What is Meeting for Worship (MFW)?
“At Meeting for Worship, friends gather as a community to search together in silence for the truth that is the core of their lives” (from Meeting For Worship in Friends Schools, Occasional Paper, FCE, 1957).
At Friends School of Minnesota, we gather once a week, on Wednesdays, to sit together in silence for about 20 minutes. Sometimes we gather as a whole school, and sometimes we gather as a Lower School or Middle School or in other smaller groupings.
Many meetings start with a query for people to think about. People can speak from the silence if they are called to share a thought with the whole group. Some meetings are unprogrammed: the members of the community reflect on their own, without a guiding question.
What is a query?
Queries are questions designed to help the people at MFW reflect on their own lives and how they are interacting in the world. The query is often tied to the Quaker testimonies.
At Friends School, we seek to connect students back to our mission statement at least once each month through our queries.
At Friends School, we write the queries in an “I” format to help students to connect more easily to the idea. For example, the query might be phrased, “How do I treat others with respect even when I am not friends with them?”
Teachers can write queries with their classes. There are many approaches to doing this:
- In Middle School, a teacher might ask her/his advisory what problems they think people in middle school are dealing with and then brainstorm a question (or more) that might be asked.
- In Lower School, students have written responses to a query (about silence, for example) and read them at MFW as an invitation to others to think about silence.
What does the leader do at Meeting for Worship?
- The leader waits for everyone to arrive quietly and then speaks from the silence to welcome everyone.
- The leader welcomes the people to Meeting for Worship and reminds them about speaking out of the silence by saying something like this:
“Welcome, everyone to our Meeting for Worship. As we start our time of silence, I just wanted to remind you that if you feel moved to speak, you should stand, speak loudly so we all can hear you. We should all wait and have a little silence after each person speaks, to make sure we have time to think about what each person says.”
- The leader (or leaders, if students are helping) states the query.
- After about 20 minutes of silence, the leader stands up to close the meeting.
- The leader invites visitors to introducethemselves and call for any announcements.
- The leader shakes hands with the people next to her/him as a way to bring the meeting to a close.
Teachers help prepare students for Meeting for Worship
- by reminding them before each MFW about why we are quiet
- by reminding how we can help others to enter into the silence by not touching them, talking to them, etc.
- by teaching them centering practices and trying them out in the classroom.
- discussing with them how different people, including the students, use the silence.
What is the role of adults at Meeting for Worship?
- All adults in the school community attend.
- Families of students are also welcome to attend.
- Adults help model centering behaviors for students in the ways that adults quiet themselves and seek to enter into the silence.
- Adults can help gently remind any student to be quiet or to stop interacting with other students. This is often done by making eye contact with the child or by simply approaching the child and touching her/him gently on the shoulder.
- Teachers can have “afterthought” sessions with their students to give them a chance to speak about something they were thinking during MFW. This could be an opportunity to think about the same query or to reflect on a new query, related to the one posed at MFW.