Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, November 13, 2022
For me, prayer is like water: We seek water, listen for its sound and follow. We go to fresh water and drink, and bring it back to offer others. We wash and refresh with water.
Prayer is akin to worship, and emerges through worship. We may call worship “inviting” the Divine. I experience worship as remembering the Living Presence of the Divine… Who Already Is – Spirit, God, Jesus, The Light. It’s like re-immersing in a body of water – at times, being with the calm stillness that always is; and at others, riding life’s waves and strong currents.
My leading to bring the message came when sitting here in worship. It was during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Healing – for short, Meeting for Healing. This worship is led by Portland Friends, and I sync Durham’s Owl system occasionally – the next time being Thursday, December 1st.
Friends first convened this meeting for healing when the Covid pandemic started. I visited by Zoom while living in Michigan, sitting in my home’s basement. Friends continue to gather on a bimonthly basis. I’d like to share the introduction from Portland Friends about their meeting for healing:
Meeting for Worship for Healing is an old Quaker tradition. Our goal with this meeting is to focus on the physical and spiritual illnesses of the current world. It’s not intended to be the same as a full meeting for worship but instead is meant to be focused on communal prayer. We are often blessed with a time of deep silence. Messages may arise but should be de-centered from our ego.
Invitation to Worship in clamorous times
We are living through a time when we are inundated with words.
We invite you during worship to sink deeply
Below the political messages,
below the personal efforts to put things into words
Down to the Silence
Down to the Living Waters
Down to the Source that connects us all
Meeting for Healing – at times also called “healing prayer” – is foundational to my becoming a Quaker. Preparing today’s message has made this fact plain to me. During Durham Friends’ listening session on October 30th, I heard stories of how people came to be here – in Quaker worship, at this meeting house. And I could feel the truth of my own: My experience is about seeking the Living Waters, or the Living Presence; and listening to where God would have me be, or to go.
Please join me in a journey. Let’s go to Lansing, Michigan, dialing back to October 2007. I attend my first Sunday silent worship. Held in a community room at a neighborhood book store, the meeting is called “early worship” and hosts a small circle. How have I come to be here?
A seed is planted two years earlier, 2005, by a writer friend who also is a fellow former evangelical. She thinks that I’d like “Quaker meeting” – that is, Quaker as she knows it: silent or unprogrammed worship. When she gives me this idea, I already know Quakers since 9/11, through our co-organizing anti-war protests and programs over several years.
So come again to the Fall of 2007, I try out the bookstore location for worship. Firstly, because it is not a church; my body has found it a hardship to sit in a church for several years. And I also come because I recently began sobriety from alcohol. The most basic truth is that I come to Quaker worship because I am thirsting for the Living Waters, and it is the Living Presence that brings me back.
A new acquaintance from Sunday worship tells me about another meeting. It’s a monthly meeting for healing. The gathering is at the home of Richard, a cozy cape-cod house laden with knick-knacks. An avid thrifter, Richard is warm-hearted, big-bellied, and a very out gay man who wears amber-beaded necklaces during worship.
I become a regular in this home-based worship. People who show up bring open hearts, and we are human in every way. After worship, many stay to ask questions and share our experiences. We enjoy Richard’s pots of tea and a potluck-style dinner. Through faithfulness and fellowship, friendships grow. And some months later, I do visit the larger later Sunday worship, which gathers in a circular room of a local church.
Friends, let us journey “back” to here and now. And wherever we are “arriving” from in the Meeting House – perhaps sitting on a bench with one another, or physically from another geography – I pray that we refresh ourselves with the Living Waters. I pray that we hear the Living Presence calling us into relationship – with Jesus as the Path of Love, with one another, and with persons known and yet known to us. Friend Rufus Jones, from the 19th and 20th centuries with roots in Maine, writes:
…most of our life, whether it is simple or complex, is a life of relationships with other persons. It is this fact of inter-relationship that makes life spiritual, and it is this that often makes it so tragic. We cannot, if we would, fence round our souls and keep them naked and alone. We are good or bad, not in soul-tight compartments, but in our dealing with other persons who fill our world.
Our highest* dealings, those which affect our entire being in the profoundest way, are our relationships with God. Nothing else so completely shapes one’s whole nature as his way of responding to his Infinite Companion, for everybody does respond in one way or another. (*emphasis in original text)
Here is the closing prayer that I lift up: Spirit, may the doors of Durham Friends Meeting open widely – physically from the Meeting House, and imaginatively as a faith community into our daily lives. May we open our homes to neighbors, seekers, and strangers. May we become invitations to prayer and worship. May we refresh our minds, hearts, and souls with the Living Waters. May we remember the Living Presence of the Divine Who Already Is. Jesus, may we be healed and bring healing to others. Amen.
Resources about Meeting for Healing among historical and contemporary Friends are available on this web page maintained by Red Cedar Friends Meeting of Lansing, Michigan (Lake Erie YM), <https://redcedarfriends.org/join-us-for-worship/deepening-our-experience/meeting-with-attention-to-healing/meeting-for-healing-resources/> .