New to Quakers?
Worshipping with Quakers
For Quakers 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’. Our main Meeting for Worship on Sunday lasts for an hour, and half an hour on Wednesday. In a Quaker worship there are no ministers or creeds. We begin by gathering 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 other people 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. During worship someone might speak from the heart; this is a way of giving words to something that is really beyond words. This is what we call ministry, and it comes from a sense of being prompted to share something of real importance; it might be about something that concerns us deeply or something from our own personal experience; it might be something that worries us or something we feel thankful for. Anyone can offer ministry, even if it is their first time in Quaker worship. Sometimes no one speaks and so the whole meeting for worship can be silent. Anyone can contribute to a Quaker meeting for worship; there is no leader. If the worship is online there will be a facilitator. We do have people with a responsibility to support and nurture our worship and we call them "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 and Practice may be used. This is a collection of writing from our history to the present. People may read from it quietly, or sometimes aloud if they feel prompted to. We also use a small booklet called Advices and 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. We arrange for young children to experience a small amount of time in Meeting and then we have some activities specifically for them in their own space.
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 on this site since 1697.
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.
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 shake 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 social time take place afterwards in the Committee Room. Before you leave you are welcome to take home some of our leaflets or a little booklet called “Advices and Queries”. You will find these in the hallway.