Lancaster Friends Meeting warmly welcomes all visitors, inquirers, and seekers to our weekly worship.
Quaker worship: what to expect
We have two meetings each Sunday: the 8:00 a.m. meeting tends to be smaller and quieter (usually 10-15 present), while the 10:00 a.m. meeting is larger (usually 60-80 present), and includes a separate program for children. If this is your first time with us, there will be a greeter just inside the entrance at 9:45, to help orient you and answer any questions. Arriving 10 minutes earlier may be helpful when attending for the first time.
Our worship is based on the traditional Quaker practice of silent, expectant waiting. This is sometimes described as "unprogrammed" worship, because there is no liturgy or pre-determined order of service (as well as no minister or priest, and no outward sacraments). Rather, we seek to be led by the Spirit of God in our midst, and so no two meetings are ever identical.
Worship begins when the first person enters the meeting room. We ask that you enter quietly, and sit wherever you wish, as there are no reserved seats. Latecomers may choose to sit in the library (just outside the Meeting Room), and enter together at 10:20. The children will join adults for worship at 10:40.
As we assemble together for worship, there is typically an extended period of silence, as we each "center" in our own way, seeking to still the mind and open the heart. There is no single technique of Quaker worship, but experienced Friends will frequently develop their own disciplines of prayer or meditation that help them attain a condition of open attentiveness to the Divine, which we believe is always present, if we but open our hearts. Once the community has had sufficient time to center, the silence may be broken by someone offering a message or "vocal ministry." Before speaking, the person has first attempted to discern that the message is truly inspired by the Spirit (and not the ego), and that the message is intended for the gathered community (and not just the speaker). As we continue to wait in silent worship, it is expected that a period of silence will follow each message, so that others may be able to truly hear and reflect upon what has been said. Subsequent messages may explore more deeply the spiritual theme of the first message, or may be unrelated to it, as the Spirit leads (see "Guidelines for Vocal Ministry").
Messages are not planned, but arise out of the silence as worshipers are moved by the spirit of God. Some Friends describe this as “listening for what is wanting to be said”. On occasion, the worship hour may conclude without any spoken ministry being offered. It is customary to speak no more than once during any given meeting. If someone is speaking when you enter the meeting room, please wait at the door until he or she has finished before finding a seat.
After approximately one hour, an individual appointed to end the meeting shakes hands with those nearby, at which point others will do the same, bringing the time of worship to a close. The person responsible for closing meeting will then invite others present to share any joys or concerns with the assembled community. Newcomers and visitors will also be invited to introduce themselves, and there are usually a number of announcements for upcoming events. All this may take as long as fifteen or twenty minutes, following which you are most welcome to join us in the social room for fellowship and light refreshments. Friends will be more than happy to talk with you further at this time, and help answer any questions that may have arisen.
Also, after meeting a member of the Worship and Ministry Committee (designated as the “Quaker Q person”) will be in the library, to answer any questions about Quakerism, our community, or to help with reading material (see also Frequently Asked Questions).
Not infrequently, first-time attenders will feel an immediate and strong affinity for the experience of Quaker Meeting, as though they are finally "coming home". Others, however, may find that the Quaker way of worship is something that feels initially unfamiliar, to be experienced in small doses, and for which appreciation grows only slowly over time. Either way, we sincerely hope that the stillness and expectant waiting of Quaker worship will play a helpful role in your spiritual journey, and that you will join us again for worship.