Modern life can make it hard to develop intimate fellowship in our religious community. The aim of worship sharing is to deepen interpersonal relations in the community while enriching the spiritual lives of individual members and attenders. Friends meet in continuing small groups over a few days or weeks, usually with a facilitator guiding the group.
Friends General Conference defines it: “Worship sharing focuses on a particular question and helps us to explore our own experience and share with each other more deeply than we would in normal conversation. It seeks to draw us into sacred space, where we can take down our usual defenses, and encounter each other in ‘that which is eternal.’”
- Begin and end with silent worship.
- Speak from feeling and experience rather than from theory or opinion.
- Listen deeply, from the heart.
- Pause in quiet between contributions, allowing time for thought.
- Contribute for a second time only after everyone has had a chance to speak.
- Decide how the group wishes to speak in turn — some possible ways include:
- No order, when the spirit moves one;
- Pass a speaker’s symbol, such as a coin or branch.
- Fully respect the option not to answer.
- Hold everything that is said in confidence in the group.
- Do not discuss back and forth about contributions.
The group starts with a period of quiet worship or meditation, long enough to center down.
The leader briefly explains the ground rules (above).
- Worship sharing is a sharing of experience, not a discussion.
- We speak from experience and avoid analysis and theorizing.
- We respect what is said, refraining from making judgments.
- We do not probe or cross-question.
- We aim to answer with complete honesty and freedom.
- If we don’t want to answer a question, we don’t. We can say, “Pass”.
At the group’s first meeting, the leader asks for self-introductions and gives some direction about the kind of information the group might want to share. The leader asks the first question. A pause follows, with some time for thought before anyone answers. The leader often then responds to the question, from his or her experience. Each person may respond or pass with a part of his experience which relates to the question. A leader’s answering first sets the spirit, tone, and pace of the conversation. The concreteness, honesty, and conciseness of the leader’s answer may provide a guide for others to follow.
The Discipline and Ministry of Listening
The method followed here is in keeping with the philosophy of creative listening, with a value of not discussing what a speaker wishes to share. For this brief period of time, we hold our too-ready tongues, quiet our too-lively curiosity, forego our too-quick questions and remarks. For the listeners, this voluntary, yet not over-solemn, silence can serve as a strengthening and strangely illuminating discipline. For the speaker, the assurance that she will not be cross-questioned may give her a sense of security which allows her to share areas of feeling which she ordinarily keeps closed. In its receptiveness, the spirit we seek to establish is not unlike that of a meeting for worship. The core of this receptiveness is mutual trust resting upon spiritual faith which, in its fullest sense, is love.