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Images of the Nativity and the Meanings of Christmas

Waiting worship at West Richmond Friends Meeting, 29th of Twelfth Month, 2019

Images of the nativity and the holy family from multiple cultural and contemporary perspectives.

This morning we are practicing “waiting” worship in the traditional manner of Friends, sometimes also called “unprogrammed” worship. But today we are not just removing our usual structure, with no goal other than silence. Rather, we are gathering in quiet expectation, confident that the Holy Spirit is truly present and ready to guide us. This manner of worship reflects the Quaker belief that God is accessible to every person, and that stilling our bodies and minds helps us be receptive to the inward presence of Christ.

Meeting begins when the first worshiper takes his or her place, and so we ask everyone to enter the worship space quietly, as soon as they are prepared to do so. As you settle in, this advice from George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, may be useful:

Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. (1658)

As you seek to center and open yourself to God, you may find yourself distracted by various thoughts, memories, ideas, or feelings. Don’t worry about such distractions, but seek to release them from your mind and heart, returning each time to the still center. Try, if only briefly, to be quiet in body, mind and spirit, available to the Holy Presence in our midst.

In seeking God's leading in the silence, you may be given direction for yourself, or receive guidance about something to do or say later to another person or persons. Or a message may arise which our Inward Teacher prompts you to share with the all who are present. When this happens, please offer the words you have been given as ministry for the gathered body. We are meeting in the library today. Please speak as clearly and distinctly as you can. Once a message has been given, the Meeting then returns to silence, so that what has been voiced may settle in the hearts of those who have heard.

When someone speaks, try to listen for the spirit behind the words; a message may not "speak to your condition," yet may help someone else, for our needs differ. Finally, it may be that no one will speak during the entire meeting, and that the time of gathered stillness speaks for itself.

Worship continues until those on the facing bench break the meeting by shaking hands with one another, and then everyone shakes hands with the people nearby. A short time of introductions and announcements follows.

May this time of quiet listening bless you this morning and throughout the rest of your week!

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