Quaker-pocalypse—Advancement and Worship
May 23, 2015 § 2 Comments
In my first post on Quaker-pocalypse and Advancement, I said that, to advance Quakerism we needed three things: a vital religious life, a message, and vehicles for outreach. The first item under a vital religious life was worship. Here are some queries designed for meetings to assess how they are doing with worship, to plum what is the experience of people who come into your worship—newcomers, attenders, and members.
The gathered meeting
- The one solid indicator of a vital worship life, of worship that offers “true communion with God”, is an occasional gathered meeting for worship. When was the last time your meeting was gathered in the Spirit? What are the chances that someone who comes to your meeting a few times over a few months would experience a gathered meeting? Do you talk about the gathered meeting, especially with attenders who may not yet have experienced one?
Attitudes toward worship
- Do you know what the members of your meeting think of your meeting’s worship and its vocal ministry? Would you consider conducting an anonymous survey to determine how your members and attenders feel? Would your meeting act if you found out that a meaningful percentage of Friends were unsatisfied with some aspect of the worship?
- Ministry and the Spirit. Do you think your meeting’s vocal ministry is mostly spirit-led? Does your meeting do anything to explain the conventions around vocal ministry to attenders and new members, or are they left to figure it out for themselves? Does your meeting offer members opportunities to share their experience of vocal ministry, or to learn about vocal ministry?
- Calling. Does your meeting have people who seem to be called to vocal ministry? Not just Friends who speak quite often, but Friends for whom this seems to be a calling, who take the calling seriously, and whose ministry is pretty consistently spiritually deep and edifying? Is your meeting recognizing their gifts? Is your meeting engaged with these Friends, offering them support for their ministry, if they want it?
- Christian vocal ministry. Are Christian, biblical, and even gospel ministry welcome in your meeting? Are they common? If not (in either case), why not? Do you agree that we are a Christian religion, even if many or even most of the members are not Christians in their own experience?
- Authority and mandate. Does someone in your meeting (your ministry committee?) have clear authority and a clear mandate to protect your worship from inappropriate behavior? Are you and they clear about what “inappropriate behavior” deserves attention? Do these Friends feel equipped to act with some confidence when needed?
- Noise. Do Friends socialize right outside the meeting room door up to and even past the beginning time for meeting? Can you reroute the conversation to some other location?
- Tardiness. Do Friends consistently enter the meeting room late? How late? Have you considered holding latecomers at the door and then letting them in together? Would that feel even more disruptive?
- Seating. Did you know that the most effective way to foster a gathered meeting, after loving one another, is to sit close together? * And that the most effective way to obstruct a gathered meeting, after letting conflict go unaddressed, is to sit far apart? Does your meeting room allow Friends to sit far away from each other? Would you consider reconfiguring the meeting room so that Friends are near each other when they worship? (I personally believe that the human aura is the primary medium for the psychic sharing that one experiences in a gathered meeting for worship; pure conjecture, of course.)
- Afterthoughts. Do you have “afterthoughts” after meeting and, if so, have you reconsidered their usefulness recently? I personally suspect that afterthoughts distort the vocal ministry, but I think it’s basically impossible to know how they distort it. The fact that afterthoughts might have some unknown feedback effect on the ministry is reason enough to discontinue the practice, in my opinion.
- Announcements. Have you considered moving announcements to the social room and social time after meeting for worship, especially if you are a large meeting with many announcements? My meeting actually has a small PA system for this in the social room, so that it’s easy to interrupt conversation and do the announcements.
* These ideas come from a State of the Meeting Report of New York Yearly Meeting some time in the early 1990s. The Yearly Meeting sends queries to the local meetings for them to use in writing their state of the meeting reports, and the state of the meeting reports are used to write the Yearly Meeting’s State of the Society Report. The queries that year had to do with the gathered meeting:
- How do you define a gathered meeting?
- How often do you experience a gathered meeting?
- How do you know when a meeting is gathered?
- What fosters a gathered meeting and what hinders a gathered meeting?
The most often occurring answers to number four were sitting close together and sitting far apart.