Your first time at a Quaker meeting...
A Quaker meeting creates a space of gathered stillness. We come together where we can listen to the promptings of truth and love in our hearts, which we understand as arising from God. Our meetings are based on silence: a silence of waiting and listening. There may be silence for quite some time, perhaps half an hour or more. But that does not mean nothing is happening.
We are caught up in the still spirit of the meeting, and all of us are trying to come nearer to each other and to God, without reciting creeds, singing hymns or repeating set prayers. We do not worship in isolation: we try to hold ourselves aware of all those gathered with us, uniting in a common purpose, so that the waiting and listening become an act of sharing.
We come to meeting because we feel the need to worship. It is important to us. Meeting for worship starts as soon as the first person enters the room and sits down. It helps if the meeting can settle a few minutes before the appointed time.
A Norfolk Sunset © Bob Ward
Robert Barclay (1648–1690), who wrote the first systematic exposition of Quaker theology, shows how knowledge comes from worship:
Not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came [I] to receive and bear witness of the Truth, but by being secretly reached by [the] Life. For, when I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart; and as I gave way unto it I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up; and so I became thus knit and united unto them, hungering more and more after the increase of this power and life whereby I might feel myself perfectly redeemed; and indeed this is the surest way to become a Christian; to whom afterwards the knowledge and understanding of principles will not be wanting, but will grow up so much as is needful as the natural fruit of this good root, and such a knowledge will not be barren nor unfruitful.