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.
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.
Scripture: The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.” When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:12-18, New International Version)
Scripture: After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:1-9, New International Version)
Message: Mountaintop Encounters
One of my first memories of Quaker waiting worship (without my family) is the memory of worshiping in silence on a mountain top in western Maryland. I attended Quaker summer camp from ages 9-15; seven years of sleep-a-way wilderness Quaker camp. It was on those mountains in western Maryland and later in southern Virginia where I first contemplated the existence of God on my own. My unit, made up of 7-16 boys and girls, would head out for a few days of hiking. When we reached a pinnacle, the top of what ever mountain we were climbing, or simply a place with space to sit and a good view, my counselors invited us into worship. We would sit looking out over the great expansive beauty around us and listen for that still small voice inside our hearts.
Most of the time we were silent for the entire worship, but every so often someone would give a message. We also attended daily morning worship when we were in camp and weekly fire circle meetings for worship, but those spaces were much more populated with messages. There was something different about the mountain top Quaker worship: there was awe all around us; it hummed in the breeze and quieted our thoughts in a way unique to those moments.
When I first read the story of Elijah and the still small voice, I thought of those times of worship at camp, the times on top of mountains. When I read about Moses and his 40 days and 40 nights on top of Mt. Sinai, for years I imagined a mountain covered in wild blueberries, pine trees, and sweet warm breezes. It wasn’t until many years later, traveling through the Middle East, I redrew these biblical stories in my mind into scenes of deserts and forbidding cliffs. Still, the awe I felt looking over the Judean desert in Palestine, watching the sun go down in Wadi Rum, Jordan, or sitting silently on Dragon’s Tooth Mountain in Virginia is the same awe, the same deep silence that comes from witnessing the great expanse of beauty before me, the same reminder of God’s awesome presence both around me and within me.
The Gospel text this week is of Peter, James and John also having a mountain top experience. I can imagine them hiking up to the top of Mount Tabor whose lush green forests are surprisingly more like the mountains of southern Virginia than the deserts of Wadi Rum. I can imagine these three disciples finding a place among the rocks with a good view of the valley and settling into silent, waiting worship. I can imagine them each having the same vision, only to discover this when they shared out of the silence. And then that living Christ that exists in each of us, spoke into their hearts and to each other, “Don’t be afraid.” And as they got up and walked down the steep mountain they discerned not to tell anyone until they knew more about what it meant.
With this imagining, those disciples are not much different than each of us, each of us who come to worship both in awe of God’s presence around us and in seeking that still small voice inside. Our mountains may look different today—they may be those moments of awe and presence in the midst of a march or a rally, sitting on the subway, or waiting for a bus. They may be moments like seeing the face of God in your laughing co-workers during a birthday party or in watching a flower open on a warm spring day. They are moments when the air seems to hum around us and God's presence is felt outside as well as inside us. They are moments of awe, of beauty, and of presence.
So as we enter into that waiting worship together, I pose these queries: Can we participate in mountain top experiences without the mountains? What does that look like for us today? How can we witness the transfiguration of God in our lives and in our worshiping life together? How can we share those experiences of God's presence with each other as we walk down our mountains and integrate those messages into our lives?
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, climb with me up over the mountain and sit with me as I seek your face among the clouds. Guide me, oh Lord, towards your presence in my life and illumine your beauty and awe so that I may see you. Pause me, Lord, and open my eyes to the mountain top experiences around me. Help me find hope where it once was forgotten. Amen.”