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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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iii: testimony and experience of friends

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Corporate Search and Practice

pym in context
quaker faith & spiritual practice
testimony & experience of friends
organization of the society
activities & organization of the YM
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meeting for worship

117 … as iron sharpeneth iron, the seeing of the faces one of another, when both are inwardly gathered unto the life, giveth occasion for the life secretly to rise, and pass from vessel to vessel. And as many candles lighted, and put in one place, do greatly augment the light, and make it more to shine forth, so when many are gathered together into the same life, there more of the glory of God, and his power appears, to the refreshment of each individual…

robert barclay, 1671

118 On one never-to-be-forgotten Sunday morning, I found myself one of a small company of silent worshippers, who were content to sit down together without words, that each one might feel after and draw near to the Divine Presence, unhindered at least, if not helped, by any human utterance.Utterance I knew was free, should the words be given; and, before the meeting was over a sentence or two were uttered in great simplicity by an old and apparently untaught man, rising in his place amongst the rest of us. I did not pay much attention to the words he spoke, and I have no recollection of their purport.My whole soul was filled with the unutterable peace of the undisturbed opportunity for communion with God, with the sense that at last I had found a place where I might, without the faintest suspicion of insincerity, join with others in simply seeking His presence. To sit down in silence could at least pledge me to nothing; it might open to me (as it did that morning) the very gate of heaven.

caroline stephen, 1872

119 We highly prize silent waiting upon the Lord in humble dependence upon him. We esteem it to be a precious part of spiritual worship, and trust that no vocal offering will ever exclude it from its true place in our religious meetings. Let not the silence … be spent in indolent or vacant musing but in patient waiting in humble prayerful expectancy before the Lord.

london yearly meeting, 1886

120 Silence is often a stern discipline, a laying bare of the soul before God, a listening to the “reproof of life.” But the discipline has to be gone through, the reproof has to be submitted to, before we can find our right place in the temple.Words may help and silence may help, but the one thing needful is that the heart should turn to its Maker as the needle turns to the pole. For this we must be still.

caroline stephen, 1908

121 In the united stillness of a truly “gathered” meeting there is a power known only by experience, and mysterious even when most familiar. There are perhaps few things which more readily flow “from vessel to vessel” than quietness. The presence of fellow-worshippers in some gently penetrating manner reveals to the spirit something of the nearness of the Divine Presence. “Where two or three are gathered together in His Name” have we not again and again felt that the promise was fulfilled and that the Master Himself was indeed “in the midst of us”? And it is out of the depths of this stillness that there do arise at times spoken words which, springing from the very source of prayer, have something of the power of prayer— something of its quickening and melting and purifying effect. Such words as these have at least as much power as silence to gather into stillness.

caroline stephen, 1908

122 From its earliest days the Society of Friends has emphasized the importance to the Christian community of a living ministry, freely given in the service of God and man, a task calling for dedication of life and often for the sacrifice of other claims, because it involved not the pursuit of a profession, but obedience to a vocation.

london yearly meeting, 1931

123 The Meeting for Worship raises to the highest plane the relationship of the individual to the group. Since in meeting together for worship we seek as a group to worship God — for this is the essential difference between corporate worship and private devotion — this fact must be consciously or unconsciously present to all taking part, and it would seem a good plan that in the early part of the meeting it should be consciously present that each should lift up the group to God in prayer.

w. russell brain, 1944

124 In 1948, during the formative meeting of the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, a “sample” Quaker Meeting for Worship was held, with most attending for the first time. The following card was in the pews, in German, French, and English: “worship, according to the ancient practice of the Religious Society of Friends, is entirely without any human direction or supervision. … It is not wholly accurate to say that such a Meeting is held on the basis of Silence; it is more accurate to say that it held on the basis of ‘Holy Obedience.’ Those who enter such a Meeting can harm it in two specific ways: first, by an advance determination to speak; and second, by advance determination to keep silent. The only way in which a worshipper can help such is by an advance determination to try to be responsive in listening to the still small voice and doing whatever may be commanded. Such a Meeting is always a high venture of Faith and it is to this venture we invite you this hour.”

d. elton trueblood, 1966

125 True ministry is not simply an expression of views of truth or ideals of conduct. It arises out of personal communion with God in the atmosphere of fellowship with others, whether before or at the time of meeting with them. It should have in it a direct message adapted to their present spiritual needs. To find the right words for a gathered company, whether of vocal prayer or testimony, we need to wait for that sense of call that comes to us from God through the fellowship of hearts that are bound into harmony by the flowing through them of the tides of His living presence. Hence, whatever may have been on our minds beforehand— whatever thoughts we may have worked out under the sense of help from God — must be held loosely, with perfect willingness to refrain from uttering them if the right time has not come. In a large company, where there may be many speakers, it is of special importance that we should thus quietly wait for clear guidance.

london yearly meeting, 1945

126 I returned to Quaker meeting of my childhood. It was the silence that drew me, that deep, healing silence of the meeting at its best, when the search of each is intensified by the search of all, when the ‘gentle motions,’ the ‘breathings and stirrings’ of the Spirit which is within each and beyond all, are expectantly awaited and often experienced.

elizabeth gray vining

127 It must never be presumed that because the call has come once, it will come again. Equally, if it has never come, one must never think it never will. Strictly speaking, all one is called upon to do is to be ready if called, and in this, once more, the distinction between the minister and the ordinary worshipper disappears, for in the silence … God [will] choose whom he will. It has to be said, however, that there are meetings in which there is little sense of divine leading in the spoken ministry, but a lot of reliance of what Friends used to call ‘the creature.’ These flights of imaginative fancy, intellectual preoccupations and emotional difficulties provide much information about the ministers but not a great deal about God.

john punshon, 1987

128 There is no question of one’s worthiness to speak, or of the importance of the message. Rather, the matter at hand is the source of the message. Is it coming from the Friend who would speak, or through him or her? And if the message is coming through the Friend, is the message properly situated in space and time? Is it for the meeting as then and there gathered, or is the message not yet ripe, or meant to be kept to oneself, or better shared after meeting with a more select audience?

lanny jay, 2000

129 The spiritual formation for my work as a healer came out of the Quaker tradition, out of repeatedly hearing the call in Meeting for Worship and testing it against ego’s desire to speak. It comes from once having had a message in Meeting for Worship and not giving it and having a woman stand up beside me in meeting and say, “There is someone in this meeting who has a message who is not giving it.Will thee be faithful?”

elizabeth dearborn, 2000