Since the beginning Friends have stressed the immediacy of the Spirit as central to our worship and experience as Friends. No priest or other clergy is needed to have an inward experience of the Divine. Originally all Quaker worship was “unprogrammed”, relying upon the movement of the Holy Spirit to give forth vocal ministry. Since the 19th century however (due to the influence of the holiness movement) a different form of worship has developed usually referred to as being “programmed.” Today most Friends worldwide practice programmed worship in which a recorded minister or pastor leads the congregation in worship.
Our branch of Quakerism still uses “silent worship.” While this term is convenient shorthand it can be misleading. We do not worship the silence, instead we use it as a proven vehicle to encounter God’s presence. It would be more correct to say that we are practicing expectant waiting. Many Meetings today (and even evangelical Friends Churches) refer to unprogrammed worship as waiting worship, to acknowledge that this time is set aside to listen to the inward Christ.
No matter what you call it or how you experience God’s presence, worship is central to what we do and who we are as Friends. Meeting for Worship is different from solitary prayer or meditation. It is a collective act that offers direct communion with God, to better understand God’s will both as individuals and as a Meeting. Worship is not a ritual we do once a week. As our Faith and Practice reminds us, “Our daily lives are linked with the Meeting for Worship, the Meeting for Worship with our daily lives.”