Meeting for Worship
- How Shall I Use My Time in Meeting for Worship?
- Meeting for Worship at AFS
- Meeting for Worship with Preschoolers
- New "Assembling" Brings New Energy
- Quaker Meeting for Worship
- Queries and Spiritual Life at Stratford Friends
- Seeking the Light
- Themes for Worship and Exploration
- Worship Sharing Guidelines
- We're Going to Meeting!
- Worship Sharing with Shiny Stones
How Shall I Use My Time in Meeting for Worship?
From Tuning In: Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning, pp. 76-77
1. Come into Meeting quietly. The meeting for worship begins as soon as the first person enters the Meetinghouse, and often the quality of a Meeting is related to how quietly it begins. Please do not disturb others as they worship. If you must leave before Meeting is over, go quietly, and sit in the back of the Meetinghouse when you return.
2. Sit appropriately. Find a comfortable position with your back straight. Many Friends also find it helpful to close their eyes during Meeting. These two simple acts can help you to become calm in body, mind and spirit. Please DON'T put your feet on the benches, just as you wouldn't in a church or synagogue. The Meetinghouse is a place of worship.
3. Listen deeply. Meeting is a quiet time for listening to the "inward teacher." Please do not whisper or talk with friends during Meeting and do not read during Meeting. (Although reading the Bible--or other sacred scripture--is acceptable.) Avoid any behavior which might disturb others.
4. Come to Meeting, "with heart and mind prepared." Friends do not go to Meeting with a prepared speech; nor do we go determined either to speak or not to speak. We speak when we are moved by the spirit within. However, you can bring to Meeting other people's ideas which you have found meaningful. They may help others. Words from the Bible and from Quaker history are often used in this way by Friends. It's fine--and appropriate--to share significant thoughts, ideas, or stories from your own experience and study.
5. Work to "tune in," to the 'feel' of the Meeting, which is deeper than your individual thoughts. If you give too much attention to your own ideas and emotions, you may not be able to realize the shared experience of the meeting for worship.
6. Be open to speaking in Meeting! Messages in Meeting are usually brief statements of insight, inspiration or concern. Often when people feel called to speak in Meeting, they feel their heart begin to beat rapidly. If you feel called to speak, speak! But DO speak loudly enough so that you may be heard by everyone in the Meetinghouse.
7. Allow for a time of reflection between messages. Every message should be followed by a time of at least several minutes of silence. Meeting for worship is a time for listening, not for discussion or debate. Remember that you can learn from messages with which you may not agree.
8. Shake hands with others at the end of Meeting. It's a good chance to greet friends, and maybe make new ones.
9. Share your reactions with people who spoke in Meeting. If you appreciated someone's message, tell her/him so. The feedback will mean a lot.
Meeting for Worship with Preschoolers
Forty 2 to 5 year olds gather twice daily, once at each morning and afternoon session, at Fairville Friends School (Mendenhall, Pennsylvania). As children enter the school’s newly-built, light-filled Meeting Room, they pick up a carpet square to sit upon. In the beginning of the school year, head of school Barbara Marchese leads Meeting, spending time acclimating children to the way to sit quietly (“criss-cross- applesauce”), what to do with their hands (“Open, shut them . . . place them in your lap”), and to various ways of listening. Led by teachers, Meeting begins with songs and often centers on children’s literature with relevant themes such as family, peace, friendship, and nature. After reading a book, a teacher poses a question for the children to consider during the silence.
