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.
Walking Out of Our Comfort Zone
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: Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
— Matthew 14:22-33, New International Version (NIV)
We are the locked door,
the stone not rolled away.
You invite us to cross through waters,
walk dry roads
look towards transformation
in every wilderness.
You believe we can.
We want other gods, other commodities—
depth without the daily searching.
You offer us a simple table
and the words, follow me.
You believe we will.
We choose a meager vision,
hold tight to the catch of our nets.
You tell a story that asks,
Which one was the neighbor?
You believe we understand.
We are perplexed
when you appear in our untended gardens.
You say, peace,
to all our uncertainty.
You show that new life
comes with time, with practice,
and the sowing, however small,
of stubborn hope.
You believe we will grow.
— by Keri K. Wehlander. From Weavings, Vol. XXII, Number 2, March/April 2007, p. 33.
Message: Walking Out of Our Comfort Zone
I am writing this week from the Annual Sessions of New England Yearly Meeting. The theme for this gathering has been Living into Transformation, which references Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable and perfect.” (NIV)
It has been a week of wrestling with angels. Often last week’s scripture, the story of Jacob and the angel, has come to mind as the New England Yearly Meeting body of Friends have revisited last year’s minutes on climate change and on white supremacy and we have wrestled with our humanity, we have wrestled with our sins, and we have wrestled with God.
There have been some deeply hard and challenging moments and we have heard some incredible ministry encouraging us forward into transformation. We have felt the wound, like Jacob’s hip, and there are days when we as a body of Friends have limped along. One friend, Xinef Afriam spoke to us about the intricate and messy transformational process that a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly and later in the week challenged us to transform the racist materials that have made up our historic Quakerism into something new. Our keynote speaker, Ruby Sales, implored us to find a new language for talking about white supremacy in this century, a language that is a spiritual one. She said, “We’ve got to come face to face with classism. We’ve got to come face to face with heterosexism. We’ve got to come face to face with all of the -isms that not only shatter the humanities of other people but also tear our own humanity to pieces.”
Throughout the week Friends also shared about their prophetic witness to climate change and encouraged the greater body to engage more with this work. We approved two minutes written by quarterly meetings, one on nonviolent religious and civic sanctuary and one on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We’ve done all the other business of the yearly meeting, listened to many reports, and read minutes of memorial and epistles from other yearly meetings. We have been busy Friends, but have we been bold? Have we stepped out of the boat?
The story of Jesus walking on water is notable for the miracle that is the act of actually walking on water but perhaps more notable though are actions of Peter. While the other disciples cowered in the boat, struck paralyzed by the presence of Jesus, Peter asked to walk with Jesus. He asked to join Jesus in the miracle. Peter asked to do something totally out of his comfort zone. He got there. He joined Jesus. And then he panicked.
This past Monday night, as part of the presentation on what Quakers in New England have done to engage with last year’s minute on white supremacy, Lisa Graustein addressed concerns about language and definitions by walking us through a series of clear, informative slides. One of the slides shows two sets of concentric circles. Each shows our comfort zone in the middle, then the next ring out is our stretch/learning zone, and the last circle is our panic zone. The goal in our lives then is to grow the capacity of our comfort zones and our stretch/learning zones and to shrink our panic zones. This allows us to engage with hard topics like white supremacy without shutting down, getting indignant or angry, or running away in panic.
My training and work as a hospital chaplain has supported the growth of my comfort and stretch/learning zones. It has been a journey of years where I have learned how to create space for my panicked emotions, how to be gentle with myself and how to keep showing up for the work no matter how hard it is. My body holds the memories of the first death I attended and countless deaths thereafter. I can picture the faces of families that I have worked with, conversations that I have had, and patients whom have trusted me with their stories. There are so many times along the last three years when the work has felt too much. Times when I have retreated, times when I have cried, times when I have felt enraged by the injustice of illness and times when I had to drag myself back into a room even though I really didn't want to be there. The process of growing my comfort zone and growing the stretch/learning zone has been a hard and painful one, but also one with so many moments of joy. I have been transformed and I have been broken open, and I pray that as I continue my work in chaplaincy I continue to be transformed and broken open.
For I have found that in this process of growth, it is inevitable that we will find ourselves from time to time—if not often—in our panic zone. We can't not be there sometimes if we are to grow the rest of ourselves. But when we are there, we need people and we need God to help us find our way back to our stretch/learning zone. It is in those moments, when we have walked out of our comfort zone, out of our stretch/learning zone and into that unknown and uncomfortable and “too much” place, when we like Peter notice the wind around us and the water beneath us and we begin to sink. It is in those moments when Jesus reaches out and grasps our hands. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Sometimes that reaching out is Jesus acting through a friend, a family member, or a member of our community. Other times it is that still small voice that speaks through our tears, our anger or our apathy. For it is in those breaking open moments that Jesus walks with us back to the boat. He walks with us over the water. He walks with us back home and He transforms our faith along the way.
So as we settle into worship, I invite you to reflect on this week. What has challenged you? What has felt like too much? Are there moments when you have shut down? When you have stopped listening? When has the exhaustion of the work ahead, of the boldness required, of the risk before you felt like just too much? When have you gotten out of the boat and walked to Jesus? When did you begin to sink? When did Jesus reach out and take your hand? When did God transform your heart, your faith, your whole being and walk with you back into 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, enliven in me the boldness to step out of the boat and onto the waves. Hold my hand when I begin to sink and walk with me into the transformation I need to undergo to do your work faithfully in this world. Amen.”