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: Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.
— 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, New International Version (NIV)
Scripture: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created humankind in God’s own image, in the image of God created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that God had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work God had been doing; so on the seventh day God rested from all the work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creating that God had done.
— Genesis 1:1-2:3, New International Version (NIV), lightly edited for inclusion
Message: Seeking I-Thou
This Sunday in the liturgical calendar is known as “Trinity Sunday” when the trinity, God-Christ-Holy Spirit, is celebrated. Quakers are a distinctly non-trinitarian Christian tradition. This means that we don’t make a distinction between God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Instead we see them as all the same Spirit, for which we use different names. Celebrating the trinity then doesn’t compute with the Friends tradition. What does fit with Quaker theology is Trinity Sunday’s emphasis on relationship. In Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year A, contributor Kee Boem So writes that for Trinity Sunday, “two themes emerge: God’s invitation to relationships with God and others (humans and creatures), and our partnership with God as coworkers. These themes will demonstrate how spirituality and social justice are interrelated.” (Allen, Andrews, & Wilhelm, 2013, p. 256)
The scriptures bring our attention to these relationships. Genesis 1:1-25 weaves the story of creation describing God’s relationship with the world, God’s relationship with humans, and God’s intended relationship between the world and humans. God creates relationships that are dynamic and dialogical. God continues to seek ongoing relationships with all of creation—even humans. The Quaker theology of Continuing Revelation, the act of God continuing to reveal truth and new insight to us over time, is a demonstration of God’s intention to be in continual relationship with creation. And given that God created humanity in God’s own image, we too are called into continual relationship with God, with each other and with all of the world.
The human responsibility as God’s coworkers in the creation story is clearly stated: “God blessed them [humankind], and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” “Dominion” here is not an invitation to exploitation, but implies care giving. God wants us to relate to creatures as God relates to them in caring ways. (Kee Boem So in Allen, Andrews, & Wilhelm, 2013, p. 257)
So perhaps the trinity that we Friends are considering this Sunday is the relationship triangle that consists of God, Us and creation. Or maybe it’s more simply God, You (the individual), and Others. 2 Corinthians 13:11 reads, “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” This scripture prompts us to consider that of God in ourselves and in each other and the relationship therein. Jewish theologian Martin Buber is famous for his I-Thou theology. He writes that for us to know God better we must know each other better and that our relationships with other people and other parts of creation inform and enrich our understanding of our relationship with God. Most of us walk around engaging in an I-It relationship with the world. This is a contractional relationship; we seek what we want from others and refrain from deep intimacy, vulnerability, and transformation. God calls us into I-Thou relationships with others where we bring the kind of reverence, respect and deepness that we bring to and seek from our relationship with God into our relationships with others.
Liberation theologians and Christian social activists know well the vital and necessary ways that human and divine relationships affect one another. We embody the [I-Thou] relationship in our caring relationships with other human beings, while God’s relationship with us provides the source and strength of our work for social transformation. Accordingly, prophets and mystics share the same source of their ministries. We pray in order to transform the world, while we engage in the concerns of social justice in order to deepen our relationship with God. (Kee Boem So in Allen, Andrews, & Wilhelm, 2013, p. 259)
In turning our attention to the connection between our relationships with God and others and our work in social justice, let us also be reminded that this week is Pride week for many cities across the country. A friend of mine introduced me to this wonderful children's book about Pride marches, This Day in June, by Gayle Pitman:
It is a time to celebrate the successes and advancements of the LGTBQ movement and the relationships that have withstood decades of discrimination and oppression. It is a time to stand up as allies, both as participants and as witnesses to God’s call to be in dynamic and dialogical relationship with each other. And it is a time to remember we have a lot of work to do, a lot of deepening of relationship with each other and with God, to heal the wounds and past, present and future, wounds from injustice and violence against many, including the LGBTQ community. Let us join together and engage deeply in relationships that are I-Thou in nature, bringing the reverence, respect and deepness that we bring to and seek from our relationship with God into our relationships with the world.
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 in vocal prayer, either of your own creation or read out loud the following: “O Holy One, help me engage deeply in relationships that are I-Thou in nature, bringing the reverence, respect and deepness that I give to and seek from my relationship with God into my relationships with the world. Amen.”