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.
My guess is that this practice has its origins in the work of Rachel Dubois. See http://www.fgcquaker.org/connect/fall03/
Rachel Davis DuBois of New York Yearly Meeting traveling in the field for FGC, 1960. In the 1950s and 60s,FGC’s services to meetings included sponsoring Rachel Davis DuBois’“Quaker Dialogues,” to help meetings develop deeper sharing among members. From 1958–1964, Rachel Davis DuBois led dialogues in over 300 meetings.After that time, the Religious Life Committee, which was established in 1963 to support the spiritual life of meetings, inherited the program.
Thanks for finding this Bill! And now I know why the Dubois' name was familiar to me--I posted that article and picture to the FGC site back in 2003! Of course it would have to be Deborah Haines who would write an article to keep DuBois' legacy alive. She's a real gem and did some great work around the history of FGC for its centennial. I've updated my post on Dubois and worship sharing so hopefully future people curious might find that and this conversation. Thanks again.
I notice that many Friends here seem to be referring to worship-sharing as a path to, or an alternate form of, sharing spoken ministry. My experience with Pacific YM is that it's more an opportunity to get to know each other, which sometimes can be deeply moving or tender. Powerful moments in worship-sharing have stuck with me for years, and have opened richer friendships with people of other ages than I might otherwise have had.
Usually there is an expectation that everyone will speak unless they choose to pass, and while there is silence before and between what people share, it rarely has the quality of meeting for worship. It's more like a conversation that invites trust, because we know that people will not directly respond to what we share. Some of the guidelines I've heard for worship-sharing in recent years sound a bit like those for 12-step meetings. I can see how the term "worship-sharing" would cause confusion for people new to Quakerism.
The queries may have an explicit spiritual focus, but can also be more psychological. Queries are often chosen beforehand by a committee, to tie in with the theme of the gathering. I've rarely heard those from the Advices and Queries in our Faith and Practice used in worship-sharing. Strawberry Creek Meeting reads the A&Q at the beginning of meeting on the first Sunday of the month, prefaced by a statement that says they are "not to suggest a theme for spoken ministry."
I have a strong reservation about the practice of "afterthoughts". I find that the messages that come to me but don't "rise to the level of ministry" are sometimes ones I need to carry with me keep seasoning or living into after I leave meeting for worship. Sometimes they resurface as spoken ministry weeks later. To put these seedlings into words prematurely, just because they appeared during the preceding hour of worship, might not allow them to grow in me over time.
It does help to have spiritual friendships within the monthly meeting or beyond, Friends I can speak with about how God is working on me. Which of our forms of fellowship support listening to each other beyond words?
And now that I have electronic access to Friends Journal from 1955, I can trace it back a few years' further with Lisa's clue. A September 1959 article in Friends Journal said that Rachel Davis Dubois had recently retooled her racial discussions method to made it something that could be applied to Friends. She had just come back from a tour of East Coast meetings on behalf of FGC's Advancement and Outreach committee. The 1963 article from Clairmont California says Dubois had visited there "three years ago" so that trip must have happened shortly after the 1959 article was published.
Rachel Davis DuBois of New York Monthly Meeting has recently completed visits to ten Meetings along the Eastern seaboard and in Florida under the sponsorship of the Advancement Committee of Friends General Conference. The purpose of the visits was to experiment with a new application of "group conversation," a method successfully used by Rachel Davis DuBois in intergroup and intercultural relations.
Specifically, the "Quaker Dialogue," as this new kind of ministry has now been named, is directed towards helping small groups of Friends share informally their ideas and concerns on the nature and role of the unprogramed meeting for worship, the business meeting, and outreach. Generally speak- ing, the aim was to help individuals to become more inwardly aware of the religious process in themselves, to sense what steps to take to stimulate spiritual growth, and in so doing to attain a greater sense of the inner harmony needed for counteracting the strains of today.
Typically, there were three two-hour sessions spread over two or three days, or, as in the case of one Meeting, all on one day. Each session included at least a half-hour of wor- ship based on silence. No arrangements were made for notes to be taken, and in each case, to assure frankness and spon- taneity, the groups were told that no decisions had to be made or agreements reached. The actual content of the discussions was different in each case, because of the differences in individuals and in the Meetings.
Most of the Meetings visited were enthusiastic about this type of ministry. The Advancement Committee of the Conference is considering the possibility of releasing Rachel Davis DuBois for additional service in another part of the country.
The first use of "worship sharing" in Friends Journal was 1969, by two then-young Friend in New York Yearly Meeting—one of whom later became clerk of FGC's Advancement and Outreach Committee and wrote articles on DuBois's legacy.