Introducing Online Programmed Quaker Meeting For Worship!
For over a year now I have been seasoning a leading to start an Online Programmed Quaker Meeting for Worship. I started attending Programmed Quaker Worship regularly when I was at Earlham College and my experiences at First Friends in Richmond, Indiana were beautiful. Doug Gwyn was the pastor at that time and his careful attention to the community, his liberal consideration of Christian scripture and his faithful discernment of the messages he brought have had a lasting influence on my own ministry.
I grew up in the unprogrammed tradition and have since I was a teenager cultivated holy envy for other traditions. In high school I sang in a Baptist choir and attended Catholic mass in addition to Quaker meeting. Unprogrammed waiting worship is dear and near to my heart and, when I experienced Programmed Quaker Worship for the first time at the 1999-2000 Youth Quake, I found that the power and richness and sense of the Divine that I experienced in waiting worship could also be experienced in the songs, scriptures and prayer of the Programmed tradition.
Plus, historically Friends would prepare for waiting worship (prepare? You mean rolling out of bed and making it to worship isn't enough?). Sometimes Friends spent hours reading scripture and other writings and talking about them with their family. That practice of preparation has been lost to many unprogrammed Friends and I wonder if a weekly devotional such as this Online Programmed Meeting for Worship may aid in its return for some.
The content of these Worship services include the follow elements:
Songs: Hymns, worship songs, and contemporary songs are offered as links to youtube performances. My intent here is to weave music relevant to the weekly theme with some intention to diversify artists and bring in music of various traditions. Most the time these songs are not specifically Quaker or performed by Quakers. In my introduction to each week's worship service, I suggest that folks open each link in a separate window and/or play through the beginning of the songs to get over any ads so not to interrupt their worship experience. Its not a perfect system, but it does respect copyright. Someday I may be able to record some of my own music or include the music of others, which would in most cases remove the instances of advertisements.
Scripture or Poems: The scripture used generally (though not always) comes from the weekly Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), connecting the Friend's tradition to other Christian traditions around the world. I intend to use the RCL as a guide and deviate as the Spirit leads. Poems will be offered in the form of links as to respect copyright and quotes may also be used at times too. Part of the reason for my use of the RCL is not to challenge the age old practice opposing formal liturgy and lectionary, but to bring our fruitful Quaker tradition into conversation with other Christian communities. The people who are checking out your groceries in the store or who pass you by on the street or sit next to you on subway may have heard the same scripture that Sunday--how might you engage together in a similar religious imagination?
Message: Each week I will be writing and offering a short message, like a sermon for consideration and reflection. My intent is to weave together themes and parts of the scripture and songs into these messages as well as current events, stories, and queries. My lens is of a liberal progressive Christian Quaker, so like the rest of the worship, these Messages will be Christian in nature though liberal in political persuasion. I will use various terms for the Divine, God, Christ, Jesus, Holy One, etc, and I hope that you will translate these terms into your own religious language.
Waiting Worship: Since this worship is designed in the manner of Programmed Quaker Worship, it includes a period of waiting worship. There are several communities around the world that host online unprogrammed Quaker worship, for which I have included links. These communities worship together at certain times each day and week, so you may want to plan your worship around theirs. If you come across additional links or would like to start a regular time for worship through this site, please contact me and I can help organize that. You may also want to spend that time in silence on your own. During your waiting worship time, if you would like to leave a message on this page; a message that rises for you during your worship, please comment below the post to share with others-- but know that messages are filtered to counter spam attempts and it may take me up to 24hrs to approve a comment.
There are some other pieces of the worship outlines as well, and I will leave you to explore them. Each post begins with a similar introduction that I imagine will change over time, as will the basic outline. I have not included a Children's Message in these worship services, though I hope that its addition will be a point of further development. There are some wonderful videos for Godly Play and Friendly Play stories and there are some wonderful stories from books like Lighting Candles in the Dark and the Friendly Story Caravan that I grew up on and which still inhabit my religious imagination. In my experience of Programmed worship, the Children's Messages were a form of simple sharing of the message, a point of accessibility and joy for all who were present.
For some of you this worship space may be a place of sanctuary when you are away from in-person worshiping communities. For others, this worship space may help you prepare for your weekly Sunday or mid-week worship. I've already posted several services, starting with the liturgical year. I intend to post each Friday on the blog entitled Worship and pray that I can keep up with that. I also hope to continue blogging about other things on this blog too. I'm finding joy writing and sharing when my son is asleep, which at this moment he is curled up next to me.
As I wrap up this introduction, I want to end by sharing that once, many year ago, a seasoned Friend told me that I had to choose between being a programmed Friend or an unprogrammed Friend. I have struggled with that challenge (rejecting it for the most part) as I feel that I am a healthy mix of both the programmed and unprogrammed traditions. While my home is currently among unprogrammed Friends, I long to explore the call of pastor and community minister in addition to my current work as a hospital interfaith chaplain, though this rising call to public ministry for me is sadly in the context of in a community that no longer recognizes and records ministers and for which the liberal programmed tradition is disapearing. This Online Programmed Meeting for Worship fills a small part of my call to public ministry and I am excited to see how God works through me and others in its development.
Thank you for joining me in this weekly online Quaker programmed worship, may your time in worship be deep and faithful.