“Then we all bring the silence down together,” Barbara says. Everyone raises their hands high, and all bring their hands down to signify the start of worship. All are quiet for about one full minute, “which is sufficiently long for them,” says Barbara. The teacher then breaks silence and asks the children to share their thoughts around the question. Some sharings are directly related to the question and are profound (“Friends are people who care about you”), some are heartfelt (“I love my mommy”), and others simply express what’s on a preschooler’s mind (“I got new shoes!”). “Meeting is a safe place to share thoughts and feelings. It sets the tone for everything here,” says Barbara. Favorite titles from Fairville’s Meeting bookshelf include:
A Little Peace, Barbara Kerley
Somewhere Today, Shelley Moore Thomas
If Peace Is . . . , Jane Baskwill
Because of You, B.G. Hennessy
Each Living Thing, Joanne Ryder
All the Colors of the Earth, Sheila Hamanaka
My Mother Is Mine, Marion Dane Bauer
And Here’s to You!, David Elliott
New "Assembling" Brings New Energy
Galen Horst-Martz, Friends Select School
One of the high points of the week at Friends Select School (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is the short walk to the Race Street Meetinghouse for weekly Meeting for Worship. Traditionally, each of the three divisions of the school had its own time slot for Meeting.
Friends Select’s Quakerism Committee, made up of students and faculty, has been seeking ways to strengthen the ties between the middle and upper school divisions. Last year, a new six day rotation schedule of classes inspired a change: we began combining the two divisions for a larger Meeting for Worship twice a month, with each group still meeting as a single division once a month. For the remaining week, one division meets alone in the Meetinghouse for unprogrammed worship while the other division remains in classrooms to have worship sharing in smaller groups.
The rearrangement has led to some very positive developments. The combined Meetings give the younger students, who usually offer little spoken ministry, a chance to observe the older students speaking in meeting, and perhaps to find their own voices. Increased oppor- tunities for worship sharing provide a smaller setting for students who may be intimidated by the large grouping, and can gain confidence in speaking in the more intimate gatherings.
At the first such combined Meeting many sensed a new energy and richness not felt each week. One speaker compared it to being at a wedding with the two families coming together to witness the beginning of a new union.
Queries and Spiritual Life
Stratford Friends School
Every morning at Stratford Friends School the day begins with Meeting for Worship. On some days it is silent and the sun streams through the window and the only sounds are the birds and the traffic outside. On other days Teacher Julia, the music teacher, plays the piano or harp. About once a week we have a query. Queries are questions written by a group of the oldest students in the school. The Query Committee meets once a month to write queries and to decide on a schedule of closing meeting. By being the ones to close meeting, ask for announcements and dismiss teams, the students take ownership of the Meeting for Worship time.
When the Query Committee meets, they struggle with what sorts of questions are spiritual. Sometimes the queries are topical and have to do with what is going on at school or in the world. “How can we welcome new people to the school?” and “What would you do if the whole world were at peace?” were two recent queries. Sometimes the queries have to do with the time of the year. “When you give thanks, whom do you give it to?” was a Thanksgiving time query. “How can we say good-bye to those who are graduating?” is an end of the year query.
The faculty also has a committee that thinks about Meeting for Worship. The Spiritual Life Committee makes sure that the teams do activities to prepare students for Meeting for Worship. They also think of the other ideas to make Meeting for Worship and the spiritual life of the school more meaningful. This year they have set up a schedule for teams to bring in a “focus object.” This is usually a natural object of beauty or meaning that is put in the center of the room during Meeting for Worship. The objects have varied from live chicks that were just hatching in Teacher Richard’s science room to the first beautiful daffodils in the spring. At the beginning of the year, the Spiritual Life Committee organizes the writing of the school’s Spirit Document. You can read this year’s document, which is hanging in the front hall. We begin with talking in teams about what the word “spirit” means. Then students brainstorm ideas about how to make the SGS spirit the way we want it this year. During Meeting for Worship the various ideas form the teams are shared and discussed. After as many drafts as are needed for all to be able to agree to it, the document is written on a large piece of paper and everyone in the school community signs it.
