Singing in Quaker Worship

Department: 

Recently, I visited Herndon Friends Meeting in northern Virginia. (I live in Culver City, California, and am Clerk of Santa Monica Friends Meeting). My wife and I were visiting two of our granddaughters, and I skipped away to attend worship.

 

I sat settling in the silence that followed the hymns we had sung prior to worship. I became absorbed in the silence. Then a fresh hymn drifted into my heart, “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine,” words by Samuel Longfellow, younger brother of the famous poet. I felt this hymn flowing along inside me, helping me open, settle, drift into a more centered place of worship.

 

Then, across the gathering of three dozen people, a man stood and offered a pithy message, describing God as an unquenchable fire, never to be extinguished. This message lodged in my heart. I recalled the second verse of my hymn: “Holy Spirit, Love Divine! / Glow within this heart of mine; / Kindle every high desire, / Perish self in thy pure fire.” I clung to the last phrase, reflecting on the refiner’s fire, on how the self can become one with the Divine in this fire.

I heard, listened, and waited. An anecdotal message was shared about a beloved mentor. I heard, listened, and waited. Then, after a cushioning silence, I stood and sang the second verse of “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine.” Then I sat down, shaking.

Afterwards, driving the borrowed car back to my family, I vowed to learn the words to a few more hymns, so that I might better assist with devotional settling in my home meeting. Opening to the Spirit, I prayed that
those songs would allow my meeting to deepen our potential to be gathered together.  
~~~

Stanford Searl is the current Carroll Research Scholar at Pendle Hill, where he is studying the meaning of gathered worship. He is a member of Santa Monica Meeting (PYM).

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