FAQs: What is Worship? (Pastoral Quaker Perspective)

In reading Thomas Hamm’s absolutely wonderfulQuakers in America I came across a good quote about how virtually all pastoral Friends today would agree on what the Richmond Declaration says about worship, the statement comes from the Declaration which is actually highly disputed but Hamm believes most would get behind this (I know I can):

“Worship is the adoring response of the heart and mind [I would want to add body here] to the influence of the spirit.  It stands neither in forms nor in the formal disuse of forms; it may be without words as well as with them, but it must be in spirit and truth.  (John iv.24)…Having become his adopted children through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our privilege to meet together and unite in the worship of Almighty God, to wait upon Him for the renewal of our strength, for communion one with another, for the edification of believers in the exercise of various spiritual gifts, and for the declaration of the glad tiding of salvation to the unconverted who may gather with us.”

And Hamm also points out that true Quaker worship is directed by God,
“Quaker worship is a response to the initiative of God in Jesus christ through the workings of the Holy Spirit on the mind and heart [and body], the will and the emotions of man [and woman].” see page 78.

These statements help to answer the basic, theological question about what worship is, is meant to be and what it’s not meant to be.  It is so easy to get caught up in our routines, whether they are silent ones or ones filled with music, and other rituals that we loose sight of our worship. We need to continue to remember why we worship and who it is we worship.

Our worship should shape how we live, how we believe and how we share our lives with others.

There needs to be a focus in Quaker thought on the body, we have tended to over spiritualize in many areas of our theology and this is one of them.  This stems back to Fox and the early founders, and increased during the many schisms in the 19th century.  The Quakers are a Christian movement that formed during the Enlightenment, when the world was being split into secular and sacred spheres, with this can often come a desire to retreat into ourselves, talk about mind and spirit and forget that we are humans with bodies.  It is easy to relegate God to certain parts of our lives while we deny him access to others.

True Christian worship includes every part of us,

“I appeal to you therefore brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).”

There has been a number of books recently written that deal with the importance of the body in in following Christ.  All of these books deal with the intrinsic nature of people as spiritual bodies and how our practices form us.

David Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship, 2006
Rodney Clapp, Tortured Wonders, 2004
John H. Yoder, Body Politics, 1999
Stanley Hauerwas, Community of Character, 1981
James McClendon, Ethics, 2002
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 1984
Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches, 2005

If I had to tell you to read one, it would be the John Howard Yoder book.

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