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, if you would like to receive an email each week with a link to the week's worship outline, please subscribe at the bottom of this post. May your time in worship be deep and faithful.
Sharing Storied Wisdom
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.
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a decree in Jacob,
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach to their children;
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and rise up and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments.
— Psalm 78:1-7, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.
— Wisdom 6:12-16, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Message: Sharing Storied Wisdom
To those of you who have known me for a while, you know that I absolutely love storytelling and stories. I studied storytelling in school, writing my master’s thesis on transforming narratives of violence into non-violence. Over and over again though my chaplaincy work I’ve seen how storytelling can be powerful and life-giving. I started collecting children’s books to read to my children long before I had a child. I read stories to my high school students, used stories with patients, and made space for stories—both stories from the here and now and stories from the past. Our bodies hold the stories of our lives and those stories can be deeply painful. Our stories are beautiful, even the ones that society tells us are ugly. Every cell of our bodies is made up of stories, stories of where we have been and stories of what we have done. Those stories contain not only our facts, opinions, dreams, and memories, but they also contain God’s wisdom. Woven throughout the stories of our lives and the lives before us and the lives to come is God’s infinite wisdom, God’s presence in all things. Who we are today is an ever-growing collection of God’s wisdom chronicled.
The scripture this week reminds us though that stories are part of both our life blood—that is, who we are as people—and also part of God’s call. We are called by the Divine to tell our stories of faith, of persecution, of freedom, as well as stories of doubt, of miracle and of revelation. For it is in these stories that we teach, we carry on, and we revel God’s wisdom. That magical divine Sophia—wisdom in the feminine form—comes to us through our stories, both the stories that we carry in our own bodies and the stories we share with others.
As you might imagine, with a twelve-month-old toddling around, I’m in heaven reading books to him every day. So much about stories is magical. Stories transport you to different places, stories teach, and stories convey meaning. Stories remind us of our past and stories help is imagine the future. Stories can also hurt and stories can heal. I have great memories of reading with my parents growing up and then losing myself in books later on as I got older. My Quaker faith was taught to me through stories. Books like The Friendly Story Caravan by Anna Pettit Broomell and Lighting Candles in the Dark complied by the FGC Press taught me Quaker values and showed me people putting those values into action.
Reading to my son, I’ve often found myself in tears. Sometimes it’s because we are reading a childhood favorite of mine and my eyes well up with tears of joy as the characters and plot transport me to that familiar place. Other times my tears have come because of the gentleness or compassion of a character, or because a story teaches about a hard and difficult part of history, or because something surprises me and connects with my soul. One of the first times this happened was when my son was very young, I think he was only a few weeks old. I wanted to read through the books I had to make sure that they were appropriate for him when he was older. So with him in my arms, I read aloud one of the Obadiah books by Brinton Turkle. The one I read, Rachel and Obadiah, had been a favorite of mine as a child—not surprisingly, since my name is also Rachel. In this book Rachel and Obadiah run a race and Rachel, being smaller and a girl, is expected to lose. Instead, she wins and ends up challenging the social norm that only boys run to tell the town about a new boat in the harbor. I cried reading this book aloud, both at her simple righting of a wrong and her humble strength.
The other day I was reading the book Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter. It’s a children’s book that describes the underground railroad. I should have expected the mention of Quakers in a book like this, but I didn’t and when I turned the page and read about the service that Quakers extended to people running to freedom, I teared up. Here was one of my religious cultural stories, one of the many stories that my son would grow up hearing.
It has been important to my husband and I to read our son many types of stories. I was fortunate enough to grow up with some diversity in the stories that I heard. Strong female characters were introduced to me at a young age. There were some people of color in the books I read. So while I do read to my son a good deal of stories that I remember reading growing up, there is so much more available now: stories with different configurations of families represented, stories about people of color doing normal things (instead of only stories of people of color only doing exceptional things), stories with and about people who are gay and queer, stories about history—religious history, black history, latino history, modern history—stories about science, stories about myth, stories that teach about the world, and stories that teach about our backyard.
My son and I go to our local library each week and pick out new books to read. I have been impressed by the selection of children’s books available and I find myself learning about this or that as I read to him. We are blessed with people in our lives who want to encourage the reading of these different kinds of stories, people who themselves hold stories in their bodies that someday they might tell my son. I also read to my son stories about and depicting white men, hoping that by hearing stories of white men doing kind, compassionate and just things, my son will see someone with whom he identifies and learn those things too. When he’s older I’m looking forward to telling the stories of my life to him and I look forward to holding space to hear the stories of his life. I want to be able to hold space to hear the stories of pain, of fear, of anger, and of disappointment—as well as the stories of joy, of hope, and of happiness. As I sit with the stories that make up who I am, the stories I have heard and the stories that I have written, I look for that thread of God’s holy wisdom, Sophia’s presence in my life. Even in the hardest moments, she is there, Wisdom is there creating space for becoming, creating space for healing, creating space for change.
So as you settle into your time of waiting worship, I invite you to reflect on the stories that make up who you are. What are the stories that you hold in your body? Holding those stories tenderly, seek God’s presence in those places. Where is the thread of Wisdom winding its way through your stories? Where does she shine? Where is she only a shadow?
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. Breathe deeply and give thanks for your time in worship today. When you feel ready, end by praying out loud, either a prayer of your own creation or the following: “O Holy One, illuminate in me the presence of your holy Wisdom in all that I am. Help me to see your presence woven throughout my life as I write the stories of my present and of my future. Abide in me always and teach me with your presence. Guide me to create space to listen to and to hear the stories of others. Grant us grace for the stories that hurt and strength for the stories that heal. Amen.”