At the core of Quaker Faith is our belief that there is that of God in every person. It is our trust that all people can have a direct inward experience of divine love, healing, and guidance. We have learned that through responding to this guidance we can come to have lives reflecting the light and love of God. This is the hope, the invitation, and the promise that gathers us as a people called “Friends.”
Meeting for Worship
We worship as a community with the understanding that all share the responsibility for ministry. We know that we need one another’s help to be faithful. We gather in stillness to listen for how the Holy Spirit might speak within us or through the words of another. Our meeting practices what we call waiting worship—in which we expectantly wait together in silence for inspired speaking or insight to arise.
Friends worshipping alone or in community attempt to yield to that of God within and around us, to reach for the infinite in whatever way we experience it. In our meetings, there are those who know it as Jesus Christ, those who call that power the Inner Light and those for whom it is beyond all names. We seek through reflection to embody a practical spirituality in our daily lives, where every interaction can be sacred, and where every person can be a teacher and friend.
At Portland Friends, those gathering for unprogrammed meeting settle into silence as they enter the room. This silence may continue without any spoken words or someone may feel called by the Spirit to offer vocal ministry (sharing a spoken message). After such ministry, the meeting returns to prayerful silence in which Friends may absorb and reflect on the message. The meeting ends when a designated Friend shakes hands with a neighbor.
In worship, we have our neighbors to the right and left, before and behind, yet the Eternal Presence is over all and beneath all. Worship does not consist in achieving a mental state of concentrated isolation from one’s fellows. But in the depth of common worship, it is as if we found our separate lives were all one life, within whom we live and move and have our being. (Thomas Kelly 1941)
Friends trust that there is an underlying Truth that can unify all our individual perceptions when we open ourselves to direct and unmediated encounters with God. In New England Yearly Meeting we do not ask that all who come into membership name this encounter in the same way. New England Friends name this experience variously, including God, Christ Jesus, Spirit, Inward Light, Truth, and Love. Trust in the possibility of Divine guidance that transcends our individual will is crucial because on this rests unity and spiritual authority within the Religious Society of Friends. Experience of the Inward Light gives us the basis for spoken ministry during worship, for how we do business, and for how we “let our lives speak” as we live our testimony in the world. The Society holds the faith that we can witness with transformed lives to the power of the Spirit, known to us individually and collectively. The meeting holds us accountable for our willingness to seek Truth, and the actions that arise from that search. (New England Yearly Meeting Interim Faith and Practice 2019)