We liberal Quakers often don't have a meaningful description of what we do in worship. I have read it referred to as "meditation", "silent prayer", "reflection", and "centering". While our lack of doctrine or uniform theology might hold an attraction for many seekers, our inability to explain why our worship is worthwhile could be our downfall.

What's wrong with the description given by earlier Friends? "Silent waiting" is such a meaningful description because it has the connotation of 'listening' patiently for something or someone bigger than our individual self; something worth waiting for.

I have tried of late approaching worship with a goal of "silent waiting", rather than my past practices of zoning out through meditation, or reflecting on my life. My active 'listening' has been very worthwhile for me, and I am now more eager each week for Sunday worship. There is someone who I am wanting to "listen" to either through my own listening or through the vocal ministry of another worshipper.

It matters not whether we label who we are listening to as "the Light", "Christ", "God", or the "Greater Self". It IS what it is, and our label for it won't change its reality. Rather than a hard-fast label, what we need to have is the humility to accept that there is a mysterious Spirit knitting our reality together that we can't define, but can know experientially. Isn't that Fox's experience that created a whole religion?

Once we take that leap of faith, and simply strive to listen for that Voice during worship, our Quaker faith takes on a deep attraction in a stressful, modern world that is increasingly shying away from religion and dogma. And our experience, once we 'listen' in worship, will make us eager to share that faith with others.

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I still refer to what I "do" in meeting as "waiting upon the Lord" even though I am not Christian. 

If we consider a Quaker meeting as opening up three lines of communication, listening for what others might have to say, listening for what that of God within us might have to say, and giving others the opportunity to hear what we might say. Of course it is hard to draw boundaries between these lines of communication, but none of them happen so readily without the silence.

I see the silence of meeting as  a vehicle that enables these things to happen. Without the silence these things can still take place, but the silence is preparing the way; making important communication more obvious and open to greater sharing . It's like laying a tablecloth before a meal, it somehow changes the everyday table into something different and, of course allowing food to be laid upon it. Silence prepares the members of the meeting, for something meaningful and important to happen.

Is it waiting? To my mind no more than the tablecloth is waiting for the food. 

Hello again, Howard!

You wrote: It matters not whether we label who we are listening to as "the Light", "Christ", "God", or the "Greater Self".

I have continuing doubts about your attempt to disengage "experience" from "labels".  I think that experience and how we conceptualize it, and thereby render it meaningful, are much more intimately bound together than you suggest.  Experience becomes meaningful when we locate it in a conceptual framework by giving it a label.

Hi Bill,

I agree with you that it is easier for most of us to label an experience in order to create more intimacy, and labels (words) are also useful in sharing our experience with others. What I meant to say (but said it poorly) is that one person's label for the same experience of another - is not any better just by the nature of the label. At various times, different labels may even enhance our experience of the divine, depending on what's going on in one's life. And in the end, who am I to judge the validity of a label used by another person. What I desire in order to achieve unity of Spirit is to get beyond labels - to be able to share with others the core power of the experience. When we are able to do that, we are in a better position to "seek that of God in every one".

Even so, to validate your point, Bill, I recall that Moses, after an intimate experience with God at the burning bush, needed to ask who it was that he was communing with. This demonstrated the human need for labels ("names", if you will) in order to fully enjoy intimacy with another. God's answer is also revealing when he said "I am that I am" (in Hebrew "Yahweh"). This indicates to me that from God's perspective, labels are not defining for him, since he is the "all" and simply IS. Even so, the Israelites had a need to codify God's response into a label, a proper name for this eternal life Source: Yahweh, or in English translated as Jehovah.

Thanks so much for your response which allows me to clarify that I'm not against labels. I'm just concerned when we humans presume to think that our own preferred label needs to be used by everyone in order for them too to have a genuine experience of the divine. This concern is one theological perspective that usually distinguishes liberal Quakers from conservative and evangelical Friends.

God, the eternal Source of all, IS and always will be - no matter what we each choose to call him in order to relate to our experience of him in our lives.

Hello, Howard!

The burning bush narrative is relevant to this discussion, but I am not enough of a theologian to grasp exactly what the relevance is.

You wrote: "Moses, after an intimate experience with God at the burning bush, needed to ask who it was that he was communing with. This demonstrated the human need for labels ("names", if you will) in order to fully enjoy intimacy with another. God's answer is also revealing when he said "I am that I am" (in Hebrew "Yahweh"). This indicates to me that from God's perspective, labels are not defining for him, since he is the "all" and simply IS."

This sounds good.  Moses was trying to make sense of what he had witnessed.  He was apparently experiencing what James Kugel, in *The God of Old*,  has called a "moment of confusion".  I would like to know what the "scribes" would have to say about the story and its implications for our discussion.  Moses certainly got "stopped in his tracks", didn't he!?

I am also afraid that I have distracted you from the main thrust of your essay on "silent waiting", for which I apologize!

 

 

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