Thousand Islands Meeting
Kingston, Ontario    CANADA

Your First Time at a Quaker Meeting

Welcome! We are very glad you are here. May we make some suggestions to help your worship with us?

Go into the meeting room as soon as you are ready. It is a good thing if a meeting can settle down a few minutes before the appointed time.

Sit anywhere you like, but it is helpful to leave the seats near the door for late-comers. Even to the shy we say, “Come right in to the meeting; don’t stay on the fringes unless you must.”

A Quaker meeting is based on silence, but it is a silence of waiting, of expectancy. When you lift your heart to God you are contributing to the common worship as well as to your own renewal. There is no “minister,” for all may minister. Nobody specially chosen, no officer, will start the meeting, or conduct it. It is in our hands, corporately. Everyone present shares responsibility for worship and can share in its blessing.

You may be disturbed by the strangeness of the silence, by distractions outside or by your own roving thoughts. Do not worry about this, but return again and again to the still centre of your being where God is. Try, if only for an instant, to be quiet in body, mind and soul.

The silence will be broken when one of the worshippers feels that the moment has come for vocal prayer, praise in song, reading or ministry. Anyone present is free to speak if he or she feels moved to it by the spirit of God.
Receive what is said in a loving spirit. Each message rightly given will help somebody, but our needs are different and can be met only in different ways. If the message does not ‘speak to your condition’ try nevertheless to reach the spirit behind the words. The speaker wants to help the meeting; take care not to reject the offering by negative criticism.

We are in the presence of the universal spirit, worthy of worship. Consider the wonders of the earth and the glories of the heavens. Reflect on the teachings of peace, justice and mercy coming down to us from Jesus and other exemplars of the distant and recent past. Feel the healing and creative power that is present.

The meeting will end when someone, usually the clerk, rises and others follow to join hands in a circle. (In larger meetings, the clerk or elders may shake hands with their neighbours.) We return to our seats for introductions and any ‘after thoughts.’ There may be refreshments. There is always opportunity to speak with people and ask questions. You may borrow books and take handouts from the library.

While sitting in our meeting for the first time, you may find it helpful to re-read this leaflet; perhaps especially the underlined paragraph.

Margaret Springer recalls her first meeting for worship:

. . . But gradually the silence deepens. I am less aware of my surroundings. I hardly notice when someone rises and beckons to the children. A shuffle of feet on the floor. A murmur of voices. Time seems suspended.

Then someone speaks, about looking for God in our lives. Again there is silence. Sometimes I sense a feeling of deep peace and timelessness, and catch a glimpse of a profoundly moving religious experience, of God in our midst. At other times I am aware of the distractions, and of the length of the silence. Another person speaks about what this group has mean to him. More silence. Then suddenly the hour has passed. We are all shaking hands with those on each side of us introducing ourselves, talking, stretching, collecting children, or going to the kitchen to start lunch. The spell has broken, My first Quaker meeting for worship has ended.
(In Canadian Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice. Practice 3.19)

(Adapted from Friends Home Service Committee, Britain Yearly Meeting)


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