Worship: After the Manner of Friends
Below is a description of a Quaker meeting which has a significant contemplative aspect. Having read the description below you could experiment in a group with this type of meeting.
Friends (Quakers) believe that the Light within is not an abstract phrase but an experience, that the Light is present and everyone can, if he or she wishes, have a living experience of God within. The Light is not divided, but the same Light is in all and is a force for unity and we can therefore test our leadings in community.
It is in silence that we come closest to God. The silent meeting is not an end in itself, but the silence leads us into stillness and the stillness leads to an awareness of the presence of God. Friends use the term 'gathered meeting' to describe times when those present are gathered in the sense of being drawn into a common centre. The Presence is felt and the silence takes on a new quality.
Out of this silence a Friend may be moved to stand and speak. The word 'moved' is used literally, for many Friends experience a pounding of the heart (quite unlike stage fright), and often other physical symptoms which come upon them if they are given ministry to offer.
Ministry should arise, as Friends say, out of the exercise of the meeting. They do not come to meeting determined to speak (or not to speak). Certainly they would by devotional reading, prayer, or meditation prepare themselves through the week but would only speak if they were moved to do so. Spoken ministry should arise out of the silence and lead back into it. This is not a time for debate, discussion or critical analysis. Thoughts may come which are not for sharing. They may be for yourself alone or may even be the seed of ministry which may appropriately be spoken on some future occasion.
The ministry of one may become the seed for the meditation of another. If this happens, he or she may in turn be moved to speak so that a common theme is developed that grips the mind of all those present and they find themselves drawn into a unity in which the Presence of the spirit of God is realised. At its best, the meeting for worship will justify the claim, in humility, that Christ's real presence is known when two or three are gathered together in quiet expectancy.
Quaker meetings for worship are usually closed after one hour by an Elder shaking hands with one seated nearby which gesture is taken up by others. But an Elder, who is sensitive to the life of the Spirit in the meeting, may either close it sooner or let it run on for a while if either course is appropriate.