Quaker worship begins when the first person enters the room and turns his or her attention toward God. There is no musical prelude or spoken call to worship. As others enter, they will find a seat and silently join the worship.
We call our form of worship “waiting worship” because we gather in silence, without pre-arrangement, except for time and place, to wait for the presence of Christ to be made manifest. In the corporate silence we quiet mind and heart, letting everything drop away that might interfere with our ability to hear and respond to the inbreathing of the divine.
This Quaker experience of communion with God through the spirit of Christ within each person is at the center of our worship. All that we do stems from this shared experience – the experience that “Christ has come to teach his people himself.”
Out of the waiting worship someone may feel the inward prompting of the Holy Spirit to stand to speak or sing, or kneel to pray. That person should be faithful to the leading of the Inward Guide, conveying neither more, nor less than is needed. Whether a meeting is judged to be a gathered meeting or not is based not on whether one, or several, or no persons rise in outward ministry, but upon their faithfulness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
There is no set length of time for a meeting for worship, and no closing prayer or benediction. Several elders will be sitting on the facing benches (the ones at the front of the room). Being experienced Friends who have demonstrated a sensitivity in such matters, they are given the responsibility for sensing when the worship has ended. They will then shake hands with one another, and this handshake is shared with all who are present. A period of announcements and/or introductions may then follow before the worshippers rise to leave the room.