Monday, February 1, 2010


A few months ago, a friend from an unprogrammed meeting wrote me an email.  Among other things, he asked about my experiences with semi-programmed worship.  He said,
I sense that it has "life in it" for you, and I would like to know how you experience it in contrast to how you experience unprogrammed worship.
When I visited Freedom Friends Church this past weekend, I remembered our email exchange.  The email I wrote back to him was one of the most thorough descriptions of worship at Freedom Friends I have written, and I thought I'd share  it (with a few minor changes) here.

Dear Friend,

I have been thinking about your question, what has life for me in semi-programed worship. 

At Freedom Friends Church (FFC), our programing is pretty light.  We start by singing 3-4 songs (usually accompanied by Alivia on acoustic guitar, often people will request their favorites), followed by a few minutes of centering silence.  Then the pastor, Peggy, asks Friends to share out of the silence things they are grateful for ("gratitudes").  After everyone who wants to has shared, she closes with vocal prayer, then asks Friends to share places where we need God's help ("petitions").   When that is done, she closes again with vocal prayer, then leads us into about 45 minutes of unprogrammed worship.

All of these pieces are meaningful for me.  I love to sing, and when I came to my unprogrammed meeting in Seattle, that was the part I missed most.  I have tried joining different choirs (including the Seattle Peace Chorus, which has a membership pretty similar to a liberal Friends meeting), but there is something different about singing praise to God with members of my faith community. 

The gratitudes and petitions give us a chance to share our joys and sorrows with God and with the community―we really know what is going on in each other's lives.  I frequently wish there was a place for this kind of sharing in my unprogrammed meeting in Seattle (instead, it sometimes comes out during worship). 

Some of the folks at FFC can be a little twitchy and I think the time for singing and sharing helps us focus and center and makes the waiting worship deeper.  Our pastor stresses that the format of the meeting is a spiritual practice that we can do every day, not just on Sunday morning.  We are also aware that we are all learning together, and there is a tenderness toward each other's messages that I haven't always found in other meetings.

As you can see, I can go on and on about FFC!  Although I have had many Spirit-filled experiences in unprogrammed meetings, FFC is my spiritual home.  I would be happy to talk more about it or answer any questions, either in person or by email.

With love,


  1. What I have noted is a movement towards acceptance of a greater variety of ways to worship, although there is resistance to calling some of them worship among some "unprogrammed" Friends. Many meetings have a sharing of joys and concerns, sometimes within and sometimes just after the time labeled "meeting for worship." Increasing numbers of meetings have scheduled times for singing, often just before or after the time labeled "meeting for worship." Regardless of the resistance by some to calling the other elements a part of meeting for worship. there is no doubt that many Friends experience them as part of worship.

    At the same time, among pastoral Friends, many churches are putting renewed emphasis on periods of open worship. So it seems to me that there is some convergence in worship practices among the varieties of Friends.

  2. You were at FFC on Jan 31st?? Jeremy and I were in Salem! But we didn't end up getting to any meeting or church, though I had thoughts of going to FFC.

    I really like your description and it reminds me of what I miss between NSFC and TCFM. I did like the singing at NSFC (though I didn't like all the songs). I like the big community and the silence at TCFM. I sometimes thought there wasn't enough silence at NSFC (but then, it is programmed!)
    The thing I miss most is NSFC's time of "God stories," probably similar to your gratitudes and petitions. This was a time that anyone could share anything - prayer requests, struggles, praises, updates, information, whatever. And it was in a worshipful manner usually so it seemed like an extension of open worship.
    We don't have anything like that at TCFM, at least not at the main worship time. In the earlier meeting they usually ask if there are messages that didn't rise to the level of ministry, and those things can be shared then. But in the main meeting, if you want to share something like that it has to come out during open worship (and then you run the risk of being eldered for sharing something inappropriate!)

    Anyway, I think people are really seeking community and the ability to share these things on our hearts and minds. I think sharing those things helps us better enter the silence.

  3. Hey, Aimee! I'd love to hear you share something inappropriate some Sunday morning at TCFM. Eldering be damned.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.