significant time for open worship, and ending with the bread and the cup.

    Early Friends did not worship tradition – rightly. But today many in effect do. Because some practice was not part of Quaker tradition does not mean it is not right for a meeting today.

    In fact, there are many practices common among Friends today that are not traditionally Quaker. But there has been a taboo against formal liturgy, in particular the bread and the cup, and water baptism. I don’t think there is any good reason for the taboo.

  • @Tom – I agree with you that, in a very real sense, Friends already have our own form of liturgy and ritual built into our tradition at this point. I understand that many, if not most, Friends will prefer to continue worshipping in familiar ways, and I don’t have a problem with this. I’m simply exploring what alternatives might be like for Friends who are adapting the Friends tradition to new cultural and generational contexts.

    @Chuck – I had not even really thought about the liturgical year, but that is worth considering. I myself would be more comfortable keeping the traditional Christian liturgical year – especially Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. I do think it could be very interesting to introduce specifically Quaker elements into the traditional liturgical calendar, however. I very much resonate with your idea to have not only celebration of past Friends glory, but also repentance for our failings as a religious society.

    @Michael – Interesting to hear about your experience of a more subtle liturgy among European Friends. British Friend, Ben Pink Dandelion, has written a book called “Liturgies of Quakerism,” which is worth a read!

    @Bill – I’m totally with you until the last paragraph. I’ve thought long and hard about bread and wine and water baptism used as signs of an inward reality, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, for me at least, these things simply aren’t as powerful as the way Friends have traditionally celebrated communion and baptism.

    I believe that silence is a much more useful “element” to mediate communion with the Lord, because it encourages us to inwardly feed on his body and blood; and, as an added benefit, it leaves space for inspired prophecy!

    I feel that water baptism is simply unnecessary. After I was baptized by the Holy Spirit, I never felt the need to be sprinkled with water. I understand why other Christians maintain these practices, but I do believe that Friends have found a more excellent way, in this case.


  • Micah–

    I was raised Roman Catholic, and there the liturgical year is not by any means only Xmas, Easter, etc. There were saints for EVERY SINGLE day of the 365 or 366. It’s only the wussier Protestants who whittled it down to this one every few months thing. I mean, really, God is a workaholic, 6-days a week, year in and century out. Where did we get a pass to skip most of that in our “liturgy”?

    So a Quaker liturgical year could definitely include Xmas & Easter (the big ones), but there are plenty of our own “saints days” and other important historical occasions to take note of in between.could be quite rich.

    When do we start?

  • I’m intrigued by this conversation. As I posted elsewhere in cyberspace, I think about this pretty much daily. Being raised in the unprogrammed tradition, I have found much sustenance and life in more formal liturgical worship–hymns, sermons, written prayers, confessions, etc. I am finding that a combination of some kind of preparation with waiting worship feels like the best combination for me. I often feel like our waiting worship lacks depth and real waiting and any real expectation of encountering God. In the semi-programmed worship I’ve been coordinating in Atlanta I’ve found that scripture or a prepared message as a way into deep worship can have a profound centering effect. And Chuck, I love the idea of a liturgical calendar! Wow. Lets do it!

  • I’m on my way to meeting for worship. I find myself often meditating on elements of the Catholic mass of my upbringing, but I have little spiritual nourishment when I attend mass today.

  • Micah and others — The early Friends did not abandon liturgy only because they wanted silence and listening, or only because they wanted to be Spirit-led, or only because they refused to worship tradition.

    All three of these reasons were involved in their decision, but there was a deeper reason from which all three followed as consequences, and the deeper reason is the one that (I believe) needs to be attended to here.

    The deeper reason was that they had discovered the degree to which our own desires and willfulness get in the way of our being able to feel God’s will. If we have been steeped in certain ideas of what is right and what is wrong since childhood, or in longings for a certain sort of worldly arrangement, it will be much, much harder for us to feel an intimation that runs counter to these things, unless and until our own desires and wills, that leap to follow this childhood imprinting, are wholly silenced and laid down.

    Hence the early Friends not only strove to quiet their own minds and wills (a process that a later generation gave the name of Quietism), but also threw out everything that might stimulate their own desires and wills and thus distract them from a total sensitivity. That was why they stripped out all distractions from their worship.

    If we reintroduce a liturgy — just as if we reintroduce hymn singing — we have to ask ourselves whether this thing we have brought in satisfies our human desires and wills and thus keeps them energized, or whether it slows them to a halt. If the answer is that it satisfies them and keeps them energized, then we should recognize that we have just chosen a format in which true Friends worship will not be possible for us.

    And if that is a price we are willing to pay, in order to have our beloved liturgy, then let us be honest about what we have chosen.

    I am reminded once again of the words of George Fox —

    “Friends, — Whatever ye are addicted to, the tempter will come in that thing; and when he can trouble you, then he gets advantage over you, and then ye are gone. Stand still in that which is pure, after ye see yourselves; and then mercy comes in. After thou seest thy thoughts, and the temptations, do not think, but submit; and then power comes. Stand still in that which shows and discovers; and then doth strength immediately come. And stand still in the Light, and submit to it, and the other will be hush’d and gone; and then content comes. Your strength is to stand still, after ye see yourselves; whatsoever ye see yourselves addicted to, temptations, corruption, uncleanness, &c., then ye think ye shall never overcome. And earthly reason will tell you, what ye shall lose; hearken not to that, but stand still in the light that shows them to you, and then strength comes from the Lord, and help contrary to your expectation. … If ye do any thing in your own wills, then ye tempt God; but stand still in that power which brings peace.”

    (Letter 10, 1652, emphases mine.)

  • A quick comment made in Iowa YM (orthodox) when “hireling minsters” and some liturgy was being introduced into Friends Meetings. “It was easier to give them (attenders) what they wanted than to teach them to be Friends.”

  • Marshall, the reason you give certainly was in their motivation, but the response ignored an important reality. Anything we do can become subject to our wills and desires. Changing practices does not change that fact.

    The amount of self-righteousness that Quakers have about their particular practices (could be called liturgy) is enormous. This does not please God.

    Micah, you missed my point. The “Quaker way of communion” does not at all need to be competitive with the bread and the cup. In fact, liturgical traditions tend to come closest to using the Quaker way in connection with their use of the bread and the cup. They are very complementary, and are each strengthened by the presence of the other. This is my experience.

    We need to fully accept the Incarnation. God didn’t spiritualize everything for us. He came to us in human flesh, and Christ did deeds in the material world to show us the character of God. And he opened the way to have a physical connection with him following the Ascension. That is a beautiful thing, and part of the Incarnation.

  • I am reminded of Joel Bean’s writing:

    The home of my childhood was eight miles from the nearest neighborhood of Friends. The road over this distance to our own meeting was up and down steep hills. Only a part of the family could attend at a time and those left behind attended meetings near us, of other denominations, with whom we mingled freely, both socially and religiously.”

    So this giant of Quakerism was raised as much in the general Protestant tradition as that of Friends. I feel similarly in that my (nearest) Meeting is well over 8 miles away and I often find myself worshiping with my wife at her parish mass.

    So my conclusion from Micah’s writing is that Friends would do well to mix their attendance at Meeting for Worship with worship with “other assemblies” to gain a broader liturgical foundation for their faith.

  • This reminded me a bit of the sweatlodge discussion around FGC a few years ago. The spiritual life in our meetings have become so formulaic that we seek out other traditions to give it a bit of oomph. And Micah, it’s really Catholicism, not Episcopalianism that you’re feeling (next time you come over you have to get into a good discussion with Julie about all this!).

    This morning I was at Catholic Mass (where I normally find myself First Day mornings for a variety of reasons) so I got a good dose of all this. Yesterday, however, I was deep in John Wilbur’s journal, where there was a fascinating 1834 letter from Sarah Grubb on the rise of the Episcopalian influence in London Yearly Meeting. Here’s a piece:

    “I wish we had more truly baptized living ministers; we have copious and eloquent communications from our galleries, and there is an effect produced on very large audiences that is very striking…. But what I consider a very awful matter for reflection is, that should the reality of what we profess in ministry and worship be wanting, then is it very evident that there is a substitute set up amongst us, and a substitute too which many times bears an exact resemblance to what comes from God.”

    There is a need for education and a need to really see if any of us sitting in our meetinghouses actually believe the same things. But I don’t see how any noise we’d add to worship would get us closer to that raw communion with Jesus, the baptism of the living Spirit. Catholicism, sweat lodges and rituals of all sorts can bring you to a real place but as a Friend I think of them as an artificial high, a temporary “substitute” for the long work of submitting ourselves to the quiet of God’s inward instruction. Of course, this is theory: even many unprogrammed meetings have substituted the living Christ for the iron-walled liturgy of process and predictability.

