New to Quakers?
Worshipping with Quakers
For Quakers, worship (sometimes called Meeting for Worship) is at the heart of what it means to be a Quaker. It is a source of strength and inspiration and it helps shape how we live our lives. It is an experience that is probably different from what is normally associated with the word ‘worship’. A meeting for worship usually lasts for an hour, or it may be half an hour. In Quaker worship there are no ministers or creeds. We first gather together in silence to quiet our minds – we don't have set hymns, prayers or sermons. In the stillness we open our hearts and lives to new insights and guidance. Sometimes we are moved to share what we discover with those present. We call this 'ministry'. We listen to what everyone has to say to find its meaning for us. Anyone can give ministry, including visitors.
What happens in the stillness? In the quiet we look for a sense of connection. This might be a connection with those around us, with our deepest selves, or perhaps with God. Our worship may take us beyond our own thoughts and ideas, beyond the everyday, to help us live with a deeper sense of love and purpose. Sometimes during worship, someone might speak or, when online, write something in the 'chat' box; this is a way of giving words to something that is really beyond words. This is called ministry and it comes from a sense of being prompted to share something of real importance; it might be about something that concerns them deeply or something from their own personal experience; it might be something that worries them or something they feel thankful for. Anyone can offer ministry, even if it is their first time in Quaker worship. Sometimes no one speaks and the whole meeting for worship can be silent. Who runs the meeting for worship? Anyone can contribute to a Quaker meeting for worship – there is no leader. In online worship, there will be a 'facilitator' and we do have people with a responsibility to support and nurture our worship. We call these people 'elders'.
What books do you use? Whilst there are no service books or set forms of words, during worship, people may read from the Bible or a book called Quaker faith & practice may be used. Quaker faith & practice is a collection of writing from our 375-year history. People may read from it quietly, or sometimes aloud if they feel prompted to. We also use a small booklet called Advices & queries, which is a collection of prompts, insights and questions.
Who can come to meeting? Meetings for worship are open to everyone. Children of all ages are a valued part of the Quaker community and there are some activities specifically for them.
Attending Bridport Meeting House for the first time?
If you walk down the east side of South Street and stop opposite St Mary’s Church you will be able to see the Quaker Meeting House sign. It’s the building through the covered passageway adjoining the almshouses and if you look straight on you will glimpse the Peace Garden which is open to everyone for quiet reflection or conversation, and is popular for its sunny benches for coffee or lunch.
The Meeting House is where we gather for Meeting for Worship at 10:30 on Sundays for an hour and Wednesdays at 10:30am for half an hour. Meetings have been taking place in this space, which was first a humble barn, since the late 17th century.
Everyone is welcome to come, whatever their faith or none, and some people who come will also attend other churches. We hope that we provide a home for those whose spiritual journey has taken different routes to find what our founder George Fox called “that of God in everyone”. Bridport Quakers are members of Churches Together in the town and are pleased to offer opportunities for people to come together from different faiths. such as in the Week of Prayer for World Peace. Young visitors are always welcome and we have plenty of activities for them in an adjoining room.
The Meeting begins when the first person enters the room, so we come in quietly. We have no ministers or creeds so we sit in a circle around a low table on which we have a few flowers from the garden. You can choose where you would like to sit. It takes a few minutes for everyone to settle down and once we feel that we are gathered there will be a reading. After that anyone who feels drawn to stand and speak may do so. It can be quite an experience to do this; on your first occasion you may feel that “quaking” is a good description for it! After each ministry there will be silence so that we can consider what has just been shared. Sometimes there will be a number of ministries, sometimes just a few. Ministries are very rarely prepared in advance but a common theme may develop. It does not feel like an empty silence, but as the mind calms we hope to provide an unpressured opportunity for spiritual exploration with the support of others. When the Meeting is due to end two Quakers will share the hands in prayer sign and we all join them in this. The clerk will then welcome visitors, invite us to share news of friends and give out any notices.
Refreshments and conversation take place afterwards. Before you leave you are welcome to pick up some of our leaflets or a little booklet called “Advices and Queries”. As a result of Covid we have adapted some of our arrangements in order to keep everyone safe, but what hasn’t changed is the very special atmosphere of our Meeting for Worship.