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Faith and Practice

Pacific Yearly Meeting

of the

Religious Society of Friends

a guide to quaker discipline in the experience of pacific yearly meeting of the religious society of friends.
published 2001

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ii: quaker faith and spiritual practice

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Worship And The Meeting

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
sources of quotations
index of sources
subject index

We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Friends who have permitted us to use material for this Faith and Practice.


Meeting For Worship

vocal ministry and faithful listening

 Just as careful preparation enhances the quality of worship, so too does attention to the Light during worship. Friends come to worship to receive and to give, to speak when led, to be silent when that is what obedience requires. Vocal ministry is a vital part of the Meeting for Worship. It is a form of service in which a person stands to share a message from God delivered through the individual. Friends hope that all spoken messages during worship are in fact vocal ministry. The responsibility rests on each member of the group to be ready and willing to offer such ministry when called to do so.

 As one sits in silence, a message may arise out of the depth of the soul that seems intended not simply for the worshiper, but for the gathering as a whole. Some Friends feel burdened with a sense of omission if a message is not expressed, but once it is faithfully uttered, a sense of inward peace may follow. Experience in Meeting helps to discriminate between private words and those that arise as true leadings of the Spirit that should not be silenced. An inclination to share a message may arise in advance of Meeting, but the decision to speak should await a clear leading at the time.With practice, a person may learn to discern a call clearly, though many are quite unable to describe its quality.

 Some worshipers called to speak feel an internal or external quaking, deep emotion, tears, an increased heart rate, or other agitation. Some have felt grabbed by the hand of God and held until after delivering the message. One person feels a profound stillness accompanied by a clear voice that is not her own. Another may find himself suddenly standing, and then wait, praying silently for guidance, before beginning to speak. Still another may test a message by repeatedly pushing it ‘out of mind’ only to find that it returns again and again.

 As one is weighing whether to speak, certain questions may be helpful: Is this message Spirit-led, or merely emotionally compelling? Is this message intended for this group, or is it only for me? Is it better saved until another time or place? When the call to speak is clear, the worshiper should stand if possible. He or she should speak simply, briefly, audibly, and from personal spiritual experience. Occasionally, ministry may take the form of singing or of standing silently. Neither debate, nor discussion with previous speakers, is ever appropriate, and speaking twice during a single Meeting for Worship is very seldom so.

 Those who are led to speak have different backgrounds, verbal skills and interpretive power. Friends try to listen more than they speak, keep an open heart, seek the Spirit behind the words and hold the speaker in love. Listeners may find it helpful to pray that the messenger is faithful to the call, and that God’s word will emerge through the medium of human speech. A message that does not speak to one person’s needs may be helpful to another. After a message has been given, it is important to allow time to ponder its meaning, letting the Spirit move through the assembly of Friends before another ministers.