I've begun to wonder why modern Friends, especially those in the unprogrammed worship tradition (conservative and liberal) do not make worship a regular habit each Sunday? I can think of lots of reasons why one would think it would be a regular habit:

- What could be more exciting and beneficial than engaging in expectant waiting for God (or Christ, or the Light) to speak to us through that still small voice?
- In a world where most must spend a hectic and busy week multi-tasking and interacting with so many individuals (egos, if you will), wouldn't it be so energizing to spend one hour weekly fully engaged with the one task of directly experiencing God?
- Where else can you be in the company of others who are bonded to you in the shared experience of stillness? Isn't that in itself just amazing?

Increasingly, I hear that many meetings are having declining participation in worship. I know my meeting is, even though it is not obvious why.

What do you think is going on in our meetings that is the root cause of this declining interest in worship?

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That is not the case in my meeting, South Bend (Indiana) MM (ILYM).  We have just started a worship group in the neighboring county.

Brad Laird

nor mine  in atlanta. we had close to 10 visitors 1st day

It may have something to do with the "liveliness" of those who regularly attend. Where is the Life? If folks come to meeting out of habit, although a good habit, this does not insure that people actually come away refreshed/transformed. Of course, many early Friends (Stephen Crisp, for example) commented on the lack of attention, both in preparation and during worship itself. I find that many younger people seem more interested in house church formats than the forms with which many meetings are sometimes cumbered.

What could be more exciting and beneficial than engaging in expectant waiting for God (or Christ, or the Light) to speak to us through that still small voice?

- In a world where most must spend a hectic and busy week multi-tasking and interacting with so many individuals (egos, if you will), wouldn't it be so energizing to spend one hour weekly fully engaged with the one task of directly experiencing God?

- Where else can you be in the company of others who are bonded to you in the shared experience of stillness? Isn't that in itself just amazing?

Well said, Howard!  I feel similarly.  This doesn't mean I attend every MfW -- I will miss one every couple of months -- but I think of worship as energizing, recharging my batteries for my hectic week.   This is the one time each week (other than private worship, meditation or other disciplines at home) when most of us can step out of  "normal" (e.g., rushed, busy) time and look at life and ourselves from a less momentary perspective.   A couple of hours a week is a small amount of time to spend on  that.  

My particular Meeting (affiliated with both "liberal" and "conservative" unprogrammed Friends) is growing rapidly, so we don't have declining attendance.  (If anything, dealing with growth may be our main problem right now.)  But I hear this is unusual among Friends, with many Meetings suffer from declining membership and attendance.  I really don't understand why, because I think Friends have so much to offer that the world desperately wants...

forgive me, you're asking how to make your meeting more alive.  i would agree with do you prepare. are you welcoming to new comers. are you excited to be there, expecting the divine presence to be there. knowing that we may not always be open to its presence or that none feel its presence. do you accept all that are there?

 what happens in your meeting. i suspect that you know why, but  may not accept your own awareness of what's going on in your meeting. what do outsiders say

Good questions Roland.

We frequently do have visitors, and they comment how welcoming and friendly we are. And indeed a good number return; but they fall into the same routine of occasional attendance, like once every few months. This is even though we are eager to include them in the life of the meeting.

Then we have a number of long-time members who rarely attend worship. Our Care and Community committee has contacted Friends to understand why they may have stopped attending, without any findings of anything that is wrong. Yet, the enthusiasm has seemed to wane over the decades at meeting.

Any other insights we could consider?

The meeting I attend has a core group of about 15 that pretty much attend every First Day. There are then a few others that are not as regular, but that seems to be improving.  I am newly convinced, but try to attend weekly.  But I am just used to going to "church" every week.  

I am wondering who else, out there, has an 11th hour? After silent worship, we have an hour or so that is reserved for discussing books, pamphlets, gathering for a simple meal and donation to benefit charities, etc.  Do you think the extra time for building community would help other meetings that do not currently do this?  If I miss meeting, I am also missing 11th hour and all that it includes.  Thanks, everybody, for participating. 

Lanie Fox 

We have started an adult First Day School recently at 10:15 before worship every Sunday. It is starting to build a stronger community around spiritual things. It started with just two or three participants in January. Now we attract seven to ten each Sunday for this adult RE. So maybe it will just take some time to rebuild our community of Friends.

It's just that life has seemed to overwhelm so many of us, and I do wonder how the meeting could have responded better. Perhaps this effort at adult RE is a start. We consider passages from a spiritual work each Sunday before worship, and share our insights.

I'm wonder if there is a bit too much attachment to doing things in the same ways all the time. For some meetings, it's historical stuff (though I'm interested, hearing the same story for the umpteenth time has little appeal for me). 

Is there a variety of opportunities for worship? I'm thinking along the lines of mid-week worship or opportunities to meet in someone's home...  I sometimes find house meetings more lively and enlivening than settled meetings.  They need not be frequent to get folks engaged, but they do need to be centered.

Life circumstances can and do change. Younger Friends have jobs, kids (who tend to subvert parents' plans without too much effort). Older Friends can have mobility issues and/or health challenges.  Do meeting members care enough about members and attenders to keep in touch on a regular basis? 

