Within Quakerism today, there are two main branches. Our group is aligned with Friends General Conference (FGC) and therefore places great emphasis on unprogrammed, meditative worship in which all members 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?"
If you are a newcomer to Quakerism, the Quaker approach to worship may seem unusual to you at first, even difficult. 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."
As the group continues to grow, we are considering increasing opportunities for additional meetings for worship, Worship Share with reflective queries, religious education activities for children, and creative service projects within the larger Macon community. Quakers have a long history of involvement in social justice issues. The Quakers were among the first religious groups to denounce slavery, take a strong position for women's rights, recognize the dignity of the mentally ill, and promote peaceful resolutions through conscientious objection. Many Quakers today are active in addressing such concerns as environmental degradation, the plight of displaced persons, and inequality in various forms and levels.
Many quote Quaker John Woolman who said: "Let your life speak." How we order our lives every day is emphasized over theological opinion, holiday celebrations, and any traditional sacrament. 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.