Ed Souther was the planned speaker at semi-programmed meeting for worship, November 4, 2012.
I love meeting for worship. I enjoy the act of worshiping together and being surrounded by others openly looking for the Spirit. It is a little adventure that goes where it wants to go. It truly has a mind of its own.
So, I would like to share about what I do during this hour of worship, this adventure. Not to say what I do during this hour is right or the only way or even the best way. I want to share what I do so that you can compare and contrast it with what you do. If you ask 5 Quakers a question you will get at least 10 answers. It is the same for how Friends worship, many answers, and all of them are true.
For me, I put what I do during this time into 3 categorizes; Prep, Worship and Everything Else. The sections are not equal at all, it seems Everything Else takes up most of my time and I believe Worshipping uses the least time.
So, what do I do? First I come to meeting for worship without any expectations. Then I look at the bulletin and then look around to see who is there. I then settle down by breathing fully and deeply. Soon it is time for the first song, I love to sing, even poorly, singing lets me think of my father-in-law, Joe White and others who have past. Again I settle down and breathe. Then I open up to the space and invite God to be with us by praying; (“God bless us so that we can bless others, show us your love so that we can love others, bring us peace so that we can spread peace, and let us do what is needed.”) Then it is time for the speaker, I try to listen to what is being said, most times I can listen, sometimes I can’t. After the speaker is done I go back to settling in with deep calming breaths. Another prayer, more personal (“I am here if you need me, my voice is your voice if you need it, my arms your arms if you need them, my ears your ears, my body your body, I am here.”) More centering in and I try to quiet my mind and open up to the Spirit. Then I think of what I need to do tomorrow, no, stop, quiet my mind and open up to the Spirit. A light is out on the exit sign I need to get that fixed, “stop that”, quiet my mind and be open to the Spirit. Who has the extra microphone? Quiet my mind and be open to the Spirit. “Is someone going to speak?” No, quiet my mind and open up to the Spirit. On it goes. Oh, now someone is speaking, listen. “Was that what the earlier speaker was talking about?” Quiet my mind, open up to the Spirit.
Random thoughts, how am I supposed to share this? More words come, making more sense, do I share this? Sometime it is just for me to think about, sometimes I have to stand up and share even if I don’t want to. It often becomes harder to sit than to stand and share. Sometimes I hear someone else say what was in my mind even more eloquently than I would be able to share it. Sometimes I fall asleep and miss what is shared.
Last song, and sit down to quiet my mind again. Last thoughts, this is often something I write down. Worsip is closed. My heart feels full, my spirit renewed. How did that happen?
You see that I do a lot of Prep, and you see that I spend a great deal of time thinking about what has happened, what is happening and what should happen, which is valuable, but it keeps me from being with the Holy Spirit and responding to her needs. That is why the advice from Faith & Practice that is printed in the bulletin spoke to me. Let me read it.
The mind wanders and will falter again and again… But it is foolish to allow failures in concentration to plunge us into profitless self-condemnation. A mother does not condemn her child who is struggling with many a failure to learn how to walk, but rather she is pleased by each successful effort… I like to believe that God is similarly pleased with our effort and understanding of our many failures. What matters is whether or not the will, like a compass needle when deflected, is so pivoted that it can swing back to the true direction.
St. Francis de Sales is reassuring:
When your heart is wandering and distracted, bring it back quickly to its point, restore it tenderly to its Master’s side, and if you did nothing else the whole of your hour but bring back your heart patiently and put it near our Lord again, and every time you put it back it turned away again, your hour would be well-employed.
From “The Hymn of Jesus” from the Acts of John
I want to be saved … and I want to save. Amen.
I want to be set free … and I want to free. Amen.
I want to be born … and I want to give birth. Amen.
I want to hear … and I want to be heard.
Sweetness dances. I want to pipe; all of you dance. Amen.
I want to run away … and I want to stay. Amen.
I want to make you beautiful … and I want to be beautiful. Amen.
I want to join with you … and I want to be joined. Amen.
I have no house … and I have many houses. Amen.
I have no ground … and I have ground. Amen.
I have no temple … and I have temples. Amen.
If you look at me … I will be a lamp. Amen.
If you see me … I will be a mirror. Amen.
If you knock on me … I will be a door. Amen.
If you are a traveler … I will be a road. Amen.
This is my dance … Answer me with dancing.