Friday, August 10, 2007

Holding up the hourglass

I have written before about how it bothers me that we have a fixed time limit on meeting for worship. I have felt lately like meeting ended just as we were finally starting to settle in. This came to mind again this afternoon as I was going through George Fox's Epistle #58, which includes this line:

There is not a word in all the scripture to hold up the practice of sprinkling infants, nor the word sacrament, nor to hold up an hour glass, to preach by for an hour's time in a place; but the vain mind doth hold up many things, which Christ doth not command.

It's not that I think that by taking the time limit off of meeting for worship that everything would suddenly be better. Rather, I think of the time limit as an indication that maybe our devotion to God is not as strong as we might think. Perhaps one day when we really begin to feel that our time is God's time and that we don't have anything better to go rushing off to, we will be happy to sit in waiting worship until the Holy Spirit (and not the beeping of watches) tells us that it is over.


  1. I have found that when I am scheduled to close meeting--part of the responsibility of those who serve on the meeting's Ministry & Counsel Committee--I tend to look at my watch less as the end of the hour approaches. Instead, I wait to see if Friends themselves have broken worship (are they looking around the room and not returning to worship?) and to sense how settled the meeting still is.

    It's nearly broken my heart, though, when I have sensed we are still very much in worship and, myself reluctant to break it, I do, simply because Friends will complain about "going over."

    It's during these times, though, that as worship is broken--and if I am responsible for closing worship--that I also say something like, "Friends, as we carry our worship into the week..." or "As we stay in this quiet, tender place..." and then ask us to slowly and gently turn our attention to the usual news of Friends, announcements, etc.

    I don't know if others notice but I know that it makes a difference to ME.

    Also, in the worship group, we generally are able to wait until all of us are "back in the room" spiritually; and we are blessed by having additional time after worship to stay in that tender place and share with one another what our experience of the Presence was.

    On a rare occasion, we are able to stay in that "worshipful frame" until the children return to the room, eager to show us the skit they've created--or to grab a snack!

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  2. The young Friends group at Oxford PM in 2004-5 wanted to try this at one point, but nothing came of it. :(

    I heard a story once, which I haven't been able to verify, that there once were some Jesuit missionaries to a particular native tribe. After setting up a little chapel, they tried to teach the natives Christianity. But the natives couldn't understand, and kept thinking that the white men's god was the round disc on the wall, because that's what they always looked at to find out what to do next.

  3. Liz,
    Thank you for sharing those experiences. There was something you hit on that is the key to me - Friends will complain about "going over". I don't think it is the length itself that is the important thing, but the willingness to be there for "as long as it takes".

    It is really great that the young Friends group tried to initiate such a meeting, I'm sorry nothing came of it. Perhaps there will be a time in the future when Oxford PM is ready for it, just as I hope one day that Atlanta Friends is willing to try. I love the story about the round disc on the wall! I have to tell that to some co-workers who were talking about their preacher finishing "on time".

    With love,