Welcome to this Online Meeting for Worship. Below you will find songs, scripture or poems, and a short message to frame and guide your time in worship. Each week, by Friday I will be publishing a new worship outline. The scripture used generally (though not always) comes from the weekly Revised Common Lectionary, connecting the Friends tradition to other Christian traditions around the world. 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 suggest that you open each link in a separate window and play through the beginning of the songs to get over any ads, preparing for your worship time. (Though you may want to first check to see if ads play while the songs are embedded in the post. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t!) You may also want to have a candle and a journal nearby. 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 would like to set up a regular time to worship through this site or if you have specific prayer requests to be held by my home worshiping community, please contact me through this site. If you would like to leave a message on this page, perhaps a message that rises for you during your worship, please comment below. Messages are filtered to counter spam attempts and it may take me up to 24 hours to approve a comment. Thank you for joining me in this weekly online Quaker programmed worship. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
Joining the March: Jesus Assembles His People
Centering Silence: Take a few moments to center yourself. Perhaps light a candle, find a comfortable place to sit and put away any distractions. Take a few deep breaths as you center yourself for this time of worship. Feel your body relax as your breaths become deeper. Turn your attention to the presence of the Divine throughout your body and throughout your life. When you are ready let the following worship elements guide your worship.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
(Isaiah 9:1-4, New International Version)
Scripture: When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
(Matthew 4:12-23, New International Version)
Message: Joining the March: Jesus Assembles His People
When I was seventeen, the United States invaded Iraq. It was technically the second invasion of Iraq, though it was the first one that I remember. I sat in the basement of my house with my older brother and watched on TV as the bombs lit up Baghdad.
September 11 was two years in the past and as a Quaker youth, I had organized campaigns of compassion, love and solidarity. But after seeing the lights and fires of the bombing of Iraq, my practice of wearing of black armbands to school—a sign of peace and solidarity—connected more deeply to the historical peace witness of Friends. And I embraced even more my weirdness as a young peace activist in a Baltimore public school. There wasn’t much I could do, but what I could do, I did.
In the array of actions that I participated in, like writing letters to the principal to remove military recruiters from our school’s public areas and strictly adhering to the national Day of Silence, the 2003 Invasion of Iraq opened up the opportunity for me to participate in peace marches in Washington, D.C. Living in Baltimore, I was close to where the marches would be held—just a short car ride, a train ride or a metro ride from the D.C. Mall. Being part of the Maryland/Virginia/Southern Pennsylvania regional Quaker youth group, meant that a lot of my F/friends were attending these marches in D.C. too.
I attended my first peace march in D.C. with my father. My dad had marched against the Vietnam War. He had also been active in voter registration and union organizing when he was young. I knew him primarily as a high school science teacher but echoes of his activist past had made it to my cultural imagination, like when I unearthed a news-clipping with a picture of him participating in a teacher’s strike from his early years of teaching.
As daring as he might have been in his twenties, my dad made it clear to me that I wasn’t allowed to go to D.C. for this march by myself; it wasn’t safe for a teenage girl to travel by herself into a march of thousands. (At the time I argued that the other high-school-aged Young Friends were going without parental supervision, but I think he was right in the end.) Rather than keep me home from the march, my dad agreed to come.
Marching with my father was not the carnival experience that part of me was expecting. Instead, it was a concrete learning experience: I learned the history of peace marches; I learned about the different parts of a march including counter-protesters; and I learned the etiquette of marches. I have a vivid memory of some punk anarchist kids harassing a cop on a horse about animal abuse. My father walked right up to those kids and started yelling at them. He stared them down telling them that those horses were better treated by the cops then most house cats. My dad said that the cops were there to keep the protesters safe, not cause trouble, so those kids should shut up and turn their energy to the issue at hand, the War in Iraq. I remember him saying something to me like, “Kids! They think this is a free-for-all; that they can protest anything they want in this march. They are the reason our message gets confused!”
I learned a lot that day. I saw a lot that day. And I learned and saw a lot at other marches I attended throughout the next many years—some with my dad when I was younger and others on my own. Over time I grew disillusioned with marches and their multi-message festival presentation, feeling like they didn’t create change and then I got more involved with direct non-violence. That work also slowly grew to disappoint me, riddled with its own hypocrisies and systematic oppressions, and thus I turned inward, towards a quieter life, working as a chaplain to help people protest illness and heal from their own wounds.
Yet this Saturday as I prepare to join the Women's March in Boston with my 11 week old son, I feel that I have been brought full circle. It will be my son Gideon’s first march; his first experience of joining his presence with others to create a message. He won’t remember it when he is older, but I will.
