Readings from a recent meeting of my Local Meeting's Es&Os (Elders & Overseers). This was fairly deep with us, and so I thought I'd share:
The heart of the life of the Religious Society of Friends is the Meeting for Worship. It calls for us to offer ourselves, body, mind, and soul for the doing of God’s will.
Worship is the adoring response of the heart and mind to the influence of the Spirit of God. It stands neither in forms nor in the formal disuse of forms; it may be with or without words, but it must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). We recognize the value of silence, not as an end, but as a means toward the attainment of the end, which is communication with God, and fellowship with one another.
In all our Meetings for Worship, we gather in a spirit of prayerful obedience to God, with a willingness to give as well as to receive. In speech or in silence, each person contributes to the Meeting. Worshiping God together, we strengthen one another, and our bodies and minds are refreshed in the Life of the Spirit. Our daily lives are linked with the Meeting for Worship, the Meeting for Worship with our daily lives.
Friends are encouraged to give adequate time for study, meditation and prayer, and other ways of preparing for worship, and to arrive at Meeting promptly with an open and expectant spirit. During the Meeting for Worship, some people may feel moved to speak, to share an insight, to pray, to praise. When we feel led to speak, we should do so, clearly and simply. When another speaks, we should listen with an open spirit, seeking the thought behind the words and holding the speaker in love. After a message has been given, Friends should have time to ponder its meaning and to search themselves before another speaks.
How do we prepare our hearts and minds for worship?
Do we meet in expectant waiting for the promptings of the Divine Spirit? Is there a living silence in which we are drawn together by the power of God in our midst? Is this inspiration carried over into our daily living?
Is the vocal ministry exercised under the leading of the Holy Spirit without prearrangement, and in the simplicity and sincerity of truth? As we listen, or as we speak, are we guided by the Inward Light and sensitive to one another’s needs? Are we careful not to speak at undue length or beyond our light?
Our need for love and care, and our response to this need in others, make up a rich part of our lives. In an exchange truly grounded in love, each of us is both giver and receiver, ready to help and accept help. Neither pride nor fear keeps us from the unconditional love and care of God manifested through others. Let neither comfort nor self-centeredness blind us to need of others.
We listen to one another with openness of heart and in good faith, aware that greater wisdom than our own is required to meet our human needs. We lift up our hearts to the Source of all wisdom and power.
Are we charitable with each other? How careful are we of the reputation of others? Do we avoid hurtful criticism and gossip?
Do we practice the art of listening to one another, even beyond words?
How well are we able to love each other unconditionally?
Are we sensitive to each other’s personal needs and difficulties and do we assist in useful ways?
~ from Faith and Practice of North Pacific Yearly Meeting, Chapter 6, Advices and Queries, 1993 edition
I recently started a term on Overseers, the pastoral care and counsel group, of my Local Meeting, appointed by Area Meeting.
I am deeply uncomfortable with the term 'overseer,' because of its association with chattel slavery. I'm willing to be referred to as a member of Oversight, but I am not comfortable being referred to as an overseer. And I'd much prefer if we were called something more in line with what we actually are, such as Care & Counsel.
Local Meeting 'Es&Os' (Elders and Overseers) had one of our regular meetings this week. Our convener asked me beforehand to bring a reading to share. Usually these are from Britain Yearly Meeting's Quaker Faith and Practice, but sometimes from other Quaker texts or something different altogether. I spent part of my afternoon beforehand delightfully buried in several different books. I ended up finding much more than I was looking for in North Pacific Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice, which remains one of my all-time favourite Faith and Practice books, for many reasons.
What I have above is what I ended up reading.