Experience of Meeting

What is your experience during meeting for worship? What does it feel like to be in Meeting for Worship? What sensations, thoughts, and/or emotions are present while you worship in Meeting?

Collected From an Open Online Survey
6/22/09 – 6/27/09

At the beginning, my experience is one of getting my own thoughts & feelings out of the way.Sometimes I hold individuals or the whole in the Light. When I am most successful in getting self out of the way I settle into the worship, there is a quality of resting in Spirit. Unless of course Spirit has something particularly for me, in which case it may not be restful at all!

-Lu from Rochester, NYYM

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“This varies a lot. I am trying, sometimes intensely, to relax & get off the squirrel wheel enough to let God it a word in. It used to matter more whether this was a word to pass on to the rest of the group. Usually I’m annoyed at the beginning by people chattering before they start. I’ve generally stopped the nodding-out-&-catching-my-falling-head over the years.There are times (usually with another group) where I can feel the ‘power’ of other people tuning in. (It’s hard to say what this is like.

-Forrest Curo, San Diego Meeting

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My experience in Meeting for Worship varies from week to week. Sometimes I am able to”center down” quite readily and find the still spot where I can feel God’s presence and hear God’s voice. Other times this takes much longer, as I labor to get through the layers of”stuff” that I have brought into the room from my daily life: anxieties, cares, wishes, hopes,etc. Getting through these layers successfully doesn’t mean suppressing them but somehowoffering them up. Hard to describe.

-Anonymous, 15th Street Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting

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Do you mean the usual, or the ideal? Usually, I am running late, and my hair is wet from the shower. I am out-of-breath and met by a certain usher who quietly teases me as he hands me a bulletin. I enter quietly and sit near the back while announcements are being delivered. I breathe and try and center and be present to the Spirit that is there. I do my best to open and listen and catch a thread of groundedness to carry me through the programmed parts of the service. I appreciate the program. I love to sing and lift my voiceto praise the Divine alongside my community. I listen to the concerns of the community, the scripture and the prepared message and try to hear God in it. What is God trying to teachme? I always look forward to the silence. The last part of our service is unprogrammed. I think of the silence, or “”communion in the manner of Friends”” as a clear, blue swimming pool in which I can spiritually cleanse.

In full-hour unprogrammed worship there is an opportunity to sort of slowly wade in, get used to the water, and slowly soak, and eventually to gracefully glide under the water for a bit, before hanging out at the side, and exiting.

There’s no time for this in a programmed or semi-programmed worship. It’s time to get down to business. So you *dive*–jump right in and feel it, all the way. The shock, the sharp intake of breath, the dousing of goodness.

I jump in and breathe (or vice versa) and immediately start pouring out my heart in prayer. I play, I see how long I can stay underwater, present to the experience, and if its a particularly good, centered time, I may try and sit on the bottom, rest in God’s magic peace.I listen, and try and be present. The thoughts that come, I check in with my gut, heart, and mind. Is this for me, God? Anything that should be shared?(This is my internal dialogue.)

No? Whew, okay, just you and me.

Yes? Really? What? Are you serious? I must be making this up. Okay, I am gonna get really still and listen. Are you still talking, really?

-Betsy Blake, First Friends Meeting, Greensboro, NC (NCYM-FUM)

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I wait on God. I wait on God like a daughter who has a highly valued and respected parent or beloved teacher in their house, in joy at the visit and ready to do what God wants. God is the one with the plan and the power, not me.It can be hard work and boring especially if people are confused or spiritually asleep. I think the point is not to evade what is real but to bring everything into Christ’s light. Sometimes it is a real rest and blessing, when I can feel a unity with other Friends, fellow labourers for Truth.

I attempt to worship God by centring myself in Christ’s love and light. If stuff is bothering me and I am finding it hard to worship, I pray to be able to worship God as God wants to be worshiped. I try to listen to the messages with God’s love and understanding, and I try to join in with sung ministry and prayers, either with my spirit or with my voice as seems appropriate.