  • Amy Hostler

    Martin writes above:
    But I don’t see how any noise we’d add to worship would get us closer to that raw communion with Jesus, the baptism of the living Spirit. Catholicism, sweat lodges and rituals of all sorts can bring you to a real place but as a Friend I think of them as an artificial high (…)

    Hmmm; the “you” being “brought to a real place” there sounds like an individual rather than a community. Maybe you meant both? Liberal Friends like to say that we don’t have to share a creed in order to share our religious practice of silent waiting. We sit down in meeting and engage in the same practice (at least outwardly) and the practice itself works on our hearts. Might not singing together, for example, bring us into unity in the same way? Or if you prefer, lead us to conform to the will of Christ?

    I know of a couple unprogrammed meetings (and I’m sure there are many others) who have experimented with hymn-singing before meeting for worship, and/or singing as part of First Day School. I’ve heard Friends say it helps them “center down” and prepare for worship. If nothing else, it may mean that fewer people are walking in late to Meeting for Worship (because they arrived early to sing) which probably helps promote a gathered meeting!

    From Catholic Mass to sacred harp songs to street-demonstration chants, I believe there can be communal vocal “noise” that connects the singers to each other and to God in a way they wouldn’t have been connected otherwise. Whether there’s a place for this in Quaker worship without losing the valuable distinctions of the Quaker way (er, ways) is of course another question.

    And Chuck, I too love the calendar idea, especially the queries about both good and bad events, decisions etc. in Friends’ history.

  • I’ve seen Advices and Querries used in a Liturgical Calender type way… but that was to dircect member’s thoughts and decisions in Monthly Meeting, though they are not adjusted well to a calendar.

    @Chuck George Fox has January 13 as a Feast day in the Anglican communion. I never knew you were raised Catholic — only that your writing is thoughtful, and painfully chalenging. I often find the most thoughtful and outspoken Friends are convenced.

    Though, I think the idea of the liturgical calendar is to meditate on aspects of the incarnation and the Christian life… Saint’s days, while fun, would be secondary to Lent-Easter-Pentecost… and Advent-Christmas-Epiphany.

  • Martin, the difference with the sweat lodge is that it is not a Christian tradition, and Friends come out of the Christian tradition.

    There was a witness that may have been very important in the mid-17th century that it is the inward that is important, and that no outward ritual is essential. So the stance may have been right at that time.

    Christ called for all his church to be in unity. Christian groups, certainly including early Friends, have often tried to get around that by claiming that other groups were so apostate that they weren’t really Christian and so didn’t count. That has broken down somewhat among Friends, but some elements of it remain.

    I also look at the consistency principle espoused by early Friends – that God speaks consistently in all times and circumstances. So one way I test the validity of Quaker beliefs and practices beyond a particular era is the degree to which they become accepted more broadly in the body of Christ. Would Christ tell Quakers something different than He tells other denominations?

    I find that many Quaker beliefs and practices have gained wider acceptance in the Christian community. With respect to communion, I think that’s been true to the extent that many groups do not today consider it essential. But all except the Salvationists practice it to some degree. My conclusion is that a rejectionist posture toward the bread and the cup has not been confirmed in the experience of the body of Christ. This makes it very doubtful that it is an appropriate witness in a universal sense – all times and circumstances.

  • I much appreciated Martin Kelley’s comment. Thank you, Martin.

    As to Bill’s response to me: I agree, it is quite true that “anything we do can become subject to our wills and desires.” But it seems to me that the stilling of our own wills and desires, the laying them down, is the straightforward way out of that trap.

    And it also seems pretty clear that, for most people (though not all), a satisfying program of worship functions as an outward distraction from the inward labor of laying down our wills and desires. We listen outwardly to that liturgy so that we don’t have to deal with the mess inside us. Very understandable!

    Just speaking personally, I would be very cautious of telling other people that their form of worship does not please God. “Christ has come to teach his people himself,” as George Fox put it; and given that he has, it seems better to me to let him do it, rather than taking it upen ourselves to occupy his role as so many preachers do.

