Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts. George Fox
The foundation of Friends’ activity is our silent meeting for ‘worship’, in which we sit and share a stillness together: a time of being fully attentive to the present moment, of being in the ‘Now’. Quaker worship aims to create a space where we can experience in our hearts the inner promptings of truth and loving-kindness and can let these moments of insight and these feelings teach and transform us.
A Quaker meeting for worship can be a time for individual meditation. The full advantage of being part of the group, though, is that we have the opportunity to hold ourselves aware of and sensitive to all those gathered with us, uniting in a shared activity.
Etymology of the word ‘worship’
The noun worship, which has Anglo-Saxon roots, literally means ‘worth-ship‘ and hence ‘worthiness‘. It came also to mean ‘giving worth to, honouring, revering, being devoted to‘.
In this way, in a spirit of humility while we are at meeting, we give worth to, honour, wait upon something more subtle, profound, illuminating and compassionate than the outcome of the ongoing reactive – perhaps even compulsive – machinations of our discursive minds in their typcial modes of functioning.
From time to time during a meeting, someone may feel moved to share their thoughts. The aspiration is that any words spoken should come from the ‘heart’ rather than the ‘head’. They may carry a helpful, healing or invigorating message for other people. This is called ministry. Anyone can do this: Quakers don’t have priests or anyone leading the worship.
Discussion and argument are not part of this time of silent worship. However, in our Woking meetings there is the opportunity – during the brief ‘afterthoughts’ session – for the sharing of thoughts & feelings that people may not have felt appropriate to bring up during our hour of silence.
True silence … is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. William Penn, 1699
There is no abstract truth. But truth is very subtle. Like a thief in the night, it comes darkly, not when you are prepared to receive it. J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life, 1995
Stillness can be moving. Title of a Quaker leaflet