Gathered Meeting

In a meeting for worship, a group lets go of their mental and emotional preoccupations and opens together to God/Christ/the Spirit/the Light/the loving Mystery at the center of everything. This allows the group to shift levels of consciousness collectively, sometimes in a mild way, sometimes with more intensity. We call it a gathered meeting when those present experience their oneness with one another in God. In the time of being gathered, the group receives guidance, healing, teaching, and ministry from the Spirit, blessings that strength them, unite them in love, and refresh them to participate in God’s work in the world.

Videos on the subject of the Gathered Meeting.

QuakerSpeak video: “Quaker Meeting for Worship, Pt. 3: The Gathered Meeting.” In this video, several Quakers speak about their experiences of the extraordinary blessing we call the gathered meeting.

MIDWEEK webinar recording: “Receptive to the Gathered Meeting,” with Marcelle Martin and Hilary Burgin. (February 16, 2022) Recording coming soon.

Stanford Searl, Pendle Hill lecture on The Gathered Meeting (April 5, 2021). “. . . (W)hat I experience in a gathered meeting is a form of communion of hearts and minds and spirits in the room – and a communion, not just with each other, but also with the Divine” (reflection from an Upstate New York Friend in Stanford Searl’s gathered meeting study).

Written resources on the subject of the Gathered Meeting.

Thomas Kelly, “The Gathered Meeting.” 

N. Jean Toomer, “The Basis of Friends Worship,” in Black Fire, Hal Weaver et al., editors.

Michael J. Sheerhan, Beyond Majority Rule.

William Taber, “Four Doors to Meeting for Worship,” Pendle Hill pamphlet # 306.

Lloyd Lee Wilson, “Waiting Worship,” in Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order

Tom Gates, “The Gathered Meeting Revisited.”

Patricia Loring, “The Gathered Meeting” & “The Ground of Community” in Listening Spirituality, Vol. II. 

Marcelle Martin, “Invitation to a Deeper Communion,” Pendle Hill pamphlet # 366.

Steven Davison, “The Gathered Meeting” Pendle Hill pamphlet # 444.

Quotes about the Gathered Meeting.

In the practice of group worship on the basis of silence come special times when the electric hush and solemnity and depth of power steals over the worshipers.  A blanket of divine covering comes over the room, a stillness that can be felt is over all, and the worshipers are gathered into a unity and synthesis of life which is amazing indeed.  A quickening Presence pervades us, breaking down some part of the special privacy and isolation of our individual lives and blending our spirits within a super individual Life and Power.  An objective, dynamic Presence enfolds us all, nourishes our souls, speaks glad, unutterable comfort within us, and quickens us in depths that had before been slumbering.  The Burning Bush has been kindled in our midst, and we stand together on holy ground.

Thomas Kelly, from The Gathered Meeting

In this living Presence it becomes safe for the ego to relax, allowing us to realize that the sharp boundaries of the self can become blurred and blended as we feel ourselves more and more united with fellow worshipers and with the Spirit of God.  This sense of corporate reality can become so strong that we can almost touch it, and we are reminded that Friends have traditionally referred to the meeting as “the body.”

Bill Taber, Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, p. 12

Friends are aware of other important work being done by God in other meetings for worship.  But it is natural for those who have felt the gathered condition to hope devoutly for it.  People may pray fervently for it for themselves and for the meeting; but, in the same manner that they wait on the promptings of the Spirit, they receive and experience gathering as a gift; as the grace, mercy, the favor, the work of the Holy One.

Those who are sunk in personal meditations rather than corporate worship may miss it altogether.  God generally seems to await our invitations to enter, before meeting us more than halfway.  Those who discount the intimations of their intuitive nature, or subject their experiences to the reductionist exercises of rationlism, might unwittingly brush aside the overtures of the Spirit that seems to pass from Friend to Friend in a gathered or covered meeting.  For many, there is an almost palpable, electric sense of Presence, of Life, of Power, of spiritual movement among them

Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality, Volume II, pp. 26-27.

The gathered meeting is one of the great gifts we have to offer the world.  If we commit ourselves individually and corporately to nurture the gathered meeting, as well as to nurture the spiritual gifts of those who come to us, if we lovingly enfold them into our fellowship, and if they experience the gathered meeting in worship – the true presence of the Holy Spirit – then those who come to us will know who we really are.  They will know what Quakerism is and what it has to offer them.  They may then join us, and our meetings will thrive.  But more importantly, we will have brought them to God, to the Mystery Reality within true and holy communion.

Steven Davison, The Gathered Meeting, p. 28