Inviting Children Into Silent Worship

Quaker worship is rooted in silence and the idea that a) Jesus Christ is present in our gatherings and is able to teach us himself and b) God can and does speak to anyone and through anyone no matter what age you are or how “religious” you appear to be on the outside. Two weeks ago I told the Godly Play version of the Parable of the Good Shepherd during the message part of our worship gathering. That means the children stayed with during our whole meeting for worship, including our silent portion. This is what I said to help invite our children into that space.*

We are going to take a time of what we Quakers call “silent” worship. It is a quiet time to sit, listen and to wonder about the story.

Silent worship is one of the ways that Quakers do their work. We close our eyes and listen in the silence – this gives us time to think, pray, and hear if God wants to speak to us.

So silent worship is a very special time.

It’s okay to color or draw; and if you can write, you are welcome to do that, but we don’t want to do anything that will distract us or our neighbor from paying attention.

And if you feel like you have something you want to share, you are welcome to share a hopeful or kind word to the rest of the group.

We believe that God can speak to and through any person.

Let’s enter a time of silent worship.

Feel free to adapt, share or use as you see fit.

*This text was helped a lot by my good friend Chad Stephenson on twitter @chadstep.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

4 thoughts on “Inviting Children Into Silent Worship”

    1. I know, it’s no easy task that’s for sure. But surprisingly, it does happen at Camas. At least from time to time, and with different kids. It’s pretty awesome. I think Godly Play does a lot to help set the stage for it.

  1. I mean, Chuck, really. We take our kids to non-silent worship every week, and we’re darn lucky if one of them doesn’t run up the aisle and scale the iconostasis or climb up onto he altar with the priest.

  2. We took our three children ages 6, 4, 1 with us to “silent” Meeting for 3 years. During that time the oldest actually read from the Bible that he had been reading and many from the Meeting were clearly “moved” by the reading. The youngest when she began walking would sometimes quietly walk up to the “facing bench” and sit with an older friend who she happened to like and treated her as a granddaughter. She would then return to sit with us. At one point when she was quite young she began crying, I can’t remember why. Just as my wife was about to carry her outside to prevent disruption for others, the older ma stood up and said, “Stay with us. She has as much right to voice her feelings as anyone else.” Our children were accepted as an integral part of the Meeting and learned to be quiet for the full hour. They were allowed to read/look at books, and even to play quietly with some specific toys.

    Our attitude toward children often controls the way children behave. If they are expected to “act up” then they usually do. It is not easy, but as one of my favorite quotes from a “Kansas Yearly Meeting History” states, “It was easier to give them what they want than to teach them to be Friends.” Becoming a “Friend” is not “easy.” I believe that is what Jesus was referring to when he said he came not to bring peace but a sword. I believe the “sword” is like the sword of Solomon with which he threatened to cut the baby in half. This is a metaphorical sword which we must use to help make difficult decisions or behave in ways that stretch out minds and beliefs. “Let the little children come for of such is the kingdom.” If we don’t teach our children to “listen” and listen carefully to something other than our “culture,” TV, etc. we are doing them a disservice.

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