Friends Meeting's Sunday service is called "Meeting for Worship". I've been thinking about what it means to worship for the last couple of weeks. I'm going to try to articulate what it means to me...
I'm not sure I've had much experience with being aware of corporate expressions of worship. When I think of it, I think of singing. I don't know if these ideas come from an intellectual place or an intuitive place in me, but I would think that worship would be full of joy and movement. Worship is praise, lifting up our thoughts and voices in adulation to God, or expressions of devotion. Worship is expressing our awe at God's glory. Worship is about overwhelming gratitude for all of God's creation.
I would imagine collective worship to be spontaneous and kind of sloppy, organic and full of humility.
I think individuals silently do this in Friends Meeting but I've never experienced this expression of worship on a corporate level. We sometimes sing before Meeting for Worship but that seems more for us, to give us pleasure, than to express joy or love for God. There are two Friends who sometimes share a message in song and it is always beautiful. Sometimes others will join in the singing, sometimes not. When all the attenders join together to sing, I think that is the closest I have ever experienced to our Friends Meeting coming together to 'worship' or praise God.
I read a blog post by another Quaker blogger a while back. He had a list of 10 things he would like to see change about Quakers (or something to that effect). One of the things on his list was that he would like Quakers to be open to more (I think the term he used was) Pentecostal forms of expression and his example was 'speaking in tongues'. The Bible says that if someone speaks in tongues, someone should interpret what the speaker has said, which I think rarely or never happens (listen to Victoria Williams' song "You R Loved" which refers to this). I don't think I hold with Friends Meetings needing to open ourselves up to speaking in tongues, although if it happened organically, on occasion, and it were a true expression of the Divine in worship, why not? I would like to see more occasion for praising God through movement or song. I understand the reasons why we don't incorporate hymns or prayers in our worship services and I agree with them, but I think that sometimes, Meeting for Worship in silence closes us off from one another and from expressing joy and happiness at God's great gifts of life and love.
Doxology (with some liberties to the archaic lyrics...)
"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise God, all creatures here below;
Praise God above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Parent, Child and Holy Ghost"
In other words, praise God whatever your understanding of God, whatever the name you use for the Divine.
Something I read somewhere lately: We don't praise God because God needs us to; we praise God because we need to.
Today I will worship God in whatever way feels right. I will not be afraid to raise my voice in adulation. I will give expression to the joy I feel in God's creation.