-Alice Yaxley, Britain Yearly Meeting

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My experience in meeting for worship is different depending on the day, the weather, how much sleep I’ve gotten the night before, you name it–it basically comes down to what baggage (mental or emotional) I’ve brought with me, or conversely been able to lay down prior to coming. Most of the time, my feelings about being in meeting for worship run along a spectrum, anywhere from “well, this was a nice pause to my otherwise hectic life” to “I’ve just been hit over the head by a spiritual 2×4” (although lately, I have to admit to feeling less of the latter and more of the former). I’ve experienced the quaking sensation of needing to give voice to a message I’ve received, not often, but sometimes.

-Mia Kissil Hewitt, Chatham-Summit (NYYM)

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“It depends on the particular meeting for worship which I attend. Some meetings are very dry, and I find it very difficult to be centered at all. My thoughts wander and I feel very far from God. In other meetings, however, God feels very near to me and I am comforted and/or instructed in how I am to move forward. Some meetings, some very precious meetings, are such that I feel God’s presence not only with me, but with the whole group. Somehow, I sense God present in the gathered Body, not just in my own individual life. Messages – of challenge and of comfort – come for the gathered Body, not just for me.

I cannot be sure what makes one meeting for worship different from another, but I have my theories. I believe that the humility and receptiveness to God’s guidance in the hearts of those gathered makes the difference between a dry meeting and a gathered meeting. When we are full of self and think we have the answers, we do not let God in to give us the Answer.

If we have spent the week forgetting God, one hour on Sunday is normally not enough to rouse us from our stupor. If, however, we strive for faithfulness throughout the week, being disciplined in our prayer and handing continually our lives over to God, I believe that our meetings for worship will be rich indeed; we will feel Christ’s presence among us and be spurred into action for His Kingdom.

-Micah Bales; Great Plains Yearly Meeting

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My experience is one of release and a quieting of my spirit after a week of information overload. For the first little bit my emotions, thoughts and sensations are heightened, almost frenzied, and as time passes a stillness creeps in and brings my tired mind to rest.

-Gil George River’s Way Community, NWYM

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I am aware that everyone is working on their spiritual journeys. Sometimes I have thoughts I want to share; i push them down- if they persist, I share them. It is very rewarding whensomeone gives another message related to mine that helps me enlarge the thought or thanks me for the message. I always spend sometime in thanksgiving.

-Ruth Hyde, Rochester

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It varies. When I am spiritually dry it doesn’t feel like much, but I know that I need to keep coming during those times for the sake of the long haul. There are thoughts and emotions that I bring with me when I come to meeting. Coming to meeting is a time to set personal thoughts aside and just listen. During good periods I am able to do this and often “hear”God speaking to me. It is not an actual sound. It is more like the sensation you get of understanding what you have heard just after someone has spoken to you.

-Anonymous, NCYM-C

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The experience is varied, depending on how well prepared I am for meeting, what is going onin my life and how capable I am of drawing close to the Inner Light. I have literally shaken before a message and find myself shivering when I have delivered the message. I don’t speak unless I have some very specific physical cues that I have learned to “read” as signs that the message is to be shared.I love meeting for worship. What does it feel like? The most consistent feeling is when it begins and I settle into the silence like I would settle into a hot bath after a long cold afternoon of cross country skiing. There is a sense of doing what is exactly right to do when I begin meeting for worship.

-Sue Tannehill Buffalo, NY

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Meeting for Worship carries a range of feelings, thoughts, and emotions for me, most of which I wish I could ignore, and simply bask in the Presence. I think of a lot of good ideas that are not Meant to be shared. I have a lot of judgments that are only useful to me if I figure out where they are really coming from. More recently, as a time strapped parent, I feel great gratitude for the space of worship, although this often is paired with a tiredness I wish would go away for an hour.

When I get centered, for that brief moment, I feel Truth waiting to be tested or heard. I feel notions that are so much more true than my own ideas. I feel a palpable presence, rarely,that settles me into my faith, reminding me that we have access to Depths far beyond ourselves, that there is always a Hand at my back, and that my purpose is more complex than I can imagine (although probably quite simple too)

-Gordon Bishop Grass Valley Friends Meeting – PacYM

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I step across the threshold into the Divine Presence. Sometimes. Sometimes it takes me along time to wake up or calm my thoughts enough to be fully present and aware of that presence.

-Anonymous, Strawberry Creek Meeting, Pacific Yearly Meeting