The Elements of a Sunday Morning...
Those who bring First Word allow us to glimpse what moves them -- what blesses, comforts, troubles, inspires, challenges, or puzzles them. This brief reflection sets the tone for worship: We're here to disclose where the Truth is touching our hearts, not to lecture one another about truth in the abstract.
If You Are Bringing First Word
We expect First Word to last 3-5 minutes. Those who need more time are urged to bring a message; A short message is preferable to a long First Word. Since most of us can read faster than we speak, please read your written remarks aloud for a more accurate sense of timing.
Please remember that children will be present when you speak. If you plan on addressing a sensitive topic, please let Mike know. Together, we can strategize about how to create the proper context for your First Word.
On Sunday morning, worship leaders gather at 9:50am, in the "ready room" behind our worship area. If you are bringing First Word on any given Sunday, please plan to join us!
We consider ourselves very fortunate to have many talented musicians in our community. Some of our favorite worship songs were written by the people we know. How cool is that? From week to week, the style of music can change dramatically. Some music leaders play a range of musical instruments, which adds to the variety.
Instead of asking our musicians to perform, we're asking them to help us worship. We find that music has the power to unite us. Hearing our voices blend in song is a powerful expression of community. Singing together can also remind us that there is more to the experience of worship than critical analysis: God's Spirit may speak to our emotions, or to our sense of beauty, or to some other part of ourselves that is even more difficult to name but is stirred by music.
Whether the words are spontaneous or prepared, those who speak faithfully in worship can enrich our collective work of listening. To keep the focus on our Inward Teacher, we ask those bringing a prepared message to follow these guidelines:
Speak for 10-12 minutes.
Remind us that you are one person, speaking from the context of your own experience. To this end, please introduce yourself (e.g. "I've been attending WHF for x years" or "I was invited to speak by the Peace Committee"). Instead of speaking in absolutes, tell us what your topic means to you. Speak from your heart. Read Scripture in a way that leaves room for other interpretations than your own. Provide us with queries, so we are encouraged to do the work of discernment for ourselves.
Let your message be a gift. Think beyond the content of your message to how your words will inspire others and strengthen the bonds of community.
If your message may be inappropriate for children, the content may also be a trigger for some adults. If your topic needs to be handled with sensitivity, please inform a pastor or an Elder so that we may make appropriate accommodations for all.
If you feel called to bring a message that doesn't fit within these guidelines, please talk to Mike.
Following the message we enter into a time of silence. The length of this time depends on the duration of first word, music, and the message. Typically it lasts between 15-25 minutes. This can be a jarring experience for folks new to Quakers. It may feel, at first, like someone is missing their cue! Nope! The cue is for you...it is time to settle in and listen to what is going on inside!
Center Down. Surrender the thoughts or worries that may distract you.
Commune with God. If you are grateful, give your gratitude to God. If the Spirit convicts you of wrongdoing, accept God's forgiveness and power to change. If you are anxious, ask for God's guidance and peace. Most of all, listen for God's voice within your hearts.
Be Aware of Others. You may be led to pray silently for the gathered meeting or for one person in particular.
Speak As You Are Lead. Sometimes, we are prompted to speak, pray or sing out of the silence. This prompt can be unsettling. We may wonder if breaking the silence is truly God's desire. If you feel led to speak, wait.
Because it is difficult to speak and listen at the same time, make sure you have God's entire message before you speak. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to finish the thought in your own wisdom.
Even if you feel called to speak, consider whether your words might be more appropriate in a different context (e.g. during "Joys & Concerns" or expressed privately, one-on-one).
Allow the message to season. If your impulse to speak passes, let it go.
If you speak, please stand if you are able. Speak so your voice can be heard by everyone in the room. Let your words be few. Preserve a time of silence between each message, so we will have time to digest one idea before receiving the next.
If waiting in the silence is difficult for you, there are some things you can try. Spend time throughout the week asking God to make gathered worship meaningful for you. If you're unable to stay focused, try meditating on a song we sang this morning, or a passage of Scripture.
Joys & Concerns
Someone will close open worship by asking everyone this question, "Are our hearts clear?" This is an honest question! We want to make sure we are not interrupting anyone who is still preparing to give us a message. If no one stands or raises their hand then we will transition into a time of sharing our Joys & Concerns. As a community, we think it is very important that we know what is going on in each other's lives. We create some space for people to share if they are celebrating or carrying something heavy.
As you listen to other people express their joys & concerns, please consider offering a prayer -- even as you continue to listen. Your prayer can be short. Words may not be necessary. Simply offer each situation into God's loving care.
Sometimes, what another person shares may trigger an emotional response in yourself. Invite God to speak to you through your discomfort. What is this situation teaching you?
When you speak, please keep the focus on yourself. If you ask the meeting to pray for a person you know, or for a situation in the world at large, let us know why this is a personal concern for you.
Please be mindful of others' privacy. If you are talking about someone else, it may be more respectful to solicit prayer for "a medical concern" than to describe his or her situation in detail. After all, the extra detail doesn't make our prayer more effective.
Please be careful to guard the reputation of your children (and other members of your family).
Please remember there are other ways you can ask for prayer. If you need more time to formulate your request, feel uncomfortable speaking in front the group, or sense your request may not be appropriate for all listeners, you are invited to seek out the Elder who closed worship today or to contact Mike to activate the "prayer chain."
Consider limiting yourself to a single joy or concern. Consider how to express yourself concisely before you speak. Brevity helps create the space for others to speak.