Our services are unprogrammed, which means they do not include liturgy, pre-planned sermons or hymns. The heart of our worship is the direct experience of the presence of God. Sometimes, while we sit in waiting worship, one of us feels compelled by the Spirit to deliver a message to fellow worshipers. Sometimes no one speaks during worship.
Although some Quakers have pastors who preside over their worship services, we do not. We believe that we all have “that of God” or the “light of Christ” within us, and that we can act as conduits of the Spirit without a mediator. Instead of relying on clergy, we all share the responsibilities of ministering to one another and running our worship group.
Friends seek guidance, instruction and direction from the Divine. In a meeting for worship, for example, we are drawn together to listen for the Spirit. We believe that when we come together for worship, God is present among us: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Worshiping corporately—as a group—holds special power for us.
We have talked about how the silence feels palpably different sometimes when the Spirit is moving among us. In our discussions after worship, it is not unusual that people will share similar descriptions of the Spirit’s ebb and flow during worship. We sometimes find that when one of us is called to speak during worship, the words spoken in meeting were also given to someone else in the group, but that person had not yet felt moved to share them.
A Quaker meeting for worship typically does not have outward sacraments (like communion) but Friends may experience the sacraments internally, such as experiencing a baptism by the Spirit.