Guest post: What really happens at a Meeting for Worship?

This is a guest post by Amy Baker, San Francisco Monthly Meeting & San Francisco Friends School Quaker Life Committee member. Reprinted with her permission from the "Quaker Question" column in the SF Friends School newsletter.
I remember the first time I went to a Quaker Meeting. The things I didn’t know about the Quaker faith could fill a book, and I was utterly at a loss as to what to DO. There were none of the usual cues- no priest, no prayerful call & response, not even a cross on the wall indicating what direction to face. I fidgeted and felt self conscious and then finally hit an “aha” moment: you mean, this is up to ME? This relationship with God, this form of worship, the ability to find meaning in silence?

It was a radical thought.

I also remember the ministry that was shared. To this day I turn over the words, the messages. At the time I marveled at how accessible the message was -- simply spoken, grounded in personal experience, but related to a worldly outlook and to a spiritual challenge faced by the speaker. Some of the messages related directly to inner struggles of my own, not yet articulated.

It was a revelation that a form of worship that had less structure could be more relevant, and somehow speak to me directly. Back in San Francisco, I sought out the Meeting House and went a few times on my own, before becoming a regular attender. At first I enjoyed the respite, the completely accepting and non judgmental environment. Later, as I understood more of theological underpinnings
that create such a space, I experienced Meeting on a more spiritual level. Soon I noticed that if I didn’t go to Meeting, my week was missing something.

Not all Meetings for Worship are like that first one I went to- sometimes I spend the entire hour trying to quell the mind chatter.

Some are even more powerful. Each one is different and yet I have worshipped this same way in several different US cities and a few foreign countries and they are remarkably similar, right down to the announcements after.

As the Quaker guide Faith & Practice puts it: “The Meeting for Worship is the core of the Quaker practice. There, Friends gather together in expectant silence… without prearranged program. Meeting for Worship is different from solitary prayer... Friends seek connection to one another and to God dwelling among them. In some Meetings, the ministry may have a common theme, each message deepening and enriching the other, and connecting to one’s own thoughts. Some Meetings are entirely silent... Together we can more clearly see Truth; we can better receive and understand continuing revelation.”

If you have ever been curious to join a Meeting for Worship, as practiced by the San Francisco Monthly Meeting, please join other members of the SF Friends School community on Sunday, December 7th at 11am. The Meeting House is at 65 9th Street, between Mission & Market.

There is a short intro session at 10:40 if you want a primer, and there is supervision for children who choose not to stay in the Meeting after the first 15 minutes. There is also a caregiver in the nursery for babies and toddlers. We would love to see you there!

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