An Unprogrammed Friend Experiences Programmed Worship

This past week I took a five-day visit to the Pacific Northwest. Though I was there to play tourist and visit family, I also wanted to examine a very different worship style than the unprogrammed silent worship where I learned to be a Friend and how I worship to this day. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, and what I experienced was certainly different enough.

The Worship style was very different from one hour of silence broken periodically by vocal ministry. It reminded me somewhat of the Methodist service of my childhood. Most of the music was provided by a choir. No hymnals. No responsive reading. No Apostles Creed. Not even a passage of Scripture, though Bibles were provided at each pew. As a Methodist, I was used to standing up and sitting down quite regularly. This Quaker church where I spent time relied heavily on their choir, and in one or two very rehearsed and ornate songs. For the most part, I stayed seated, as did everyone else.

The only nod to unprogrammed worship was a period of silence fifteen to twenty minutes long. No one really seemed to know what to do with it. I will say for myself that it takes a minimum of fifteen to twenty minutes to center adequately and provide clear vocal ministry in unprogrammed worship. I didn't know what to do with it, either, anymore than they did. Passing a microphone around from person to person seemed odd and clunky. In any case, it passed quickly.

The congregation sang two hymns alone, included in the order of service, and I listened to the concluding sermon of the minister. It lasted barely five minutes. In a different religious tradition, I was used to twenty minute sermons or even a little longer. I found I missed lengthier talk, much as I prefer chatty Meetings with multiple speakers. In meeting up following Worship with one of the long-term members, she indicated that she wished the sermon would go longer, too, and considered it a lacking of the current pastor.

The Church was apparently having money troubles. I figured this out during the passing of the collection plate (remember that?), where my $20 polite donation won me a robust and hearty pat on the back. It was also sadly dying, due to the fact that there were no children present and membership numbered no more than 40 at a space that could have easily accommodated three times that. The church had been removed from its previous Yearly Meeting and had a year to decide its next move. Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM) has recently split and regrettably opted for schism, much like North Carolina, and the church is now debating which faction to embrace.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did know an influential member of the church who gave me the full background and history. I'm not going to share church gossip in this forum, but I will say only that the gathering is in very bad straits. A group of old guard members is convinced that only it will save the church from itself, regain its children, and grow its membership. Based on what I have been told and observed at an admittedly minimal level, I think the gesture is heavy-handed and bound to fail.

Once again I learn that churches and Meetings are comprised of flawed people. We tend to forget that, or perhaps we willfully forget it, denying reality for the most favored interpretation of the house of worship in which we'd like to believe and take part in. That's the lesson that speaks to me most profoundly about this troubled church which is in part due to a dysfunctional yearly meeting, as well. Quakers have split so many times and in so many ways. This was just another example.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 7, 2017 at 10:11am

"Iron sharpens ironand one man sharpens another."


But when everyone sees the point, it should work like Jeremiah 31:33-34

"I will put my law within them,and I will write it upon their hearts;

and I will be their God
and they shall be My people.

And no longer shall each manteach his neighbor, saying 'Know the Lord,'
for they shall all know me
from the least of them to the greatest."


Perfect theocracy: God sees what's best for everyone -- makes the best decision -- and then everybody knows it and follows it.

Nobody has anything to say to anyone except "Hello." With big serene smiles...

No more people telling people not to protest against people doing awful things to each other. Or people doing awful things.

So I shouldn't actually object, except I don't think we're there yet. (Are we there yet?)

But if that were what God has in mind, shouldn't we be there already? The fact that we aren't suggests that things need to be, are intended to be, somewhat more complex.

Comment by James C Schultz on 9th mo. 7, 2017 at 4:58pm

Confirmed by John in 1 John 2:27  But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

If we judge by the media we are a long way from there.  However I choose to believe it's where we end up and we get glimpses along the way.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 7, 2017 at 10:17pm

The wonderful thing is, through the appearance of the inshining Light in our conscience and conscious we live the anointing now, the anointing is come and is coming. I am with John in affirming the anointing that is come. Not because it is recorded in the writings of John but because I am come into the anointing and know it at this very moment and in all moments. John and I and many others speak of the anointing that is come, that is received now through the inshining Light itself in itself that is our sole and sufficient teacher and guide in our conscience without regard for any man and any institutionalized process established by man. 

Comment by James C Schultz on 9th mo. 8, 2017 at 8:26am

What does our belief that the Anointing is now present say about our inability as a society, either spiritual or sectarian, to overcome the darkness around us?

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 8, 2017 at 11:34am

“What does our belief that the Anointing is now present say about our inability as a society, either spiritual or sectarian, to overcome the darkness around us?”

Many of us do not believe in the anointing of the inshining Light upon our conscience and conscious. Many us of live it experientially. The appearance of immanent Presence in the conscience is not a belief system. It is a way of being or consciousness. It is a new mind and a new self.

