On Nurturing Meeting for Worship

By Bob Schmitt

As Ministry and Counsel strives to balance its charge to hold the spiritual health of the Meeting at large with the concerns and care for TCFM’s individual members and attenders, we are creating a number of small working groups within the committee. These groups are charged to focus on and bring forth ideas and energy on a number of the “larger issues” that often get lost in the fullness of M&C’s work.

The first of these is a working group on nurturing Meeting for Worship comprised of Lois Yellowthunder, Mary Ann Crolley and Bob Schmitt.  This group brought forward to M&C both content and some process to nurture our weekly worships.

A selection of excerpts on worship from the TCFM website, the Faith & Practices of Northern Yearly Meeting, Britain Yearly Meeting and Pacific Yearly Meeting will be used to focus our attention to ways we can individually and collectively deepen and open ourselves to the movement of the spirit.

Each of these excerpts resonates with the others and also brings its own singular light to the topic.  We found a richness in the collection of 4 than there might be in selecting one or trying to edit it down to one statement.  We are also aware that the words in each of these excerpts had been held and labored over by 4 communities of Friends.

A small plan

Cards with one of the 4 excerpts will be placed on the Meeting room chairs monthly.

Also once a month, the M&C closer at each worship will read one of the selected 4 excerpts at the opening of worship.

During the coming year, M&C will also facilitate a series of 3 Adult Education sessions focused on our individual and collective experience of Meeting for Worship: how do we prepare for it, kindling the fire of worship, and carrying the experience outward in our lives.

Below are the 4 excerpts. Friends are invited to hold these.

If you feel a leading to speak in Meeting

Ministry & Counsel suggests that you hold that leading up to the Light with these considerations in mind:

  • Does the Spirit require that I stand and deliver my message, or can I comfortably sit quietly and not speak?
  • Is my message a religious or spiritual one: a message of worship?
  • Is the message I want to share intended to be given in ministry to others, or is it a leading meant for me alone?
  • Is what I have to say part of our shared worship or is it just speaking of my own feelings?
  • Is what I say short and to the point?
  • Am I speaking my message before the Meeting has had ample time to reflect on the last message, keeping in mind that considerable silence between messages deepens the ministry of the Meeting?
  • Am I speaking clearly and distinctly so all can hear?

—Excerpt from TCFM Website

Vocal ministry and careful listening are equally treasured elements of our worship.

  • As individuals we do not initiate messages without clear prompting from the Spirit.
  • When giving vocal ministry, we are asked
    • to mind the Spirit,
    • to keep close to the root of the message,
    • to avoid unnecessary words,
    • to speak clearly and distinctly so all can hear,
    • and to allow time between messages for each message to be weighed carefully.
  • Vocal ministry does not take the form of dialogue.

—Excerpt from Faith & Practice Northern Yearly Meeting

Remember that to every one is given a share of responsibility for the meeting for worship, whether that service be in silence or through the spoken word.  If the call to speak comes:

  • Do not let the sense of your own unworthiness, or the fear of being unable to find the right words, prevent you from being obedient to the leading of the Spirit.
  • Ask wisdom of God that you may be sure of your guidance and be enabled humbly to discern and impart something of his glory and truth.
  • Pray that your ministry may rise from the place of deep experience, and that you may be restrained from unnecessary and superficial words.
  • Faithfulness and sincerity in speaking, even very briefly may open the way to fuller ministry from others.
  • Try to speak audibly and distinctly, with sensitivity to the needs of your fellow worshippers.
  • Wait to be sure of the right moment for giving the message.
  • Beware of making additions towards the end of a meeting when it was well left before.

—from Britain Yearly Meeting, Faith & Practice, 2008

As one is weighing whether to speak, certain questions may be helpful:

  • Is this message Spirit-led, or merely emotionally compelling?
  • Is this message intended for this group, or is it only for me?
  • Is it better saved until another time or place?
  • When the call to speak is clear, the worshiper should stand if possible.
  • He or she should speak simply, briefly, audibly, and from personal spiritual experience.
  • Occasionally, ministry may take the form of singing or of standing silently.
  • Neither debate nor discussion with previous speakers is ever appropriate,
  • And speaking twice during a single Meeting for Worship is very seldom so.

—from Pacific Yearly Meeting, Faith & Practice, 2001

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