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Eldering, Care of Worship & the Ministry of Presence at NEYM Sessions
The president of Haverford College, back in 1933-1934, … was William Wistar Comfort... He sat at the head of the meeting for worship in the old meetinghouse where all the students and faculty sat in worship together at least once a week. I did not hear him say a word in meeting. … His silent ministry, radiating love and teachableness, and strength to all of us in the room, is still working good things in me. It is extraordinary to be a former student who can say, “I remember clearly his beautiful silence.” (From: A Little Journal of Devotions out of Quaker Worship: An experiment with 104 entries across two thousand miles, p. 4, by Francis D. Hole & Ellie Shacter, Quaker Press of FGC, Philadelphia PA, 2001.)
Today, there are no longer facing benches in most of our meetinghouses. Yet the Inner Teacher leads some Friends to the eldership practiced by William Wistar Comfort. Friends with a bent to this form of eldering describe their experience in a variety of ways: holding those gathered in prayer or in the Light, weaving a container of loving energy, welcoming the presence of the Divine, sinking down into the dark fertile womb of Mother Earth... It is a silent ministry of willingness to be used by God, by Life, to help empower those gathered in worship and business by “radiating love and teachableness, and strength.”
During Annual Sessions, a row of facing chairs is placed to the side of the raised platform in the Pavillion, and in front of the stage in the Performing Arts Center. NEYM Ministry & Counsel invites Friends to serve the function of elders, grounding and holding the body from the facing chairs, during Meeting for Worship, the Plenary Address, Bible Half-Hour, Meeting for Worship for Business, and Sunday’s Memorial Meeting. If you would like to know more, please contact the clerk of Ministry & Counsel [email protected]. You can indicate your willingness to join others on the facing chairs by marking “Care of Worship” in the Volunteer Choices section of the registration form for Annual Sessions.