The Meeting for Worship
The meeting for worship is the heart of every Friends' Meeting. It is based on faith that men and women can enter into direct communion with God.
In the excitement of their discovery that Christ was alive and had "come to teach His people Himself," early Friends gathered for worship fully expecting the Spirit to be present, and out of their hushed expectancy they entered into a fellowship with God that changed their lives. In the course of such worship came new revelations of Truth and a force that drove Friends out into the world to spread the news and to serve humanity.
Friends in New England try in their meetings for worship to capture the same spirit, a sense of God's presence in the midst, and to be open to new revelation. Some New England Friends gather in silent waiting upon God without designated leadership 'r program. Some are led in worship by a pastor whose function is to encourage and cultivate the ministry of each individual. In either case, for the meeting to be successful, all must share and respond.
Preparation for worship is essential. Preparation is a continual process of prayer, of reading the Bible and other religious literature, of learning from human experiences, and of daily practicing the presence of God. Some come on Sunday morning expecting t0 receive God's revelation with no previous effort on their part. I or the cup to overflow on Sunday, however, it must be filled up .Ill through the week. Early Friends came to worship with their cup overflowing, and it was then that the power was given to go out and to share the Truth that had come to them.
In the unprogrammed meeting, as the worship proceeds, out of communion with God a message may come to one of the worshipping individuals. Sometimes the message is purely personal; at other times it seems to belong to the meeting. The worshipper is then under divine compulsion to share it with fellow seekers, t0 contribute to the vocal service of the meeting, however haltingly.
In the meetings with pastoral leadership, the pastor may prepare a message and an order of service during the week, but the pastor is only a worshipper among worshippers, and the life of the pastoral worship depends on the response of the group. Ideally the prepared message arises not just from the pastor's own spiritual resources, but from the worship of the group.
Not all meetings, whether pastoral or based on silence, achieve a high level. Yet God does break through the crust of apathy, of worldly preoccupations or lack of preparation. We are humble learners in the school of Christ, and our weaknesses and failures should not deter us. When a meeting for worship gathers in active expectancy of God's presence with complete openness of heart and mind, the power to change lives will arise.
In That Which is Eternal
Friends, meet together and know one another in that which is eternal, which was before the world was.
George Fox: "Epistle 149" (1657), in Works, vol. 7, 1831, p. 141.