On Speaking in Meeting for Worship

The Meeting for Worship has been referred to as “the pearl of Quakerdom”. The Committee on Ministry and Counsel hopes to enrich our Meetings for Worship by reviewing with Friends some of the qualities of a good Meeting.

There are two aspects of our Meetings for Worship

The first is the silence of group worship, in which we gather in the Presence of the Spirit to hear, inwardly, the ministry of God to us individually and as a group. A Meeting in which this Presence is sensed strongly is called a “covered or gathered. Meeting. In such a Meeting, we are led to listen most of the time in silence to the ministry of the Inward Light, since this silence may say more to us than any spoken ministry.

The second aspect of Meeting is the spoken ministry, in which the Spirit of God moves one or more particular individuals to speak a message of ministry to the whole Meeting. Many Friends have described the true leading to speak as a strong impulse which makes them so uncomfortable that they are unable to keep their seats but feel that they must speak. John Woolman described it as “that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet, through which the Lord speaks to his flock”. It is rare that the Spirit moves any individual, even a very experienced friend, to speak every week. Almost never is one truly led to minister twice during one Meeting for Worship. All Friends are urged to “Learn to wait for the guidance of the Spirit to show them when and how their message should be uttered.”

If you feel a leading to speak in Meeting

Ministry and 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?

These guidelines are not intended to inhibit those who feel truly led to speak, but to caution all of us against using the Meeting for Worship as a place where we can unload purely individual thoughts or frustrations. Friends should keep in mind that some insights and concerns are best shared outside the Meeting for Worship. Ministry and Counsel hopes these suggestions will make our meetings more truly worship-filled for all of us.

(excerpted from Twin Cities Friends Meeting’s “membership packet.”

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