Quaker Worship

A blanket of divine covering comes over the room . . . A quickening presence pervades us . . . the Burning Bush has been kindled in our midst.  ~ Thomas Kelly

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Silence. We worship in silent expectant waiting on God’s spirit. Unlike most other churches, we do not have a programmed service that is led by a pastor with a set order of liturgical elements like Bible readings, hymn singing, pre-written prayers, prepared sermons, and so on.

“In spirit and truth.” Instead, we gather together in silence, focusing inwardly on the Light within us, on God, on the well of the Living Spirit in our midst, following Jesus’ injunction to the Samaritan woman at the well, to “worship in spirit and in truth.”

The gathered meeting. As the silence deepens, we hope to sense the Presence in our midst. Sometimes, the meeting feels so covered in the Holy Spirit that we are lifted up into a shared sense of joy and unity in that Presence. We call this a gathered meeting.

What can I expect?

Feel free to wear whatever clothing you’re comfortable in. Please avoid wearing perfume or strong scents, to avoid allergic reactions and distraction from the worship. Sit wherever you like; we find that sitting close together fosters the gathered meeting.

Worship begins when the first person enters the meeting room and begins to center down in the silence. So we ask folks to arrive on time and to enter quietly. If you do come late, please enter as quietly as you can and, if someone is speaking, please wait until they are done.

Vocal ministry. Oftentimes, some Friends will feel led to speak out of the silence with a Spirit-led message. We call this vocal ministry.

Worship ends when a designated Friend turns and shakes hands with the folks around her, whereupon the rest of us great each other also.

Following formal worship, after the hubbub has subsided a bit, we invite worshippers to remain in a spirit of worship while we share joys and sorrows—important things that are on our hearts that we want to share with the rest of the community.

Introductions follow joys and sorrows. If you are visiting us for the first time or have been with us for only a few meetings for worship, we hope you will stand and introduce yourself and to tell us why you have come, what you are hoping for.

Social hour. After introductions, we adjourn to a room across the hall from the meeting room for refreshments and socializing. A welcoming committee usually hosts an information table; they can answer your questions and put you on our mailing list if you desire. (We also have a visitors book at one of the entrances to the meeting room, but this will not put you on any list; we invite you to sign it.) At some point during the hour, there are announcements.

Programs. We often have programs that start around 1:00, and sometimes before meeting for worship at 9:30. Adult religious education programs, programs on peace and social action, times for sharing our spiritual lives, and discussion groups are among the possibilities.

Meeting for worship with attention to the meeting’s business. On the second Sundays of the month, we conduct the meeting’s business in a special meeting for worship, from 12:45 to 2:30; sometimes we also hold a business meeting that morning at 9:30. You can learn more about how we conduct our business here.

Our worship consists neither in words nor in silence as such, but in a holy dependence [on] the mind of God. For such dependence it is necessary to begin with silence until the words can be brought forth which arise from God's Spirit.  ~ Robert Barclay

More about vocal ministry

The goal of these messages is to open us to the Truth, turn us toward the Light within us, and lead us deeper into worship. Naturally, some ministries feel more Spirit-led than others. Nonetheless, we assume that any message could be speaking to someone in the meeting and so we receive each message accordingly. Messages may include song and even movement.

Some guidelines for speaking

We ask worshippers to

  • stand when they speak and to speak loudly enough for all to hear; some of us are hearing impaired; if you are hearing impaired yourself, ask the greeter at the door to set you up with one of our electronic aids;
  • wait an appropriate time at the beginning of the hour, typically twenty minutes or so, before speaking in order to allow the meeting to deepen, for the silence to reach some depths and for the worshippers to find their center;
  • leave some time after someone has spoken before speaking yourself, to give us time to follow the message to its center;
  • avoid directly responding to a previous message or entering into a discussion about subjects raised in previous messages;
  • speak only once; and,
  • most importantly, to wait upon the leadings of the Spirit (and not prepare a message beforehand), asking ourselves: is this of the Spirit, and is it for me alone or for those who are gathered?

 Is My Message Led by the Spirit?

We offer these questions to decide whether your message is Spirit-led:

  • Have I come to worship free of any determination to speak or not to speak?
  • Have I become centered in the silence?
  • Does my message come from a deep spiritual center or source?
  • Is my message intended for everyone, not just for me or the last speaker?
  • Is it unlikely that my message will be perceived as a lecture or announcement?
  • Do my words point the way to something higher than myself, turning listeners inward to the Light or Spirit within them?
  • Do I feel compelled to speak?

Videos and Resources on Quaker worship



Faith and Practice on Meeting for Worship—Faith and Practice is the book of basic history, beliefs, and practices of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, our denominational organization.

Our library—our meeting has an extensive library with lots of resources on all things Quaker, including our worship. Feel free to ask someone about access to its materials.

Quaker bookstore—books and pamphlets on Quaker worship available from QuakerBooks.org.

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