On Worship - Centering together.
For when people are gathered thus together, not merely to hear men nor depend upon them, but all are inwardly taught to stay their minds upon the Lord and wait for his appearance in their hearts, thereby the forward working of the spirit of man is stayed and hindered from mixing itself with the worship of God; and the form of this worship is so naked and void of all outward and worldly splendor that all occasion for man's wisdom to be exercised in that superstition and idolatry hath no lodging here; and so there being also an inward quietness and retiredness of mind, the witness of God ariseth in the heart, and the Light of Christ shineth whereby the soul cometh to see its own condition. And there being many joined together in this same work, there is an inward travail and wrestling; and also, as the measure of Grace is abode in, an overcoming of the power and spirit of darkness; and thus we are often greatly strengthened and renewed in the spirits of our minds without a word, and we enjoy and possess the holy fellowship and "communion of the body and blood of Christ," by which our inward man is nourished and fed.
[Proposition 11, Section 7]
I have heard many Friends talk about coming to meeting for an oasis of quiet in a busy world, or words to that effect. I know that there was a period when I likened my common experience of meeting for worship as being like a cat curled up in a warm spot behind a wood stove. I was just basking in the presence of God that I felt. This was a healing and a resting time for me. I came to know and trust God as a source of comfort and love. I did not know it at the time but this was laying a foundation for more vigorous work later on. In some ways it was like the long rest in base camp that mountain climbers have to take to acclimatize their bodies to exertion at altitude. I also did not come to meeting seeking that experience, no matter how precious it was when I found it. If we come to meeting just seeking quiet we are short circuiting the work of God as much as if we come planning to give a message.
Such is the evident certainty of that divine strength that is communicated by thus meeting together and waiting in silence upon God, that sometimes, when one hath come in that hath been unwatchful, and wandering in his mind, or suddenly out of the hurry of outward business, & so not inwardly gathered with the rest, so soon as he retires himself inwardly, this Power, being in a good measure raised in the whole meeting, will suddenly lay hold upon his spirit, and wonderfully help to raise up the good in him and beget him into the sense of the same Power, to the melting and warming of his heart, even as the warmth would take hold upon a man that is cold, coming in to a stove,...
[Proposition 11, Section 7]
When we come into meeting do we see that our centering can help center the entire meeting? Do we think of meeting for worship as an individual activity or do we see it as an attempt by the body gathered to center down corporately and so do we take up our work, not as an individual practice but as part of an attempt by all to come into the presence of God? At Fresh Pond Meeting the children go to First Day School for the first portion of meeting and come in to meeting for the last 15 minutes or so. There are many of them relative to the number of adults and they can bring in a fidgety energy with them. But when the meeting for worship is strongly gathered, it seems that they come in more quietly and settle themselves more quickly than at other times.
To be continued...
Blessings to all,