What Should I Expect at a Meeting?
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Meetings are held twice a month on the second and fourth First Days (Sundays). Dress is casual. Enter through the front door and go down the stairs. There is also elevator access.
2:30 - Silent worship begins
3:15 - Clerk signals the Rise of Meeting
3:20 - Refreshments (All attenders are encouraged to bring light finger foods to share.)
3:30 - Children attend First Day School* while adults return for Joys / Concerns and book study or worship sharing (second First Days) or Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business (fourth First Days).
All activity usually concludes by 4:15.
*First Day School is geared toward the school-aged child (ages 5-12), but children younger may attend with a parent or guardian. Teens may also attend and even enjoy helping with the lesson. Teachers are on a rotation, and the lessons are prepared by the clerk who has a Master's degree in Education and holds a teaching certification in the state of Georgia. Lessons focus on one or more of the Quaker Testimonies (see the "Beliefs" page) and typically incorporate literature and a hands-on activity or game. The class meets in the corner of the same large room shared by the adults.
If you are a newcomer to Quakerism, especially the unprogrammed, meditative branch of Friends General Conference (FGC), the Quaker approach to worship may seem unusual to you at first, even difficult. The worship is unprogrammed and meditative, and all attenders share equally in the worship experience. During these times of "silent expectancy," we may receive insights, or "leadings," that may be audibly shared, thereby ministering to the group. Although a clerk facilitates, there is no paid or ordained pastoral figure. Participation often takes repeated practice to build appreciation for the tradition and realize benefit.
Newcomers often wonder if there is overlap between Quaker worship and meditation and mindfulness practices, and while there definitely is, worship is a bit different due to incorporating the dynamics of the group. QuakerSpeak, a project of Friends Journal, offers this excellent video "Is Quaker Worship Meditation?"
During the meditative worship, you may find the following suggestions, adapted from The Quaker Way from the FGC Quaker Press, very helpful as you seek to participate:
- Come into meeting quietly, as you are joining with others in seeking greater love and understanding for self, others, and the world around us.
- Try to focus on the present moment. Noticing input from the senses and the body's activities, such as your breathing, may help. If your thoughts stray, don't worry. Drawing them back quietly and happily becomes easier with practice.
- You may wish to read or pray. You may wish to ponder a particular question or issue.
- You may prefer to imagine the awe and wonder of nature or feelings of compassion.
- You may prefer to remember the inspirational words and acts of others, such as Jesus.
- You may acknowledge various insights as they arise by speaking them audibly into the silence, thereby ministering to the group.
Upon the conclusion of the meditative worship, as signaled by the clerk, participants greet one another, serve light refreshments, and return for heartfelt, yet voluntary, discussion of joys and concerns. The clerk facilitates the discussion to encourage speaking in turn (often at some length without interruption) and leaving a few seconds of silence between each contribution. Such honest sharing of even our difficulties promotes acceptance, clarity, trust, and ultimately growth. Prominent Quaker writer Parker J. Palmer states, "Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life."
Many feel the heart of a Quaker Meeting is found within the regular activity of Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. Business is conducted once a month within the context of worship, and as the goal is unity (not always consensus) there are no votes taken. Group decisions / actions (called Minutes) are made based on "The Sense of the Meeting," meaning the overall sense of unity reflected and stated by the clerk and approved by those present. Often the Quaker Process requires much time and thought, but generally, decisions are satisfying and well-supported. Both official members and attenders are welcome to participate in the business of the group.
While there is no proselytizing, we are glad to direct seekers to the many resources available about the faith and practice of Quakerism, such as the Friends General Conference (FGC) website and the very helpful Guide to Our Faith and Practice (2012) published by the Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association (SAYMA), and we are also happy to welcome visitors anytime.