    The problem here, I think, is not that God (or Christ) needs help telling us what pleases Him and what doesn’t; the problem is that we are not always good listeners to His voice. And that, of course, is the problem that our traditional Quaker worship is intended to address.

  • @Chuck – You really made my day with this: ” It’s only the wussier Protestants who whittled it down to this one every few months thing.” Thanks for making me smile.

    @Marshall – You wrote, “If we reintroduce a liturgy — just as if we reintroduce hymn singing — we have to ask ourselves whether this thing we have brought in satisfies our human desires and wills and thus keeps them energized, or whether it slows them to a halt.”

    I agree entirely. We should always be on guard to see that we are seeking God’s will alone, and not our own desires. If any element of our worship service – even the practice of silence – becomes an exercize in will-worship, we would do best to become aware of it as soon as possible and return our focus to God. At least for me personally, however, spoken liturgy and singing as elements in a worship service, do not have the effect of energizing my own desires and will. On the contrary, if I am attentive to the presence of Christ’s Spirit in our midst as a church, these elements can in fact foster deeper reverence and inward submission to Christ.

    I understand that any practice has the potential to become a stumbling block or an empty form – even worship based in silence. However, in my own experience, both singing and spoken liturgy have the ability to wrest me from the bonds of my own narrow will and inclinations, encouraging me to engage in deep listening and reverent praise.

    @Martin – You wrote: “The spiritual life in our meetings have become so formulaic that we seek out other traditions to give it a bit of oomph.”

    You’re right that our regular meetings for worship are often dry, spiritually sterile occasions. We have fallen into habit, and many of us no longer come to Meeting with an expectation of encountering the living God and being changed. And you may indeed be right that I, and others, are looking beyond the bounds of traditional Quakerism to fill in some of the gaps. That being said, I do not view as problematic the exploration the traditions of the wider Church.

    I think that the fundamental difference between you and me is that I am comfortable with a greater degree of what I would call “mutual enrichment” between the branches of the Christian tradition. I respect that you’re a crotchity Wilburite and want to make sure everything is very Quaker. I value that cautious stream of our tradition. But I, ever the Gurneyite, am more willing to be experimental.

    @Marshall and Martin – I understand that both of you are speaking out of a sense of Conservative Friends tradition. When I hang around with Conservative Friends, I am ever reminded of my own Gurneyite background. I am perfectly content with the Conservative stream insisting on certain sets of practices, and I respect your fidelity to centuries of tradition. That being said, I simply have to disagree with you if you imply that any worship besides that based in silence constitutes a stumbling block for communion with Christ. Any practice can become a stumbling block, and I pray we will all remain vigilent to stay low and close to our Lord as we seek to be faithful in all things.

  • @Bill – I feel like I’ve said my piece on water, bread and wine. I’m not shaken up that other Christian communities practice these rituals, and I don’t think that they are detrimental to faith; but I don’t think they have a place in the regular, corporate practice of Friends.

    @Amy – I echo your experience of music as a centering and uniting activity, and my home Meeting (which is unprogrammed) sings hymns for about fifteen minutes before open worship begins. We have found this to be a useful practice for helping us to gather together in the Spirit.

    @Michael – I’m with you in sticking mostly to observing Lent-Easter-Pentecost and Advent-Christmas-Epiphany. I guess I’m not a “high church” person, after all. All those saints’ days make me dizzy after a while!

    I suppose this means I’m one of those “wussier” Christians. 🙂

    @nemo – I think you’re right about visiting other churches from time to time being a healthy thing. Each Christian tradition has something special that it holds up.

    @Christina – I’m glad to hear that you’ve been thinking about these things as well! Semi-programmed worship seems to be gathering steam in a lot of places. I’d love to hear more about what’s happening in Atlanta.

  • I wonder if semi-programmed worship, albeit usually not so labeled, has not in fact become the norm in American non-pastoral meetings except for really small ones (which may be the majority of meetings, but have only a small proportion of the Friends).

    Some element of programming, such as singing, sharing of joys and concerns, etc. seems to have become widespread. Occasionally these are within the time labeled meeting for worship, and much more often right before and/or after. But I think the participants generally experience them as worship, so I consider the meeting semi-programmed regardless of whether the programmed elements are officially in the “meeting for worship” or not.

