Part One – where are we now?
A number of years ago I co-lead a weekend workshop called “The unwritten rules of meeting for worship”. You can read more about that experience here.
Now that we are once again shifting the way we attend worship in/after a pandemic, I’ve been in a lot of conversations about what “attending” worship means to our communities. Some things I’ve experienced in the recent past:
A meeting for worship gathered in a large meetinghouse built in 1706. Windows open, high ceilings, no masks or vaccinations required of attenders. Distanced, as there are only about 5-8 folks on a given First day. No electronic connection, worship is only held in the meetinghouse.
A meeting for worship, that used to meet in one physical location before the pandemic, now meets occasionally while “experimenting” to return to their rented space, but most often exclusively worship held on zoom.
A meeting for worship located simultaneously in many separate spaces – traditional meeting room in a meetinghouse (without zoom connections), a back room with a hybrid experience on zoom, and outside circle of folks unmasked. At this time Friends may also participate on zoom (and are joined by a meeting in the back room at the meetinghouse).
A meeting that sets a specific time for personal worship at home, and then logs into a zoom meeting for afterthoughts and fellowship.
A meeting for worship that began during the pandemic, and has always met exclusively on zoom and does not have a physical space to meet.
A meeting for worship at the entrance to Raytheon Technologies, in witness to the development of military bombs, that met monthly before the pandemic and still meets monthly on a busy sidewalk.
A midweek meeting for worship, “drop in” anytime between 8:30 and 10 am. This small group used to meet in one quiet living room in a Quaker center – and now one attender also brings a laptop to invite folks to join simply on zoom as well.
A First day meeting for worship, with paid staff to run the technology – 50 Friends in a meetinghouse, another 60 online on zoom. All connected, with tech hosts in both places. Hybrid forum before, and afterthoughts after also take place. There is also childcare provided for those at the meetinghouse location.
A meeting that is on zoom exclusively ever other week – and a hybrid zoom/meetinghouse location on opposite weeks.
A meeting where Friends mostly meet in person on a Sunday evening – and a few folks join online in a simply hybrid set up on laptop or phone. Other previous members of their meeting, who now attend a new local meeting, join with this group for post-meeting fellowship.
There seem to be as many examples of “going to meeting for worship” as there are meetings out there now. What do they have in common?
Hopefully, there is shared discernment and unity about how attendance is supported for each of these gatherings. People meeting in one physical space without internet are not concerned about those not “in the room” – as they functioned pre-pandemic.
So how do we define what is “correct and acceptable” now? What are the criteria we are using – and what are the “unwritten rules” we may not be transparent about with everyone in our community?
What’s the shape of meeting for worship for you now?