Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Worship sharing: where does it come from? I have only participated a few times with Liberal Friends. Do other branches do this also? In this FGC publication I have linked it mentioned that the guidelines have been developed over the last fifty or so years from various sources. I am very curious if anyone is aware of any of these sources and the history of the spiritual practice.
It was something I was unfamiliar with until I returned to BYM in early 2009, after some time in the wilderness.
I will admit I didn't like it at first, but I can now see that with good facilitation by a weighty elder, it can help nurture people who are new to RSoF in learning the discernment between Spirit-led ministry, and generalised "thinking".
Thank you Helen,
I am one of the people who are new around RSoF and wanting to learn discernment. How often does your meeting do worship sharing? The meeting I attend is starting to "worship share" monthly after a time without any.
That "thinking vs inspired" distinction can sometimes be a glaring one... and sometimes, I think, "thinking" can be the intellectual mind working the way it was created to work: guided and led by the Spirit rather than flailing around on its own power. (A mind can be a terrible thing to have running around loose! But minds were made to work in tune with the divine order, and can do so... The trick is to stop them from trying to squeeze God into their limitations.)
That is, all "messages" don't necessarily have to arrive via "automatic talking." Sometimes one simply recognizes that a certain thought (unlike a myriad others) was given to be shared. Messages (like messengers) are not all of one pattern.
We have weekly "afterthoughts". This might take a few minutes, but has been known to extend to 45 minutes if there is a sense of things deepening into an extension of MfW.
My meeting is slightly odd(!), because it is a new local meeting (<4 years old) as part of a well established area meeting. Although we have a very high proportion of members to attenders, we are only just seeking our first elders, and have had a joint responsibility of all members taking oversight.
Many of our attenders are recently convinced individuals from many different traditions, so there has been a real need to nurture the balance of the meeting - it has evolved from being almost too quiet, to a place where there are some who are blessed with a strong gift of spoken ministry.
We also use A&Q more frequently than I was used to previously - something I feel passionately is a very good model for a young and growing meeting.
On last Sunday of each month we have a shortened MfW and either do MfW for Business or do something more structured in terms of Quaker education. I am taking responsibility to facilitate the Peace 350 workshop on this coming Sunday. Last one was on the role of spiritual directorship in the RSoF as we have two people who have received training as spiritual directors.
I had seen the acronym for the Society of Friends before and I figured out the one for meeting for worship but I really had to scratch my head for a while on advices and queries. I have never noticed any advices or queries in the year or so here. How do you use them?
Actually I've seen worship sharing at Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative) sessions. As I recall the schedule gave a choice between worship sharing and traditional silent worship. I don't know if this is a regular option or if it was an experiment one year. It seemed the more outwardly-focused, FWCC Friends picked worship sharing and the plain Friends picked silent worship. I didn't hear any remarks about who chose what and didn't pick up any serious tensions about the diversity within Ohio (there are camps but they seem on pretty good speaking terms these days).
I assume worship sharing was developed to replace the end of Quaker ministry in more liberal yearly meetings. Classically, Friends had recognized ministers of the gospel who would give instruction based on Biblical themes. That model gave way to an egalitarian notions that everyone's a minister and that our spiritual stories all have equal weight.
I think worship sharing can be helpful in meetings where ministry has been given such overwhelming weight that new minister ("infant ministers" in Samual Bownas' language) feel too intimidated to break the silence. In his history of Ohio Conservative Friends, Bill Taber talks about times when Ohio Friends have lost a generation by being too strictly attached to forms and a bit too un-yielding of fresh ministry. We long to know one another and worship sharing can help that. The danger is that it can undermine the whole idea of a teaching ministry based on the spiritual weight of seasoned Friends (long-gone in many yearly meetings, with a chorus of "good riddance" from some).
Like many practices of Friends, it's a careful balancing act. For the record, I joined the plain Friends in those Ohio sessions. Gimme that old time religion.
I grew up in Pacific Yearly Meeting. At least since my teen years (starting in the mid-1970s), I remember having worship-sharing with the same small group every day at most western Quaker gatherings. It is also used in many monthly meetings for "Friendly Sevens" dinners. A query is posed, and we each respond from our own experience.
The practice of worship-sharing is also called "Quaker Dialogue", and I have occasionally heard older Friends refer to it as "Claremont Dialogue". My copy of the Claremont Meeting (Pacific YM) pamphlet, cited in your link, says "revised 1976". It mentions these sources, mostly without dates, but I'm guessing they date back to the '50s and '60s:
1) Rachel David DuBois' work with "Quaker Dialogues", described in a pamplet "The Three-Session Quaker Dialogue" from New York YM.
2) The example of West Richmond Friends with a similar project.
3) The first description of Claremont meeting's experience in "A Meeting's Creative Experience", Friends Journal, July 15, 1963.4) Also recommended: Margaret S. Gibbins, "Encounter Through Worship Sharing", FWCC
Advices and Queries for BYM are found in the first chapter of Faith & Practice. They are also published in a small booklet form.
I am familiar with these ones, and the Questions & Counsel of Aotearoa NZ YM.
Our clerk asks someone to read one of them out during meeting for worship, generally about once per month.
The practice harks back to the original purpose of A&Q, which was the questions asked of each meeting to report back to Meeting for Sufferings, about the number of convincements, births, deaths and marriages, and about those in prison or fined for avoiding tithes, or refusing oaths or military service.
Having just been to January AM, it was lovely to see there was still a report sent to Meeting for Sufferings in BYM about our membership on an annual basis...I irreverently called it the "hatches, matches, dispatches and enraptures" in my head.
I love my A&Q and really do need to get a new copy because my last one got given to someone on a train, who was curious what I was reading....who says we don't evangalise :-)
Just to add a clarification for North Americans, there are 2 BYM's: Britain Yearly Meeting and Baltimore Yearly Meeting: http://www.bym-rsf.org/quakers/2010fall.shtml. They each have their own advices and queries.