Serendipity has it that this week’s Hebrew scripture in the Revised Common Lectionary, references Gideon from the Bible, the Gideon for which my son is named. The passage: “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor” references the unbelievable victory of Gideon in the Hebrew Scriptures. Called by God to rid the land of the Midianites, Gideon took an impossibly small number of men, around 300 instead of the 33,000 that constituted the whole army, and led a scare campaign against Midianites. Using trumpets and loud noises, Gideon and his men succeeded to run the Midianites off with little bloodshed. Their success could only be attributed to God’s hand. Isaiah references this story to encourage a new generation who is experiencing oppression to put their faith in God; to put their faith in the impossible, unbelievable, foolish ways of God. Isaiah urges his readers to not discount actions that seem strange or weird or against the status quo, for it is in the impossible and the unbelievable that God performs the miracles of liberation.
The scripture from Matthew also invokes this plea, to believe in God’s miracles, of God’s great light when experiencing oppression. Gideon's unbelievable victory, told by way of Isaiah, now reaches across history to another people under tyranny. After Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been put in prison, he withdraws to Galilee to regroup. Perhaps he withdraws, like so many of us withdrew after Trump’s victory in the election, to regroup and prepare to stand against what is to come. “On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Because this is when people came alive and came together as a community of resistance.
Jesus also lived in a time when students went out to seek their teachers; teachers did not go out to seek their students. Even so, Jesus acted less like a teacher of his day and more like a union organizer, a march organizer, or any other type of organizer—he went out and found his people. Jesus assembled his people for the work to come. He brought his people together, trained them and then sent them out to “fish” for others. Jesus committed himself in creating a community of resistance, one subversive to the existing social and political structures and one prepared to do foolish, unbelievable things to challenge the status quo. Jesus brought a great number of people together to create systematic change.
So when I look to this Saturday and beyond—when I think about what to teach my son Gideon about marches, protests, nonviolent actions, and direction nonviolence. I have to temper my own disillusionment, my own desire to see the change that I am apart of, my own disappointment that I have to teach my children the same lessons that my father taught me, my own frustration that we are still protesting, still resisting, and that there is no end in sight. Yet even with all of this disillusionment, there is a sense of legacy, that this current generation and the next, generations of activists and of resistance, is joining other generations, going back through history, back even as far as Jesus, as far as Isaiah and as far as Gideon of the Bible.
What I want my son to someday understand is that these actions like the Women's March tomorrow are about sending a message to the powers at be, but they are also more than that. These marches are about sending messages to each other, about assembling the resistance, about answering Jesus’ call to act. I look forward to meeting at the march other mothers and other infants; I look forward to participating in raising the next generation of Jesus’ disciples, leaders in the resistance, keepers of justice and righteousness and peace.
Silence-Waiting Worship: This is a time for you to turn your attention fully inward. The songs and passages and the offered message have prepared you to listen deeply to the Divine. Spend at least 20 minutes in silence listening for that still small voice of God. You may want to join an online waiting worship community. A few links for these can be found below.
When you have come to a place of closure in your waiting worship, continue on to bring your time of worship to a close.
Afterthoughts: Afterthoughts are thoughts that rose for you during waiting worship that didn’t completely form into a message. Perhaps you discerned that what was rising for you in waiting worship was a message for you alone, something not to be shared with others or perhaps you only received fragments of a message and it didn’t come together completely during the silence. Take a few minutes to journal these afterthoughts so that you can look back at them another time. Perhaps God is speaking to you through these partial messages and the fullness of their meaning will be revealed in time.
Joys and Concerns: It is traditional in Programmed Quaker Worship to have a time for the sharing of joys and concerns. Take a few moments to write down in your journal a few things from this week that you are thankful for and a few things that you are holding in prayer. Feel free to post these in the comments below as well (though remember that it may take up to 24 hours for them to be available to others to read) so that others can include your requests in their prayers and celebrate your joys alongside you.
Closing: Take another few moments of silence to close your worship time. Breath deeply and give thanks for your time in worship today. When you feel ready end in vocal prayer, either of your own creation or read out loud the following: “O Holy One, arise in us the passionate belief that in you all things are possible; that in our joining together, our assembly of God’s people, you will work through our hearts, our feet, our hands and our voices to bring about the change that needs to come. Remind us that we are connected across time to other communities of witness and resistance and connect us across this time and space to bring about a future that is just, righteous, and peaceful. Amen.”