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.
Lifting as We Climb
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.
The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”
So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”
— Numbers 27:1-11, New International Version (NIV)
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
— Luke 24:1-11, New International Version (NIV)
Message: Lifting as We Climb
This past Wednesday, my Facebook feed was flooded with positive messages of resistance, solidarity and hope. Friends participated in varying actions ranging from wearing red to striking and attending marches. All of these actions were done in celebration of International Women’s Day. So deviating from the Revised Common Lectionary, I felt led to offer scripture for this worship that celebrates the strength, intuition, compassion and wisdom of women in the Bible.
The first text, from the book of Numbers is a story of five sisters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. Their father had died during the time of exile in the wilderness leaving their family with no male heir to inherit their claim to a portion of the Promised Land. They come together with one voice before Moses and the elders of their community requesting their rightful inheritance. Moses takes their request to the Lord who says, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right,” which marks a breakthrough of the traditional patriarchal and patrilineal culture.
While the story does not end there, and later on in the book of Numbers it is reveled that this story is but a small success, it is nevertheless a success. While the women are not allowed to marry outside of their community in fear that the community will lose their lands and the new provision to grant land to women is only honored when there are no sons present, their petition before the leaders of their community is a striking experience of God saying that these women were right: an experience powerful enough to create change.
The second scripture is the story of the women who gather around Jesus as he dies and is resurrected. While not all the women are named in this story and none of the women are given specific dialogue, there is a sense that these women knew each other well and served their community with their compassion, presence and love. The scripture suggests that these women were Jesus’ disciples, for they remembered Jesus’ words from his teachings. These are the women who waited through the day and night as Jesus died and was taken down from the cross, providing accompaniment to those affected by violence. These are the women who supported Jesus’ mother Mary and his family as their hearts broke, who are chaplains to all those in history grieving. These are the women who came to do the rituals of death and mourning and met the angels who told them that Jesus had risen. Through them we bear witness to the resurrection, the hope, and the miracle of life after death. We may discredit their message as unbelievable. We may even forget their names but when Jesus appears later to the disciples, these women are remembered as the first witnesses, the ones to whom the angels spoke, the ones who shared that miracle of life among each other even when the rest of society wouldn't believe them.
Both these stories share narratives of communities, not individuals. They aren’t stories of a single woman triumphing over injustice or a single woman carrying the burden of grief and end of life care. Instead, these stories are about communities of women, sisters by family and by circumstance who came together to do what was right. They are stories about women whom God praised for their faithfulness, their strength, their wisdom and their compassion. Amidst the stories of terror, the stories of violence towards women that can also be found in the Bible, these stories as well as many others depict woman bonding together to both create change in and care for their communities.
One of my friends on Facebook, posted this animation:
It shows women helping other women climb higher. This graphic illustrates the womanist mantra “Lifting as We Climb.” Womanist theology is termed created by the influence of Black writer and activist Alice Walker in her collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. In this text, she writes “A Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” Black Feminist theologians like Delores Williams and Phyllis Trible developed the field of womanist theology in reaction to white feminist theology, explaining that in the Black Woman’s experience liberation comes from lifting her entire community out of injustice not just herself.
In this contemporary age of intersectional feminism, the fields of Feminist Theology, Womanist Theology, Mujerista Theology (Latina American Feminist Theology), Asian Feminist Theology, and Queer Theology need to be in conversation with each other. (There are others out there too, though these fields are the most established right now.) Each of these areas of study offers unique insight about the women’s experience at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, class, and culture. (If you are interested in learning more about any of these field of liberation theology, send me an email for a list of resources.) For the faces of today's resistance are diverse, but as we march together, as we strike together, are we talking together? Are we standing up together before the powers that be like the sisters in the book of Numbers? Are we caring for our community together like the women in the Gospel of Luke? Are we witnessing together the unbelievable possibilities that our communal imagination is creating? Are we supporting each other when we aren’t being listened to, when our names are forgotten, and when our successes are frustratingly small? How do we celebrate our intersection, this day, this week, this year, this time in our corporate history? How do we carry the strength, intuition, compassion and wisdom of the women of the Scriptures into our vision for the future?
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, grant us strength, intuition, compassion and wisdom to join with others, women, men, and those who identify as both or neither, to live out your faithful vision for this world. Help us ask the difficult questions and help us lay our petitions at your feet. Grant that we may live into your will for right relationships, justice and compassion for all of our world. Amen.”