Quaker worship is an alert openness to the still leading of the Inner Light. Our Worship is rooted in silence. We Friends have no creed, no outward sacraments and no presiding ministers. Rather, we minister to each other in the silence, sharing our love, our deepest leadings, our prayers, our sorrows and our hopes.
For us, silence is not merely a time to relax or gather one’s thoughts. One consequence of waiting upon the Light is that one or more worshipers may be moved to speak out of the silence. Such speaking is not an intellectual exercise; it is a movement from the depths of one’s being, a conscientious response to a carefully discerned leading of the spirit.
It takes time for meeting to “settle.” Generally, no one speaks for the first several minutes. During this time, we are admonished to “Turn in thy mind to the Light, and wait upon God.” When we give a message from the silence during worship, we observe spaces between messages in order to allow each message to ripen in our hearts. We usually avoid responding to a previous speaker, although sometimes messages do share a common theme. It is most unusual for anyone to speak twice in one meeting. Some meetings are completely silent. Many Friends relish the peace, depth and unity of such meetings.
Meeting for worship closes with the shaking of hands, initiated by the clerk. This gesture acknowledges that we have been united in silence and feel the presence of God. Usually, a simple lunch is provided in Margithaus. Visitors are encouraged to join us there for food and fellowship.
The Celo Friends Meeting Sign
Several years ago, Bob Johnson had a chance encounter with a couple on Hannah Branch Road, tourists from Florida in a big Cadillac convertible, who wanted to know where the Quaker community was. What he imagined they were seeking may have been different from what they sought, but the idea of CFM or CCI as a roadside attraction took hold. The sign he created, on Hannah Branch Road near the Community Center, offers a classic Quaker image—the silhouette of one John Parrish (because, says Bob, you can learn a lot from a person’s profile). If you’re curious about Parrish’s life beyond what you can glean from his face: John Parrish (1729-1807) was “a tireless and fearless advocate of oppressed people of color, [and] did everything he could to destroy slavery and racial injustice in the new United States.” He is best known for “Remarks on the Slavery of the Black People,” published in 1806. More about John Parrish’s life can be found at the Bryn Mawr site.