“I think God is always available to us,” says Robin Mohr. “It’s when we tune in and actually quiet ourselves to be able to listen to God and to the other people around us [that] worship begins.”
Robin is one of several Friends we spoke with about how meetings for worship that combine in-person and online attendance can foster a connection to Spirit.
“I think that the form of worship is a matter of personal taste and local culture and it varies by where you are,” she adds, “but the opportunity to be together and to be together with God is true for all of us.”
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Robin Mohr: One of the things we’ve learned in the last couple of years is that it is easier to visit a new Quaker meeting that’s far away because of the opportunities set up through online worship, and we’ve seen a lot of people go back to visit a meeting they visited before or to be able to visit someplace they’ve always heard about but never been to, and that has been a gift to our community.
What to Expect at a Hybrid Quaker Meeting For Worship
Adrian Glamorgan: We can have three sorts of meetings in Quakerism now, thanks to the new technology and necessity. We can have the meeting for worship that we’ve had since the 1650s when Quakers first got together and realized that when two or three or more are gathered together we can be in the presence of the Spirit and something happens of great importance to our lives and spiritual development, or Quakers can use online means — Zoom or Skype or some other media that people can access and we can just exclusively have a meeting for worship online. And then there’s a middle one which is where you have a meeting for worship or a yearly meeting and then you have online people who are able to join the meeting for worship but they are the technological wing of what’s going on.
Robin: Quaker meeting have been having an online option. Really that’s very new for most unprogrammed meetings. For some programmed meetings they began sometime ago to be able to broadcast their worship and to make it available to people who were unable to come.
Jane Mutoro: In Friends Church Donholm we have a Quaker online service. It’s both at the same time; we’re doing in-person or physical — we meet— and at the same time we’re doing livestreaming on Facebook or on YouTube or on Twitter or on Instagram, it just depends. But the most common ones are on Facebook and on YouTube.
What’s the Difference Between Hybrid Models for Programmed and Unprogrammed Meetings?
Robin: In a programmed meeting, if you connect online usually once you log in you would hear the pastor say “Welcome,” or it might be someone else in the congregation but someone would stand up and say “We’re going to begin now.” Or maybe there’s music playing and when the music ends someone stands up and begins the program.
In my unprogrammed meeting we think that as soon as you enter into worship, worship begins. And that could be in your home, it could be on a beach, it could be in the meetinghouse, and it’s when you enter into that listening to God. I think God is always available to us; it’s when we tune in and like actually quiet ourselves to be able to listen to God and to the other people around us is when worship begins.
Adrian: So I believe that meeting for worship online has the potential to do a lot of things we weren’t able to do so long as we do them well. We need to make sure that people get a chance to interact and we need to give it the same spiritual space and concern that we give being in meeting, so we need to have cameras on if we can help it and we need to have sound off, but it’s a very special opportunity.
Connecting Through Technology
Robin: I do think that we can connect to God and to other people regardless of how close we are or how much technology is in-between us. When we’re ready to connect with that Holy Spirit and that divine inspiration and we are opening ourselves to worship then we can enter into worship, and knowing other people are worshiping at the same time matters. I think that the form of worship is a matter of personal taste and local culture and it varies by where you are, but the opportunity to be together and to be together with God is true for all of us and we might find that we can experience something that we like; that we might say, “Oh, I want to experience more of that!” Maybe we can find ways to visit one another in person after we’ve had that opportunity to visit with them online, and that is up to the individual. There’s no commitment, there’s no expectation that you’ll continue but there is an invitation to see what else Quakerism has to offer.
- Do you prefer meeting in person, online, or with a hybrid model? Why is that your preference?
- What is your experience with virtual worship?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.