24 November 2011

Open Worship

A friend recently wrote to me asking whether I knew of a good brief description of what we "programmed" Quakers often call "open worship" or "Communion after the manner of Friends."

(See sidebar here for some terminology information.) 

After doing some looking around, I decided to try to write a description of my own. I hope you'll comment and maybe add your own description, or point me to something better.

Part of the task I've set for myself is to write something that can honor the teaching voice of Friends without using insider language. Have I succeeded? What needs to be changed?

Invitation to open worship:

It's time to meet with God.

In our worship, we hear from each other, from the Bible, from our children, and from our wider community. Now, for the next period of time, we want to set aside all other plans and concerns, and give our full attention to the Holy Spirit.

This kind of quiet prayerful attention comes naturally to some of us. Maybe you begin with a prayer, "God, I love to be with you among your people." Or with a Scripture: "You have been our dwelling place in all generations." You remember the promise of Jesus to be with us when we gather. Then you are ready to wait in trust: God knows what you need -- and what we need as a community.

It's not quite so easy for others. If you're naturally restless, you're not alone! Follow the advice of Douglas Steere, and think of how you might prepare to meet a deservedly famous leader or teacher: Mother Teresa, say, or Albert Schweitzer. You might stop at the doorstep and adjust your jacket or comb your hair. In the same way, take time to anticipate this meeting with the One who loved you into being. There's no hurry. Don't feel guilty about stray thoughts -- just quietly "comb" them away and return to the Center. If the thoughts persist, maybe you need to take them with you to lay at God's feet: "Lord, this is what keeps gnawing at me; please help."

And, if today, for some reason, you can't quiet your soul, simply rest in the silence. Let the rest of us carry this responsibility for today, and just wait in trust. God's word for you today may come through someone else.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit ministers to us in complete silence -- an outer silence in our meeting room and an inward quietness in your heart. But today you may receive a word or idea that seems to be alive with God's love, direction, and wisdom. Does it align with God's character as revealed in the Bible? Does it shine light on some problem you've been wrestling with? Are you called to a new commitment? After open worship ends, you may wish to write down some notes, or talk with an elder or pastor.

Maybe the word you have received is not just for you. The Holy Spirit may be asking you to tell the rest of us what you have been given. Stand up if you can, or simply begin speaking. A microphone will be brought to you. Speak your full message, but no more. If it seems incomplete, let it be so: someone else may have the rest of the message. This is not a time for announcements or opinions; the time remains dedicated to waiting on the Holy Spirit. But, on the other hand, don't wait until the message is "perfect." Some of us may sound as if we're experienced at speaking in open worship, but all of us tremble inwardly when the Spirit speaks through us. Remember: as soon as you stand up or start speaking, others are upholding you in prayer.

A pastor or worship leader will end the period of open worship by asking, "Are all hearts clear?" If a message is about to burst from your lips right at that moment, it's fine to ask for our attention. In any case, the elders and pastors are eager to hear about your experiences in open worship.

Power of Goodness news:
$7,000 more and we're there!

Power of Goodness, 2nd edition, and teachers' manual.

Back in May, I recounted the history of the trilingual peace education/ community mental health project centered on this book.

Last month, Misha Roshchin delivered the layout files to the printer in Grozny. Now the Friends International Library is in its final fundraising push to raise the money to print enough copies to provide for the whole school system. If we can raise $7,000, we will have 4500 copies available. Ideally, we'd like 6,000 copies, so we're not going to turn away more contributions!

The per-unit cost of this book including the children's art that illustrates the stories, is just under $7. How many copies can you help us print?

[This fundraising campaign has concluded. The book itself has continued to develop under the care of its new hosts, Friends Peace Teams.]

Greetings from Chechen psychologists working with  Peacebuilding UK and Power of Goodness

Last week I was impressed (and slightly shocked) by the sight of a Soyuz spacecraft launched in a snowstorm, with three souls aboard. Two days ago the previous crew of the International Space Station returned to snow-swept Kazakhstan in a Soyuz craft. That spacecraft, looking for all the world like a big Thermos bottle on its side, surrounded by scrubgrass and snow, vividly reminded me that, with all the high technology of the human spaceflight program, Mother Nature still rules.

"What Evangelical Women Want: the political gender gap."

Grandfather and granddaughter teaching together: sounds like a fabulous collaboration. Wish I'd been there.

Stan Thornburg on Peter's denial: "Does our 'accent' clearly show that we are people of another Kingdom?"

"Quakers and Occupy: UK summary."

Happy Thanksgiving! Judy's Thanksgiving feast for our colleagues at the New Humanities Institute included cranberry-pear sauce, apple-cranberry-raisin cobbler, cardamom braid with turkey salad filling, pumpkin bread with a tvorog cream layer, and rice salad with kiwi and grapes. This is the fourth time we've put on a Thanksgiving meal for our Institute family. In honor of the holiday, here's a strangely fascinating video on Thanksgiving symbols from Matthew Weathers at Biola University. Thanks to Open Culture.

Angela Strehli -- yet another take on a wonderful old classic, with Marcia Ball on keyboard:


Anonymous said...

Very well done, Johan. I think I'll crib some from it for the "Intro to Meeting" handout my Meeting is preparing for newcomers.

Johan Maurer said...

Thank you. Crib with my blessing!!