Three years ago we started a monthly convergent Friends worship gathering in the Camas/Portland Metro area. The goal of the meeting was to bring those Friends who desire to worship together, build relationships and create an open and flexible worship liturgy that can be adapted according to those who host it. Each month we rotate to a different hosting meeting. We currently have 6 meetings that host convergent Friends worship and we try to space our visits evenly. This has been a very life-giving and Spirit-filled group for many of us. My hope with this post is to help others who are discerning whether, and how, to go about starting a similar group.
These are just ideas and guidelines, not meant to be taken as a cookie-cutter. Tailor your group according to your needs, gifts and context. Feel free to borrow, remix, or flat out steal anything here for your own use. The goal is to build up the beloved community and help bring renewal among Friends.
If you are interested in knowing more about about who and what convergent Friends are you can visit part one of this series.
Here are some things to consider if you would like to start a convergent Friends worship group in your area:
- Find organizers from different meetings so that there is “convergent” leadership from the very beginning.
- Decide on a standard convergent Friends worship “program” that you can change, adapt or use depending on which meeting hosts. For us, what we do during worship and the queries we use for worship sharing are up to the person/meeting hosting.
- Coffee, tea and snacks are optional but always nice. Many friends enjoy hanging around and catching up before or after the meeting for worship.
- A Facebook group or email group is helpful for sending out communication and reminders.
- A shared google calendar, or some such service, is helpful in planning 3-6 months ahead. We are finding that it is easier to plan out as far ahead as possible, getting meetings at the last minute can be a challenge.
- One rule of thumb we have developed is this: Go to meetings that have people already involved in the regular convergent Friends gathering. If other Friends want you to visit their meeting, make sure they participate experience the worship gathering and have some relational connection before hosting. This helps to ensure that spaces people go to are safe and welcoming.
- Think outside the box and do things that are fun and creative.
- Add other events to the rotation. When we have had Quaker ministers traveling through the area whose concerns overlapped the contours of groups we have invited them to come and share with our gathering.
- Consider who is involved and what is needed to create a safe space for those interested in convergence.
- It’s an experiment so it doesn’t have to last forever and it’s okay if you don’t things right right away.
A Sample Convergent Friends “Liturgy”
We meet on the last Sundays of the month from 6:30-9pm. Sometimes we have childcare, depending on the meeting that hosts.
Our standard worship program for the Camas/Portland area group is this:
Welcoming: The host person/meeting welcomes everyone and invites people to make introductions, say names and what meeting they are from.
Bible Reading: Then we enter into about 15-20 minutes of “bible reading in the manner of Ohio Conservative Friends.” That’s a mouthful but it basically means we encourage Friends to read passages of scripture that have spoken to them recently or they feel led to lift up during the opening of worship.
We may also do hymn singing or other practices together to open with.
Waiting Worship: We seamlessly transition into 45 mins. of waiting worship. Friends are welcome to stand and give vocal ministry as led by the Holy Spirit.
Worship Sharing: The person who is hosting the meeting closes the time of waiting worship with a handshake, and then introduces a “worship sharing” query. Worship sharing is an opportunity for friends to respond to the question as led without discussion, debate or further questions being asked.
Rise of Meeting: Shake hands together
Announcements and Relevant Business: Close the meeting with announcements and any relevant business.
Some Possible Queries for Worship Sharing
- What have I already thought/said/done that was full of the fire of primitive Quakerism? Who else do I know who is convergent?
- How can I tell my own personal story about my experience of my faith that would open others up to telling their own?
- What do I love about my own tradition’s faith and/or practice? What about my own tradition’s faith and/or practice do I find unhelpful?
- What would I like to claim for my own tradition that is currently lost (or never existed)?
- What might that reclaimed piece look like in its new context?
- How might I reclaim one or more of these elements in my own life as an individual?
- How might I help my meeting/church to corporately reclaim one or more of these elements?
- What can I learn from individuals in the other branches of Friends? How can I open my ears and hearts to them? Do I reach out in friendship to Quakers from other branches? Am I willing to learn from them and to be changed?
- Where do I see God at work among other groups of Friends?
- Where do I see God at work within the culture surrounding me?
- Am I aware of the risks that others take when they act convergent, even if they are different from the risks I take? How might I support other convergent Friends I know?
Flickr credit – Link
Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions about what we do with convergent Friends. My hope is that this will get used to start other worship gatherings like the one we have. It has been a wonderful experience and many great relationships have been forged.