“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.“
1 Kings 19:12
Your first time attending a Quaker meeting can be an interesting one if you have never experienced an unprogrammed meeting before. There are no hymns, no creeds, no pastors, and no specific sets of prayers (although in some East African countries and in the US, there are programmed meetings with presiding pastors).
A Quaker meeting is largely based on silence. It starts as soon as the first person enters our meeting place and sits down. Relax in silence. Do not worry about wandering thoughts. Try to be quiet in mind, body and spirit, bringing whatever is pressing on your mind to the meeting. It can be a time of insight, revelation, healing or calm. You are not alone: think of everyone present. If it helps, focus on all your senses one at a time. Or try listening to everything from the wind on the leaves and the different birds singing to the distant rumble of traffic.
The silence can be broken by someone present who feels called to say something which will deepen and enrich the worship. Anyone is free to speak, pray, sing or read aloud an appropriate passage, provided it is done in response to a prompting if the spirit which comes in course of the meeting.
Listen to what is said in an open, charitable spirit. Each contribution may help somebody.
After half an hour or so, an Elder will shake hands to mark the end of the worship. The Clerk may then announce forthcoming events and news of members, or invite Friends to speak of their testimonies.
Adapted from a tract entitled “Your first time in a Quaker Meeting?” published by Quaker Home Service in 1997.