Stratford Friends School Streamer Fall/Winter 2005
Seeking the Light: How We Value Worshipping Together in Meeting for Worship
Friends Select School - Lower School students reflect on their individual experiences in our worshipping community, on preparation for Meeting for Worship, what it means to be present in Meeting and what we take away from Meeting for Worship
View the file: Seeking_the_Light
Themes for Worship and Exploration
Friends School of Portland, Maine, a pre-school-7th grade school with 54 students, sets monthly themes to guide all-school worship on Mondays, and all-school assemblies on Fridays. Friends School of Portland’s theme for December is “Light.” The Grade 3-4 class created the following queries which were read at the all- school Meeting for Worship each week.
Queries on Light
What is light?
How does light influence my concentration in the day?
How can light help us?
How do I shine light on everyone no matter who they are or what they have done?
Do I seek to find the light in everyone and everything?
How do I store the light?
How do I fill myself with light?
How do we find light in the darkest month of the year?
How do I find the courage to seek light when sorrow fills the earth?
Weekly assemblies give students a kinesthetic opportunity to engage and reflect on these themes. For the Light theme, older students worked with their younger student buddies to cut out stars. Each student pair wrote on the star what about them shines. In a later assembly, students pasted their shining stars into constellation maps. In another assembly, student pairs cut out candle shapes on which they wrote a hope for the world, and hung them around the school. Other themes for the year include: winter survival and celebration; warmth and love; service and change; spring, rebirth and Earth Day; peace; and endings and beginnings.
Worship Sharing Guidelines
What is worship sharing?
Worship Sharing is a tool for engaging focus (shining the Light) deeply and sharply on a specific topic or issue.
Worship sharing is similar to meeting for worship in that each spoken message is followed by silent reflection. The difference is that in worship sharing each person has a turn to speak and there is one common focus for the gathering.
Introducing worship sharing.
How to formulate a query?
Objective: To develop a query that can be explored in a deep and meaningful way that is accessible to children.
Introduction for the Children:
Sample Queries for Young Children:
Sample Queries for Middle School students:
Sample Queries for High School students:
Students of any age are quite adept at formulating their own queries. In some Friends schools, each class takes a turn formulating a query for a larger group either for worship sharing or for meeting for worship. Some Friends schools have committees of students and faculty at each division level to look after the spiritual life of the school. These committees are a good source for developing queries.
An excellent source for queries is any Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice.
For more lessons on centering with children, see these resources available at www.friendscouncil.org
We're Going to Meeting!
Written and illustrated by Stacey Currie, preschool teacher, Haddonfield Friends School
A beautiful picture book for young children, available and downloadable online. Click here to view.
Worship Sharing with Shiny Stones
Plymouth Meeting Friends School
Each grade takes a turn generating queries as the focus for worship sharing. Classes often combine, with older students joining their “meeting buddies.” This year, many classes use centering objects from nature. The Primary classes (1st and 2nd grades) choose a shiny stone from a basket at the start of worship. As they center on the queries, students share their thoughts as they feel led, then put their stone back in the basket.
The Primary classes (1st and 2nd grades) choose a shiny stone from a basket at the start of worship. As they center on the queries, students share their thoughts as they feel led, then put their stone back in the basket. “Using centering objects made a huge difference in how students have responded to the queries: you hold the stone, and when you have something of a deep nature to say, you have one chance, either to say it aloud or to hold your thought as you return your stone to the basket. It made their space to speak important, and they are more reflective,” says Primary teacher Debbie Bakan.
Love, Admiration, Respect: Meeting for Worship in the Classroom
By Christie Duncan-Tessmer, excerpted from Tuning In: Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning
Meeting for Worship as Reflective Practice
By Irene McHenry, excerpted from Tuning In: Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning
MFW as Reflective Practice
Meeting for Worship, School Children, and You
By Mark Franek
Should I Speak in Meeting for Worship?
Middle School Meeting for Worship
A How-to Guide by 6th Graders
Written by 6th grade students of Westtown School.
Reflections on Meeting for Worship
By Michael DeHart, former head of Thornton Friends School (58kb PDF)
Reflection on Sidwell Friends School’s new meetinghouse
By Richard Brady (44kb)