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.
Be Patterns, Be Examples
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: Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
— Exodus 1:8-2:10, New International Version (NIV)
Scripture: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
— Romans 12:1-8, New International Version (NIV)
Message: Be Patterns, Be Examples
“Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.” (George Fox, To Friends in the Ministry, 1656)
The scriptural story of Shiphrah and Puah is a story of resistance. The Pharaoh had given the order for Hebrew boy babies to be killed at birth and these two midwives stood up and said no. They resisted with their midwifery practice, they resisted with their words to the Pharaoh, and they resisted with their whole lives as they too gave birth and had families. Paired with the story of the birth of Moses, these two stories show different choices that were made. The midwives and Moses’ mother both made choices to resist the powers that decreed death but they did so differently—they subverted the oppression each in the way that they could.
And in like manner, we have choices to make on how to resist the grave injustices and violence of our generation. There may not be a call for the murder of Hebrew boys at birth—there is no “Hebrew Boys Matter” sign being flown today. And yet, how different then are the lives of Black people and people of color who are being killed, harassed, and oppressed in our country? How do you choose to stand up? How are you part of the resistance?
This post comes a little bit late this week, since I’ve been attending the New England Women’s Herbalism Conference. It’s my second year attending and even just in the last day, I’ve seen a significant difference from last year. There are more workshops discussing race, social action, and cultural competency. Healing circles have been held to create space for the holding of the pain and fear that comes from racism and white supremacy. There is sincere exploration of the question, “What can we do as herbalists to resist the hatred and violence caused by racism and white supremacy in this country?”
As a mostly white group of people, we have a lot of work to do and a ways to go to work on all of this, but it’s a start. And it’s a start from a group of people that may not come first to mind when thinking about people resisting oppression. This is a small example of how we all have work to do and how we all can join the resistance in our own small and large ways. No matter what you are doing, who you are, or what you know or don’t know, you can do the work on undoing oppression.
What if we consider standing up and doing something to resist oppression as part of who we are? We are called by God to live into the kingdom of God. It’s part of who we are and who we are called to be. Living into right relationship is not usually a comfortable experience and it is often hard and messy work, but like receiving a message to share in worship we can’t not do it.
A few weeks ago, Xinef Afriam delivered a moving message at New England Yearly Meeting Sessions. He told the story of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. Romans 12 was the inspiration for this year’s theme so we spent a lot of time talking about the phrase, ”Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Xinef taught us about imaginal cells, the cells that are in caterpillars that activate when it is time for the caterpillar to begin transformation. First a few cells begin to activate, to express their genetic code for transformation. However, the body of the caterpillar kills those cells and suppresses the change. Over time more and more cells activate and the caterpillar must surrender to the change and enter into the time of metamorphosis. These imaginal cells contain the blueprint for the butterfly. As the caterpillar weaves its cocoon and enters into that time of darkness, all the other cells die. The caterpillar turns into a pile of goo and then the imaginal cells transform the creature into the butterfly. It sounds like hard and messy work.
Paul’s message in Romans 12 is for us to surrender to the transformation. It’s a message of resistance, to resist the patterns of this world and be renewed by the Inner Light. It is not a comfortable experience and it is often hard and messy work, but like receiving a message to share in worship, we can’t not do it.
We can’t not do it because—as Xinef urged us at Yearly meeting and as George Fox wrote in his letters—we contain the imaginal cells. We contain the blueprints for the transformation. We contain the patterns and examples of the Kingdom of God. It’s an experience of turning inwardly to the living God inside each of us that is urging us forward, nudging us towards transformation. It’s a process of inward surrender and it’s a process of outward resistance.
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, teach us how to stand up for what is right even when it is hard, even when it is painful, even when it is counter-cultural. Help us not to conform to the patterns of this world. Help us become the patterns and examples that you, Lord, design. Transform us into your living word and help us stand fast as beacons of your love. Amen.”