Best for me is still Francis Howgill’s words (find at http://qfp.quakerweb.org.uk/qfp19-08.html) about being gathered into a net. Sometimes the messages all connect, but that is not necessarily always a sign of a gathered meeting. I wonder whether all must experiencethe meeting to be gathered in order for it to be gathered…except that I know that someFriends might be so deep that they are beyond experience. I question whether a meetingthat some perceive as gathered and others don’t can in fact be gathered, however.
-Lu from Rochester, NYYM
Not a term I’d use. Sometimes there’s a power one can feel like a high-intensity silencebeing broadcast, sort of a silent om in the air–like what a certain rabbi might have called’chanting aleph.’With a group of Buddhists, invited to lead a period of ‘quaker meditation’–sitting in the front and feeling the ‘energy’ of all those people meditating together…
-Forrest Curo, San Diego Meeting
A covered meeting is one in which the presence of the Spirit of God is palpable for all or nearly all of those present. This may come after many words or after complete silence. Ihave been in many such meetings – too many to single one out for description. At the same time, I have sometimes thought at the time that a meeting was “covered” or “gathered” only to find out later that others perceived it different.
-Anonymous, 15th Street Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting
It has been a long time, unfortunately since I have experienced this. I will never forget ameeting-for-worship with Friends from different traditions. We had wrestled to understand one another and it had been very hard.
At one point, I felt led to share, stood up, heart pounding, and could hardly get a word out. I began to mumble and cry. I sat down frustrated and embarrassed. Soon after, another Friend from another tradition stood to share.
He said, “I think what Betsy meant to say was…” and went on to share the message that had been given to me. He was an FGCer and I was an FUMer and we had very different backgrounds and beliefs. Other Friends from other traditions expanded on the message andsuddenly we were in unison. This was a turning point for our group, and I think we all felt God very present that evening.
-Betsy Blake, First Friends Meeting, Greensboro, NC (NCYM-FUM)
There is a unity of purpose, a core of people who are there doing the same task, worshiping God. No idolatry; humility. Tenderness of heart to each other and to the world, which is required to do God’s bidding.
At the World Gathering of Young Friends, Deborah Saunders ministered and listening to her I knew what I was on earth for and I knew I could be liberated from fear. I think she has a giftof ministry from God and exercised it faithfully. We were there ready to meet with God and toreceive the gift of God through her faithfulness.
-Alice Yaxley, Britain Yearly Meeting
For me, there is a “thickness,” or gravity in the room during a gathered meeting. Timebecomes irrelevant–it neither speeds up or slows down, but just falls away. I could beworshiping for 15 minutes or six hours, and it would still go to that deep place. Most of thegathered meetings I’ve experienced have been called ones. I recall one meeting when thedaughter of a member had been imprisoned overseas, and the following day was going to begoing for trial. A large quotient of people gathered the evening before as a support to theparents and our community. The worship began with fretting and general concern for theimprisoned person. As time went on, there was a change in the room, and you could feel thewhole room turning the matter over to God. I remember the barometric pressure dropping,and a thunderstorm rolling in as we worshiped. Finally the mother of the imprisoned womanspoke (she rarely speaks in meeting), and it was clear that the words were coming throughher, not from her. It was truly no surprise to me when we heard the next day that the trial had gone the best way it could have gone.
-Mia Kissil Hewitt, Chatham-Summit (NYYM)
In my understanding of the terminology, a “gathered meeting” is one in which those present feel bonded together in the presence of the Holy Spirit. In my experience, the air is palpably “thick” with the sense of God’s presence among us. A “covered meeting” is one in which not only are we gathered in God’s love, but the Risen Christ is actively teaching the Body a common lesson. Messages are coming, not just for one person, but for many, for all.In such a meeting, we know the living truth of George Fox’s words, “”Christ is come to teachHis people Himself.””An example of a covered (and gathered) meeting would be the extended worship that was
held at the YAF gathering in Burlington in February, 2007. Christ was present among us, actively teaching us about love and unity. We were being gathered together for a purpose,and shown our oneness in Christ’s Spirit.
-Micah Bales; Great Plains Yearly Meeting
A “gathered” meeting is not easy to describe. I have been in both calm and riotous gatheredmeetings. I think that the hallmarks of a gathered meeting are a felt presence of the Spirit and an openness to follow wherever that Spirit leads. We had some people come by whowere new to Friends and had no idea what to expect from a meeting for worship andbusiness, but actually stopping and entering into times of silence together instead of trying toconvince each other of the validity of our positions really was shocking to them. The desire to discern the will of the Spirit rather than each pushing their own agenda made that meeting special to me.
-Gil George River’s Way Community, NWYM
Another time at Friends General Conference gathering I was hiking in the rain. Later the sun came out and we came upon aglade with pink azaleas. I stood there in silence and as each person arrived they joined me.
-Ruth Hyde, Rochester
I remember one of the first times I went to the Yearly Meeting and worshipped there. Thepull of the silence was so profound that it felt like I needed no preparation or effort to setaside my trivial thoughts and worries. I was like stepping into a whirlpool and remaining there for an hour that seems much too short.
In a gathered meeting, as I have experienced it, it is impossible to draw away from the Divine. One is gladly caught and lifted up and knows that others are experiencing the samething. Imagine the feeling of being at a Peter Paul and Mary Concert, or a Pete Seeger concert, or any concert where everyone is singing the same song with heartfelt joy. It’s like that, but deeper, much deeper and because it is a sense without words, it is known in a different part of ones being than the normal verbal places we inhabit most of the time.
-Sue Tannehill Buffalo, NY
Berkeley Meeting 1999 or 2000 (yes Berkeley! Vine Street Baby!) A friend shared a messagethat truly achieved the purpose of ministry, (was is Samuel Bownas who said it) which is to”take them to the guide and leave them there”. This Friend is a seasoned Friend, who has spent much of his life dedicated to service in the Quaker world.
I was so stirred by the message (which I have no recollection of now – so I was stirred in my encounter with the place that the message took me) that I later erupted in ministry “I am so in love with you God.” This feeling was shared by many in the meeting as many friends toldme after the rise of meeting, and I could, we could, just feel a sense of something muchgreater than all of us put together had happened that morning. As we looked around whileshaking hands, the smiles of peoples faces told the whole story. Covered meeting – no doubt.
-Gordon Bishop Grass Valley Friends Meeting – PacYM
When a meeting is “covered,” that is, when we have allowed God to wrap us all into a common sense of divine presence, sometimes the meeting doesn’t break–the meeting runs long, because whoever is supposed to close it doesn’t want to break the connection; then we all shake hands, or join hands, and fall back into worship.
Different people in such a meeting will have different images and experiences–one might seea web of flame connecting all of those present; another might hear a voice; another might fall into a deep feeling of Presence without words or images. But many or all of those present will know that something has happened that is much deeper than everyday experience,deeper even than many useful and profitable Meetings for Worship.
It is foolish to strive for such a sense of being covered by God’s presence, foolish to engagein discussion or debate about whether this or that meeting was “covered” or “gathered.” Ithappens sometimes. That is enough, and more than enough.
-Anonymous, Strawberry Creek Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting