what to expect in a meeting for worship

In most unprogrammed Quaker meetings, the seats or benches will be placed facing each other so there is no one section that is the front of the room; this signifies that all are ministers in the Meeting.

The Meeting for Worship begins in silence.  Each tries to still the inward clamor of personal anxieties and ambitions, listening for the voice of the Inner Guide, endeavoring to be faithful to its instruction. Such faithfulness may require an outward silence. It may require one to rise and speak words that do not come easily, which may not be fully understood, or which may be uncomfortable. It may require action, or restraint of action, by some individual or the whole Meeting, outside the Meeting for Worship.

During worship, all share responsibility for vocal ministry. God may call upon any one, regardless of experience or education, age or gender, to be a messenger. No one is excluded from the possibility of such service just as no one is appointed in advance to preach or pray at a particular Meeting for Worship. When someone does offer vocal ministry, Friends seek to be open, notwithstanding any hesitations or imperfection in the speaker’s words. An unexpected message may touch hearts, reveal the wisdom from the Source, and encourage the growth of the Seed within.   

During Meeting for Worship, Friends seek connection to one another and to God dwelling among them. In some Meetings, the vocal ministry will have a common theme, each message deepening and enriching the other, and connecting to one’s own thoughts. Some Meetings are entirely silent. At a gathered Meeting, “the sense is present that a new Life and Power has entered our midst” (Thomas Kelly, The Gathered Meeting). Not every Meeting is a gathered Meeting, and not everyone has the same perception of a particular Meeting.   

Friends listen carefully to each message;  there should be a time of consideration after each message before another speaks.  Friends do not respond to another’s message.  Consider carefully whether a message is a personal one for the individual or is meant to be shared with the group.  Friends do not come to Meeting intending to give a message and do not report on events or give announcements during the Meeting for Worship.    From Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice