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  • Writer's pictureRobert Ashton

Letting God get a word in

I had a coffee before coming to Meeting the the other day, and got into conversation with an Anglican who had stopped for a coffee on her way to church. She told me how God spoke to her during the Sunday service, which she clearly found comforting.

But my recent experience of a church service was quite different. Now accustomed to Quaker worship, which is conducted in silence, with only the occasional spoken ministry, the Church of England service I attended recently was annoyingly crowded. I’m not, I should say, anti-Anglican, and indeed in my teens was an altar server and an enthusiastic participant in the communion ritual. But I’m older now, and perhaps more contemplative than I was 50 years ago.

With my wife, I attended a morning service that included communion at the church where we were married, on our 40th wedding anniversary. I found the directive nature of the service; stand, sit, say this prayer or sing that hymn, distracted me from the business of worship as I know it. To put it bluntly, I did not have time to think, because the hour was filled with following instructions!

As a Friend said to me when I mentioned this, humans thrive on ritual and our lives are filled with familiar routines. But surely, worship should be about thinking, reflecting and perhaps connecting, and not a participative theatre experience?

Of course, we are all different, and fortunately there is a style of worship for everyone who cares to look. But I now know that Quaker worship is what works for me. How about you?

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