by Tayeko Yamanouchi
Worship for me is an act of adoration, a spiritual experience of communion with God. I believe that within me is a meeting place with God, my Creator and source of light. God has the power to renew me and give me new values and insights. God’s love has been revealed to me through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. In John 17:23, Jesus prayed that “the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” and through his example I have been enabled to see the world through eyes of forgiveness and love.
Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” I enter into worship in a spirit of humility, asking for forgiveness for my shortcomings. I ask for God’s grace to help me clear my mind of all my desires and anxieties. “Not my will but thine be done.”
As I silence myself I become more sensitive to the sounds around me, and I do not block them out. The songs of the birds, the rustle of the wind, children in the playground, the roar of an airplane overhead are all taken into my worship. I regulate my breathing as taught me by my Zen friends, and through this exercise I feel the flow of life within me from my toes right through my whole body. I think of myself like the tree planted by the “rivers of water” in Psalm 1, sucking up God’s gift of life and being restored.
Sometimes I come to meeting for worship tired and weary, and I hear the words of Jesus,”Come unto me, all ye that labor and are weary, and I will give you rest.” And having laid down my burden, I feel refreshed, both physically and spiritually. This leads me on to wholehearted adoration and thanksgiving for all God’s blessings. My own name, Tayeko, means “child of many blessings” and God has surely poured them upon me. My heart overflows with a desire to give something in return. I have nothing to give but my own being, and I offer my thoughts, words and actions of each day, and whisper, “Please take me as I am.” Thus, having offered myself, I have centered down to be one with my God, and I reiterate Isaac Penington’s query, “Are ye truly united, so as to become one spirit with the Lord? Are all the walls of partition broken down? And is there nothing now between you, but of two ye are made one in that which uniteth?”
However, the Quaker meeting for worship does not end there, for there is another important dimension. It is a gathered meeting. George Fox has counseled us to “mind that which is eternal, which gathers your hearts together up to the Lord, and lets you see that ye are written in one another’s hearts.” With this dimension being added, my sense of fellowship deepens, and I begin to see opportunities and responsibilities laid upon us as a World Family of Friends. I become more conscious of our social concerns and testimonies.
Towards the end of the meeting I think of all my loved ones, my own family and friends scattered all over the world. I think of those who carry heavy responsibilities for the right ordering of God’s earth, and I pray that we may one and all be in God’s hands, and that we may live in God’s service.
How do I prepare for worship? Is it a continuous practice in my daily life? Thomas Kelly says,”Inside of us there ought to go on a steady, daily, hourly process of relating ourselves to the Divine Goodness, of opening our lives to God’s warmth and love, of steadfast surrender to God, and of sweet whisperings with God, such as we can tell no one about at all” (Reality of the Spiritual World), and in my daily offering of my thoughts, words and actions, I realize the enormity of my commitment and pray that these may not be empty words.
Thomas Green says, “Worship is a personal matter and we are rightly reticent in making public our innermost thoughts” (Preparation for Worship), and it is up to each one of us to discover our own way of worship. It has been through spiritual encounters over the years that I have come to worship in the way I have outlined, but I anticipate coming across many untapped resources in the future, by which I hope to be drawn daily closer to my Creator.
Tayeko Yamanouchi, a member of Japan Yearly Meeting, joined the Religious Society of Friends in Shanghai in 1947 From 1971 to 1976 she served as Associate Secretary of the Friends World Committee for Consultation (in London).
Ways of Worship was written as a background paper for one of the study groups at the 1979 Triennial Meeting of Friends World Committee (FWCC), and later appeared in the Friends World News.