Waiting Worship & Spirit-led Vocal Ministry

The first generation of Friends developed a unique approach to worship in which those already active in the faith community gathered in silence to wait upon God.  Each of those present sought to turn her/his heart towards God.  As more and more of those present do so, the worship becomes "gathered" in communion with God and with those present. 

There is no pre-planned singing, preaching, or vocal prayer.  Instead, if any present believe clearly that God requires her or him to speak, the words given are spoken out of the silence. 

This practice was largely lost among Friends. During the 19th century many meetings replaced waiting worship with Protestant style services with pre-planned hymns, Bible readings, and sermon.  Among those meetings that kept to the waiting format, many came  in time to lose the heart of the practice, namely the deep communion with the Holy Spirit.  It is my experience that the silence in many unprogrammed meetings today never becomes gathered and spoken messages stay on a surface level, arising from the thoughts of the speaker rather than the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

The Biblical Roots of Quaker Worship explores a variety of passages in the Bible beginning with John 4:19-24 that undergird waiting worship and spirit-led prophetic vocal ministry.  Includes an appendix with a summary of additional citations used by Barclay in the 10th proposition "Concerning Worship" from his Apology

Nurturing Gospel Ministry is the minute of exercise from a meeting for discernment held on ways to deepen worship in the meeting held at Quaker Spring in 2008.

Nurturing the Gift of Vocal Ministry is an article written in 2001 for New Zealand Friends.  It focuses especially on the practice of formally recording gifts of vocal ministry, a practice now abandoned by most unprogrammed meetings. It also describes, however, other means of deepening the quality of vocal ministry during waiting worship and includes a set of queries that any member of a meeting can use to reflect on the quality of spoken ministry in her / his meeting.

Excerpts from YM Disciplines on the Subject of Spirit-led Vocal Ministry was a handout prepared for a course curriculum I developed on Gospel Order.

New England Friend on Recording Gifts of Ministry.pdf
 is an issue focusing primarily on issues around recording gifts of vocal ministry and responsibility of the entire meeting for the quality of waiting worship.

On Praying for Others - and Ourselves is an article written for Friends Journal on the subject of intercessory prayer.

Other resources: 

A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister. This wonderful 18th century volume by Samuel Bownas offers invaluable advice to those who feel led to vocal ministry during worship. 

Do Messages in Meeting Really Come from God? Is a wonderful short essay by my friend and fellow New Swarthmoor Community alumnus, Richard Accetta-Evans, who writes the Christ-centered Quaker blog, Brooklyn Quaker.

Some Quaker Voices about Vocal Ministry-3.pdf

collected by Bridge City Meeting, Portland OR


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Quote that speaks to me

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies

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They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.  
Death cannot kill what never dies.  
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.  
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this Divine Glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
 - William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude, 1702.

Note: This passage was quoted by J.K.Rowling as the epigraph of her novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Braithwaite on Outreach

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Men & Women with a Message of Power

It is as a "religion of life" that Quakerism will be presented in the future and is being presented now.

Its distinguishing note will be its resolve to bring all this human life of ours under the transforming power of spiritual life.  It will stand out against all divisions and compartments that separate the sacred from the secular, the sanctuary from the outward world of nature, the sacrament from the days' common work, the clergy from the laity. 

It will tell of a Christian experience that makes all life sacred and all days holy, all nature a sanctuary, all work a sacrament, and gives to every man and woman in the body fit place and service.  Its concern will be to multiply men and women who will have a message of power because they are themselves the children of light.  It will claim the whole of man's life, and the whole of life, individual, social, national international, for the dominion of the will of God.

William C. Braithwaite and Henry T. Hodgkin, The Message and Mission of Quakerism (Philadelphia, Winston, 1912), 25-26.

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Biblical Roots of Quaker Worship
When our hearts are knit together in powerfully gathered waiting worship do we not enter into living water and drink deeply from it? What deeper spiritual refreshment could be available to us than this drawing on the living water that Christ offers us every time we gather with Friends to wait expectantly upon this gift? …
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