The flaw is in the outward construct and contrived belief that “society” has the ability to overcome darkness. Faith in the ability of society and the process of society of overcome darkness nurtures darkness. Outward institutionalized process, programming, and management of human relationships through a institutionalized societal process will never overcome darkness. It can sometimes hinder it. It will never overcome it. The sad thing is that those moments of hindering strengthen faith in the process of institutionalized social order ruling of human relationships. The process of faith in society to overcome darkness is an overshadowing or darkening in and of itself. The way out of darkness of outward social order is through the laying down of identification with all outward religious, political, and social institutionalized process, programming, and administering, of human relationships and coming into and embracement of the direct and immediate knowledge, witness, and experience of immanent Presence itself in itself in a person’s conscience and conscious. The institution of society and communal forms to manage, program, and administer, human relationships is the idolatry of today. Faith in outward religious, social, and political institutional forms and processes is no different than the fashioning of outward idols or statues to rule and guide and administer human relationships.

So what does the direct and immediate experience of the anointing in my conscience and conscious say about a social order’s inability to overcome darkness. It says, loudly and without equivocation, as long as there are people who engage in the process of setting up outward social order to rule, guide, program, and administer, human relationships, there will be people who whose conscience and conscious are overshadowed by a process that nurtures darkness. There is another way in this world. There is a way wherein the shadows, powers, and principalities, of outward religious, political, and social order is overcome. It is in the Gospel Order of the inshining Light enthroned in the conscience of individual people who are come into the Gospel Day and know heaven on this earth; which is in the conscience of human being and the new and different way of informing and guiding human relations … through the rule and guidance of the indwelling Light itself.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 8, 2017 at 5:12pm

Conceptional maps serve as structures by which our experiences, insights and understandings can seen... and it's right for people to use these as long as they're serving that function. The trouble comes when people become invested-in a particular conceptional map. What serves to illuminate when held lightly -- turns to darkness when clung to tightly....

Comment by Keith Saylor on 9th mo. 8, 2017 at 6:31pm
"Conceptional maps serve as structures by which our experiences, insights and understandings can seen ..."

There is another and different way by which of experience, insight, and understanding are "seen." Entering into the process of conceptual mapping is not the only way especially in matters of conscience and human relationships.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 8, 2017 at 7:37pm

I am not setting conceptional maps up as a standard by which to judge matters of conscience or human relationships. I am stating that human beings in fact order their experience in accord with such maps, whether these are explicit or merely implicit.

Some people in fact do seem more comfortable in evaluating courses of action if they can fit them into such a scheme; and probably that works to distort the way people feel about our own or other people's actions. But it also helps put acts into a perspective towards deciding questions like: Does anybody in fact get damaged if I (or anyone else) does 'X'?

In practice, we ought to be able to do right by simply observing: "Does the Light in me consider this a good idea, or an ohno?" But suppose issues come up in which each of two people are quite sure they're seeing by The Light -- but they aren't seeing the same results? Something of the sort definitely seems to happen.

Some sort of vision-check might in fact be desirable: "The big letter on the chart should clearly be an 'E' -- or you really need glasses!" (Of course the object is not to be able to say, "That's an 'E'," but to be able to see it as-is.)

You see an analogous phenomena sometimes in mathematical questions. Someone can look at a problem and say, "My intuition tells me it works like this!" And whether or not he has a proof, much of the time he'll be right. But there seems to be very much the same kind of certainty when someone is merely deciding by some habitual mistaken assumption. Hence we 'do the math', and then can clearly see how it has to work -- and might still make an error.

Comment by Howard Brod on 9th mo. 8, 2017 at 7:58pm


While I agree with you, I also agree with others commenting here that people (be they Quaker or not) at times are moved to discern a way forward as a group - whether they be a family unit or a community of faith.  This is because the movement of the Light upon them is inshining and that inshining may affect common life experiences that need to be understood as a community of Light.

There is always indeed a danger that any process can become an idol - even Quaker process.  You stated that

". . . I live and have being and consciousness in the inshining Life itself. The Light itself in my consciousness and conscience is ever presence in all things and activities in my daily life. I am the Life and the Life is in me in all things and is sufficient in itself without regard for any process. I am the Light and in the Light there is no value or need to enter into a set of actions to participate in and be informed and guided by the Light. Again, I am the Quiet and the Quiet is in me experientially, everywhere and in all things."

This that you have stated is exactly the hope for what is called 'Quaker process' where multiple persons come together to wait upon the inshining Light to manifest more fully within the group.  Imperfect as humans are, this happens more or less as hoped.  But it is an honest intent to put the inshining Light as the reality for the group to focus on, rather than the ego or an outward form, action, or result.

I, for one, have found that this experience with others in recognizing the inshining Light only strengthens my individual experience with the inshining Light as I go about my day.  Still, we must never make a process our idol.  And I think you are trying to convey that any experience with the inshining Light is not a "process".  Rather, it is the REAL life of eternal being.  In this I agree with your words.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 9, 2017 at 11:11am

It's fallacious -- but convenient -- to be able to say "We did the process and therefore this is Truth!"

But how it's sposed to work..? "The Spirit moved us to do the process and then showed us that the results were true." (?)

Nothing in itself makes "us" infallible. But as far as we follow the Spirit, our mistakes get fixed.


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