It may be a matter of simply getting to know people better. I found the other day that I wrote to a mother of teens on Facebook, who is working full time and also studying.  I wrote that I missed seeing her at meeting.  She seemed to appreciate that. 

  I don't have any answers that will fit the hundreds of variables that are connected with this problem- but here's my take on this. For many of us and probably most of us, life is very stressful and problematic.  There is very little in the world of 2013 that most folks can take for granted other than constant change and an ever faster pace of life.  Jobs for many of us end leaving families destitute or bankrupt.  Houses go into forclosure-people are forced to move in with others they may or may not get along with.  The support system of strong families that many of us grew up with has pretty much vanished as has the middle class.

   Now I would be wrong to say that everyone in Long Island NY- an upper middle class area is in that situiation but increasingly a large minority of folks- I'd say IMHO 30-40% are in this situiation-including Friends.  If someone is dealing with these circumstances- or an illness NOT covered by health insurance that will become terminal without many tens of thousands of dollars of treatment-attending Meeting may indeed be the MOST important thing you can do- but being overwhelmed can be the often reasult. Add to this the situiation of many still middle class folks (our family luckily), which I can compare to someone stretched out on the floor with 4 doors in a small room triying to keep the proverbial wolf away from the door- by being alert 24 and 7- you can keep this up for awhile but...

    Myself and wife of 35 years love and need the hour of holy silence on Sunday- a welcome and needed respite in our chaotic world.  And of course, having adeqiuate food clothing and shelter to be able to think about attending services - ergo-having a vehicle to drive- or someone driving say 50 miles rt to pick them up and drop them off on a fixed income retired persons budget is not always doable- although it can and does happen often.

  I'm also not saying that just because someone's financial food and medical straits are not desperate- that means their spiritual needs are ok- I just mean that (not yourself) and not most Friends but SOME of us have blinders of classism that the USA is a meritocracy and that abject poverty of the type previously seen in Mexico Brazil and Russia is present in suburban America among formerly middle class folks. It gets little or no publicity in the corporate media, but anyone who wants to look can see the shanty towns and tent cities "hidden" in wooded areas of Suffolk County NY.

   I also would agree that some folks dont feel a sense of urgency to attend meeting and I cannot say why. I cant read person's hearts.   I just know that many folks are indeed "broken" spiritually in every sense of the word- and this might include-(although I no of no cases from personal knowlege) Friends with issues such as domestic violence and drug alcohol addictions-rampant conditions in our society.  I would think some folks would feel a bit stigmatized to have these issues in the best of circumstances- in a strange way-like the Pentacostal believer who is an alcoholic and cant tell his church as it forbids alcohol from the get go. I have no answers- and wondering what other s think-peace-Rich Morgan Brookhaven NY

A nearby meeting has been described to me as being so emotionally and spiritually draining that it was necessary to attend some other meeting or two each week, to recharge and be prepared for the next week's worship.

In December, I stopped attending what was my usual meeting. The "spiritual state of the meeting" survey was sent out by the Ministry & Worship committee a few months ago. I couldn't answer it. If I wasn't laughing at the absurdity, I was rolling my eyes.

"How does Spirit flourish in the Meeting?" "It doesn't."

"What is the issue that has caused the greatest difficulty?" "The budget"

"How are we responding to it?" "Why isn't there an option for 'like shit'?"

"What do you think would be the most Quakerly response to this issue?" "Living within our means instead of just crossing our fingers about magical new donations that we have no reason to believe will ever materialize and spending on the highest quality facilities upgrades available."

A typical First Day MfW includes a message that starts with "I saw on CNN...", a rant about "those Episcopalians," and a quote from a poem or two. I've seen the meeting described as one that has "abandoned simplicity." It's true. I don't find anything to challenge me, and the meeting's about as spiritually deep as a bucket. Tea and cookies after MfW is about the only reason to go! If I want Quaker Social Time™, there's a bunch of Earlham alumni who live nearby.

I saved this discourse several years ago, but cannot give a full reference.  I believe that it may shed some light on Howard Brod's questions.


From:  "Chris Newsam" a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/QuakerSpirituality/post?postID=NPYCLFw1Ni1cSm3KsfUWc3Xk0yY3M9iPE-pfFhQSZkqM2KbyxfphwaTn9hrrGjB6IX1qfu44PzhPS4DXzZQaeUk">cnfriendchris@y...>
Date:  Tue Dec 7, 2004  12:04 pm
Subject:  where is the quaking?
Over the last few weeks I have been attending, with a friend, an Elim Pentecostal church and have been impressed by the variety and numbers of people attending. The question I ask is why are these services full and lively whilst down the road at the Meeting House just a few elderly Friends meet and there is a feeling of neglect and somewhat of despair? I love Quaker worship but am wondering what has happened to the `quaking'. Have we become too comfortable and complacent? Are we failing to meet the needs of a spiritually hungry world? Maybe. Or is it, as I am currently sensing, down to two factors, one a lack of a sense of being led (even shaken!) and secondly failing to build strong and inclusive communities around our Meeting for Worship. Where is the radical and adventurous spirit and the desire to build God's Kingdom on earth? Is it time to rally once more around the Light, the living and universally available Christ, without taking a superior, narrow or fundamentalist position? Time for some juicy Quakerism? But maybe I am mistaken. What can you say Friend?
Chris Newsam England


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