Many questions have been asked about the silent worship in the Quaker Church. Emmanuel Kisivuli sat down with Pastor Samson Atsyaya, the
former General Secretary of Lugari Yearly Meeting, and sought to find out more about silent worship. What is silent worship? I first encountered silent worship while studying theology at Kaimosi Bible College in the 60s. As part of our class work, we conducted silent worship. Later on I went abroad for further studies in theology at Woodbrooke College in England where silent worship was a norm. How is it carried out?
Silent worship brings us together in stillness so that we can quiet our minds and open our hearts and lives to God. When did you first encounter silent worship?
Silent worship normally lasts for an hour. Members enter and sit in stillness and waiting. This stillness provides space and time to listen and reflect. There are no songs, set prayers or talks that are found in other places of worship. Silence is an opportunity to come closer to God. The meeting starts as soon as the first person enters the room. What happens in the stillness? Members look for a sense of connection with those around them, with themselves and with God. As the connection grows stronger, they Worship is at the heart of what it means to be a Quaker may begin to see the world and relationships in a new way.
Who runs the meeting for worship? Quakers believe that all people are equal, and can have a direct relationship with God. We do not have a pastor or anyone leading the worship. During worship people may feel called to speak, pray or read aloud. They may stand to share their insights and inspirations with the meeting. Others may respond to what they have heard. Where do you sit? In a Quaker meeting you can sit anywhere you want. Chairs or benches are usually arranged in a circle or a square. This helps us to be aware of each other and reminds us that we are worshipping together as equals. How does a meeting end?
Meeting for worship finishes when two Quakers shake hands. The rest of the meeting joins in by shaking hands with those around them. Someone may then share news and information after the meeting has finished. Who can come attend a meeting? Quaker meetings are open to everyone.
Worship is at the heart of what it means to be a Quaker.
Where can I find a silent meeting? In Kenya the silent meeting can be found at the Friends International Centre, Ngong road. However silent worship meetings can be held anywhere and at any time. I remember experimenting with silent worship while I was pastor at Seregeya Monthly Meeting. I would ask the members to be silent and reflect on God as soon as they entered the church. However this practice didn’t take much root because silent worship was quite a foreign idea to the members. What is your parting shot? I still believe we can have adaptations of silent worship in our Quaker churches in Kenya. Silence allows us to connect with God in a way that no other worship style can. It allows us to tap directly into God and gain much insight into His will for us. I agree with the Psalmist who says “be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).
FIC Silent Meeting has a library at the center, the library is equipped with books about Quaker practice and journals. Currently the library is receiving more books. Books can be borrowed from the library.