Waiting worship is one of the most quintessential characteristics of FGC-affiliated Quakers, yet many of us benefit from multiple means of accessing Spirit. Many (though not all!) young people often feel challenged by sitting quietly with the intention to focus inwardly, listening for that rather elusive still small voice. Inspired by suggestions from the Young Friends Clerking team, the Young Friends program recently offered an alternative to the standard of waiting worship: worship experiments. The name “worship experiments” is borrowed from a similar practice of New England Yearly Meeting’s Young Adult Friends program, and PYM Young Friends have been expressing their enthusiasm for many such deeply moving experiences that have been offered over the years through workshops.
Typically at a Young Friends gathering, everyone sits down after breakfast for about half an hour of waiting worship before beginning the days’ scheduled activities. On the morning of Saturday December 28th at the recent YF Christmas gathering, the community split up into three groups instead, heading off to their choice of worship experiment. The options included: ecstatic dance led by Young Friend Lili Burger-Lentz, sacred chanting led by Youth Programs Assistant Kody Hersh, and a walking labyrinth meditation led by Friendly Adult Presence Steve Thompson. These worship experiments were enthusiastically received by the YF community, many of whom found a deep spiritual connection more accessible than they often do in waiting worship.
Future worship experiments will seek to continue providing deep connection to Spirit through music, physical activity, and contemplation, with some options including Bible study, contact improvisation, contemplation of sacred text, and improvisational harmonizing. The Young Friends Program continues to investigate effective methods for Young Friends to authentically connect with Spirit in worship. In the spirit of continuing revelation, the program eagerly moves forward with worship experiments, refining and redefining as it goes. While the program will not be eliminating waiting worship from our together (at the Christmas gathering we sat in waiting worship two out of our three mornings), the program will endeavor to make worship experiments a regular offering at gatherings.