Watch: "Quaker Silence"

Quaker Silence

Ensemble, Popular 12 Comments

We asked a diverse group of Friends what they find most valuable about silence in Meeting for Worship. This is what they said.

Discussion Questions:

  1. A.M. Fink says that the silence is “where we meet the mystery without the distraction of words or the trappings of entertainment.” What do you think he means by “the distraction of words” and “trappings of entertainment”? What does it mean to “meet the mystery?
  2. Guli identifies that the most challenging aspect of waiting worship for her is listening to the way that God speaks through other people without arguing or responding. What do you find most challenging and enriching about waiting worship?
  3. Desmond Tutu says, “there can be no forgiveness without giving up all hope for a better past”. What do you think this means and how does it relate to waiting worship?

Further Resources:


Paul Baker
Silence is the ground out of which worship comes.

Guli Fager
As someone who talks a lot and isn’t nervous about talking, I think its good for me to shut up sometimes.


Breeze Richardson
I think its hard to describe what settling into the silence feels like or its purpose necessarily but I think the silence is important because it gives you an opportunity to center.

Monica Walters-Field
What the silence does it is leaves the space for the sound, the whisper, even the noise of the Spirit. It leaves a space for the other to come in.

Jim Rose
The silence is to me the quieting of the “daily mind”.

A.M. Fink
The silence is where we meet the mystery without the distraction of words or the trappings of entertainment.

Jim Cavener
And you center and you let Spirit do what she may.

Harry Tunis
Desmond Tutu says we have to give up all hope for a better past, and that can take a few moments to do.

Jim Rose
Its drawing back from the past, drawing back from the future, and trying to be present and in the moment and to listen to what your heart is saying. It’s easier for me to do in an atmosphere of silence.

Christine Snyder
So that we can rid ourselves of the distractions, so that we can open ourselves to the possibility of experiencing the word of God.

“Expectant” Listening

Paul Buckley
Silence is a tool. It’s only a tool. Its a way that Quakers have of shutting out all of the distractions, all of the things that bubble up in our minds that get in the way of hearing that still small voice of God speaking to us, telling us what it is that God hopes for us and desires for us.

Monica Walters-Field
It just reminds us that we can listen.

George Rubin
It gives you a chance to find within yourself that light that can lead your life.

Jim Rose
It is not a void. It is full of expectation and that awaiting of the messages of the heart is richly rewarded if you’re attentive.

Community Engagement with God

Breeze Richardson
We do that corporately and I think there is a lot of importance in doing that together, and its different when you do it together.

Dana Kester-McCabe
If it were silent meditation at home, it wouldn’t be the same invitation. In silent worship, I get to sing and play my spiritual instrument with my friends.

Guli Fager
The discipline of sitting in silence for me is about listening to the way that God speaks through other people. But I think that I feel more challenged and enriched when other people offer messages in Meeting because you don’t get to argue or respond. That’s my natural state, always wanting to have a discussion with someone.

It’s not just the silence, it is what we’re doing in Meeting for Worship. You have to listen to the way that God is speaking through other people, and you may not like it. And to me that’s a really good discipline.

Paul Baker
In silence we meet with the holy spirit and we engage corporately in a conversation and its a community that shares this engagement with God.

Comments 12

  1. Martha Roberts

    These are quite wonderful — THANK YOU for the creative inspiration, the work involved, and the pure joy that comes into my inbox each Thursday….

  2. John Cardarelli

    Wonderful, rich video of truly deep seekers who have found value in the silence of Quaker worship. I would like to add my personal perspective on silent worship. For me, silence in Friends meetings invites a clearing of distracting thoughts and persistent problems, much like a car windshield is cleaned of dust and debris. Then, silence invites real worship with a heartfelt love for the divine Spirit (and Father and Son as well in my belief system). There is always room to grow in this love, which is my attempt to live the first great commandment of Jesus Christ. There are times when silent worship through an unexpected gift becomes a wonderful, warm Presence of love surrounding my consciousness, like being in an empty box breathing an atmosphere of pure love and caring. At infrequent times, there are other benefits and graces of silent worship, such as intuitive leadings and clear visions. The path to spiritual awakening begins with silence, whether Buddhist or Abrahamic religions.

  3. Val Liveoak

    Excellent work, the best so far. I like hearing several voices. I’ll share this.

  4. Judy Plank

    I did a double-take when I was AM Fink’s photo to lead into this latest Quaker Speak series. AM and I are both part of Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative.
    I hope to see many more of these short videos in the future.
    Many years ago I became a convinced Friend. I found dealing with silent worship my greatest challenge. Unfortunately, time has not made the experience any easier for me. That said, silent worship is probably the most important part of my Quaker experience. The knowledge that I am responsible for my own relationship with that power that we might call God, is a monumental challenge to each of us. Sitting in silence with the support of my Meeting F(f)riends, allows me a better change to really listen and discern what that still small voice of God within me has to teach me.

  5. eugenio echeverria

    I am not a Quaker, however, wanting to raise my kids with no specific religion but yes with a millieu of likel mimded folks around them I attended during three years Quaker meeting in East Lansing, Michigan, This was more than 20 years ago. I also had the priviledge to conduct a course in Philosophy for Children at Swarthmore Hall in England not long ago. I subscribed to Friends Journal for many years.
    I love the idea of the importance of silence, of talking from the spirit and about the light in all of us. I do not like the inclusion of God in most of the talk in the videos you are sharing with us. I am an agnostic. My question is: do you have to believe in a God to be a Quaker?

    Thanks for your response.

  6. RuthAnn

    Thank You!
    This is REALLY good for All!
    It makes me happy and takes away loneliness.

  7. Chip Thomas

    I continue to be impressed with this series. Thanks for being faithful.

  8. Ting Yi Oei

    Thanks for this. The comments are meaningful and heartfelt, and simple. Looking forward to other videos.

  9. Tom

    As an person raised in the RC faith. I have been unable to bring myself back into that realm.
    My past experience has been as a contemplative lay person who took to heart the saying “Pray Always” .

    My struggles have been endless, until I found your “Quaker Speaks” series on the internet, it is so far helping with my very own Spiritual Slogan…..’The spirit of God penetrates me to my innermost marrow, it is for me as important as the food I eat. If I am to live a life, I see God guiding me into, Her guidance tells me I MUST SEE THE SAME REALIZATION OF GOD”S GOODNESS IN ALL OF MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS.” it has been for me a complete realization of Gods Grace becoming me as a person who walks and talks of her World. Thank You Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *