Many have participated in meetings of various kinds on Zoom; few have participated in a meeting for worship on Zoom. To help establish and sustain the quality of worship, we have prepared some advices below.
Advices for Participating in Online Worship
- Enter the meeting in silence as you would for an in-person meeting for worship. Do not introduce yourself when you enter.
- Keep your device on mute unless you are speaking. Everyone will be muted by default upon entering, and the “host” has the ability to mute and unmute any participant. Background noise such as dogs barking or cell phones ringing can be very disruptive to the spirit of worship and make it hard to hear.
If you are led to speak:
- As always, allow some silence after any preceding message to allow it to settle in our hearts.
- Unmute your device.
- Introduce yourself, simply saying “This is <your name.> (Some may participate by phone, so it especially helps them.)
- Pause briefly in case someone else has also started to speak. If so, wait for the clerk to recognize you. Otherwise, start speaking.
- Mute your device when you are done. (The host may do so if you forget.)
- Continuing in worship, the clerk will invite afterthoughts and joys and concerns as usual. Continue to follow the same advices for speaking.
- If you need to get the attention of the host or clerk for any reason, use the chat feature and choose to whom to address your message or use the raise hand feature. If you are using only a phone to connect, consider texting the host first; unmute and speak to the group, if necessary.
At the rise (close) of Meeting for Worship, the Clerk or Greeter usually says, “Are friends clear?”
What does that mean?
The short answer – is everyone sure that they have nothing more to say that rises to a need to share during the time of worship?
Going back quite a few years, we at Grand Rapids Friends Meeting added a practice of having the Greeter ask, five minutes before the end of the hour, if there are any further “sharing,” or prayers, concerns, joys to be expressed as the time of worship draws to a close. This is to provide an invitation and ample opportunity to share concerns or joys on people’s minds, that have not risen to the level of an urgent “leading of the Spirit” during the hour of worship.
After this final 5 minutes, at the end of the hour, “Are Friends clear?” is a final punctuation, with a slight pause, in case something is still weighing on a Friend’s mind, but they have been reluctant to speak.
In the broader context of either Friends meetings (worship, business, fellowship) or clearness committees, worship sharing, or other conflict resolution processes, the same principles apply. They all lead us to ask whether we are clear, in our individual lives or in community.
At the end of a clearness committee, we don’t say “are friends clear?”, but we do check-in with the person seeking clearness, to see if they are any clearer on their issue or their path forward.
The same applies to business. The Clerk composes a “minute” based on discussion of an issue, and after reading the minute, pauses for reaction, and then may say something like “are we all clear?” When heads nod yes, we proceed to record the action.
Likewise, in a worship sharing session, where a query is posed, followed by silent reflection, and Spirit-led responses by the participants, the convener will try to discern the sense of the Meeting over the issue at hand. When appropriate, a summary of that perceived sense of the Meeting may be spoken. Then, are Friends clear? If not, perhaps another query is posed, re-framing the issue in a way that may lead to greater clarity.
It may be clear that Friends have expressed themselves and others have listened and have gained better understanding, but there is no need for more than that. In this case, “are Friends clear?” may have more to do with whether they are clear in their own hearts. This may be an acceptance, even embracing, of uncertainty, of a mystery, and yet we are at peace. All is well with our souls.
As in all we do, the goal is not perfect unanimity or agreement, but rather a sense of peace and “unity in the Spirit,” an overwhelming sense that this is where we are, and where we are going, as a community, and that all is good – Friends are clear.
Over the past few weeks our Meeting has experienced various leadings to more deeply consider our place and role in the broader Grand Rapids community. How does the Grand Rapids Friends Meeting bring light and blessings beyond the walls of our meeting place?
These leadings have emerged as vocal ministry from Meeting members during worship as well as during planning and business sessions. In fact, our two Seeker’s Meetings this spring (March 29 and May 31) are both devoted to group discernment and discussion as we seek the Light in terms of our way forward.
The Grand Rapids Meeting has been a presence in the larger community for over 50 years. Throughout those years our members and the Meeting itself engaged various outreaches, projects, and ministries that helped transform lives, touch hearts, and bring about positive social change.
Now, we are sensing as a Meeting that it’s time to ask again how can we serve others? How can we bring healing? How can we be bearers of light and love?
Our Meeting is small. Our resources are finite. Prudence and discernment will be required as we seek the way forward.
At this past Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, I compared our Meeting to a garden.
We are the plants within the garden and together we cultivate our Quaker soil and each other. Our primary responsibilities are to see that our members grow and thrive. The fruit we produce is used to feed each other.
But doesn’t our Meeting produce more than enough fruit that we can fed others, outside our Meeting as well? I’m convinced that our garden yields more bounty that we might realize.
There’s much merit to organic gardening and our Meeting’s discernment and way forward must be organic too, reflecting who we are and our particular skills, talents, and wisdom. We need to avoid artificial efforts and find the fruits that Spirit has encouraged and nourished among us. Those are the gifts we should share with those beyond our Meeting.
I hope you can join us as we discern together.
16 of us gathered on October 6th for our annual Homecoming Potluck, and to celebrate World Quaker Day, along with Friends Meetings from all over the planet. This is a tradition begun by Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) as a way to recognize and celebrate our connection to all Quakers (and all kinds of Quakers) everywhere around the world. To learn more about FWCC and World Quaker Day, go to fwcc.world.