A short while ago while traveling in southern Oregon, I worshiped with South Mountain Friends in Ashland. A couple of us shared after worship that we each had been reflecting on Thomas Gates' pamphlet Members One of Another.
In addition to thinking on the relationship between the meeting and its members, I was thinking about those who have written about the qualities of the Inward Light, especially Samuel Caldwell.* I then found myself considering what are some of the primary qualities of a healthy and vibrant Quaker worship community, be it a monthly meeting or a worship group.
*I believe I've read at least one other Friend's remarks on the topic but can't come up with who it was or with any link...
Qualities of a Quaker worship community
cf. Lloyd Lee Wilson has an excellent chapter on "Community Stewardship of our Spiritual Gifts" in his book of essays on Gospel Order.
How to live into a vibrant and healthy Quaker community
Here are a few specific steps we can take to strengthen and deepen our worship communities as Friends.
Critical mass, "togetherness," and being a corporate body
As I was finishing up my list of the qualities of a Quaker worship community, I realized I wanted to address the concept of doing things "together" as it relates to the corporate body.
"Being a corporate body" does not mean having 100% of the body together 100% of the time, but it does mean striving to have 100% of the body engaged in the entire life of the community over time.
By "life of the community," I mean worship; meetings for worship for business; committee service; projects involving the community; intergenerational activities; care and nurture of our youngest and of our eldest community members; and so on.
It's unrealistic to assume that everyone within a Quaker meeting or worship group will be available to participate in a given activity on a given day. But it is realistic to assume--and I would say reasonable to expect--that over time, everyone will be able to participate in a given activity; that no one will completely and forever stay away from worship, or from meeting for worship for business, or from an opportunity to bear witness against injustice.
The element of participating in a corporate body together is more than having critical mass for any single event. Through worship, struggle, witness, service projects, adult education, intergenerational activities, learning about Quakerism, there is a cumulative experience that occurs over time and it is the cumulative experience among Friends that both shapes and is shaped by the worshiping community and all of its participants.
As always, thanks for reading me.
Martin Kelley's suggestion that we invite a newcomer to lunch is the Outreachiest Program Ever
my blog post that refers to critical mass of a Quaker meeting in light of weddings and memorials