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.
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,
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.
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.