  • Anonymous

    I found this conversation fascinating. I grew up Presbyterian but became a convinced Quaker 7 yrs ago when I was 44. I love silent worship but I admit I miss things like communion & hymn singing.
    I have become a big fan of Taize services. In case you are not familier with Taize what usually happens is that the sanctuary is dimmed and there are lit candles everywhere. The songs we sing are 1 to 3 verses long and are repeated a number of times. They are often in latin & it is similar to a chant. Then there are scripture readings interlaced by periods of silence. There is no sermon. It is all very beautiful and rather mystical. Personally I would love to have 15 minutes of that prior to a Quaker meeting for worship. It really puts me in a spiritual frame of mind. That is my 2 cents worth.

  • Anonymous

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you


    I thought I’d link to some of my impressions as I’ve visited other churches. Like you, I am studying Christianity outside my own background and bias. I still have a lot to process.

  • Excellent discussion Micah, thank you for engaging the issue.
    I have often found that true worship usually takes me by surprise.Worship comes in momements of grace in my life. When God opens heaven for just a short moment and moves my thoughts from “me” to a greater view.
    I have been to surprised to find worship when exhuasted walking the Appalachian Trail, reading a newspaper account about someone who gave grace or shared peace. In my life,I was most surprised to find my greatest worship experience at the bedside of a 17 year old boy dying of AIDS.
    While I love the Quaker form of worship and believe it is how worship is best entered into, I must also believe that worship is bigger than form and practice.
    I guess, we shouldn’t be surprised to find worship in liturgy, silence, music and yes, even at the bedside of a dying loved one.
    Worship is bigger than my imagination and my empty rituals.

  • Meester brother Micah Shalom!

    this is one of the most comforting things ive read in a mighty long time.
    Consult the Didache, appreciate George Fox, and DO CONTINUE to be refreshed by both ‘order’ and the ‘organic flow’ of Ruach haKodesh! mighty nice to read ya.
    see ya soon in barnesville YaHVeH willin !

    ps. it seems to me that if the big Job of the supernatural tabernacle and temple of Yahveh was ‘the prayers for the world and peoples’ in the watches of Day and Night, if we are actually in a ‘freedom of religion’ zone of the world, we ought to be the ones that are in the corporate ‘order’ of prayer with the children-folk carrying the requests of our neighbors to Elohim-the Strong one, (expecting supernatural results) An ‘honesty meal’ is what eucharist is, Truly. A ‘close family’ honesty-meal.

    refer to for fine early christian practice.
    WE ARE ABLE TO ACCESS INFORMATION THAT GEORGE FOX DID NOT HAVE. think about it. Are you GFox disciple & ‘Quaker’ before you are a devotee/disciple of Yeshua predicted resurrected Messiah? Of course not. Burn brightly shining Micah-star!

    The Kingdom of heaven is like an amazing store/storekeeper from whom comes the most cutting-edge new technology and the most priceless antiques. Matt 13:52 (My own translation/paraphrase from the guts.)

    ignoring the practices that Yeshua taught the ‘twelve’ when they are clearly accessible is not wise. (priceless antique) ignoring the Spirit, prophetic voice from the peoples, and the ‘surprise language’ which is a lovely gift to help be empowered/comforted/encouraged
    is also not wise. (cutting edge ‘NOW-REVELATION’)


  • Micah asks, “What would be a Quaker way of doing liturgy?” I wonder, in response, what can Friends of today do to renew and strengthen in themselves and each other, and especially in the many idealistic and committed younger Friends, the direct power of immediate personal spiritual experience that in its self-validating intensity and authenticity takes away all need or desire for liturgy?

  • On Christmas and Easter I accompany my husband to services at my former place of worship. I was a devout and practicing member until about 10 yr ago. I was a cantor, stood at the altar on a regular basis and led the singing along with the choir. For many an Easter vigil service I was the lone woman in the sanctuary full of concelebrating men and acolytes.

    I do not miss any of it. Sorry, but it just comes with too much baggage — religious “truths” that must be assented to, religious rulers who must be obeyed (while they seem to hold themselves to a totally different standard). I do not miss the gold, I do not miss the statues, I do not miss the colorful windows …or the organ, the trumpet, the call/response, or any of the other pomp. Maybe I just stayed too overly long.

    However, I would like more vocal ministry at Quaker meeting for worship. It was the vocal ministry I heard at the first meeting for worship I ever attended that captivated me and made me return.
    Would sure like to know how to nurture vocal ministry.