South Bend Friends Meeting
"Those who are brought to a pure still waiting upon God in the spirit are come nearer to the Lord than words are; for God is a spirit and in the spirit is he worshipped...In such a meeting there will be an unwillingness to part asunder, being ready to say in yourselves, it is good to be here: and this is the end of all words and writings to bring people to the eternal living Word." Alexander Parker, 1660
Table of Contents
Who, When, and Where
What to expect
Who we are
South Bend Friends Meeting is a group of individuals and families who, from our various origins and backgrounds, have been drawn to the practice of silent worship after the manner of Friends. There are South Bend Friends from all stages of life. Some of us are lifelong Quakers. Others have only just found our way into Quaker worship. Our religious beliefs are varied, but we are united in the joyful sense of discovery and of communion that we find in silent Quaker worship.
Douglas Steere, a spiritually deep Quaker of the last generation tells about his own experience and practice of communion as mentioned in the last paragraph:
Our meetings are made up of a group of people gathered together in silent prayer. The first thing that I do is close my eyes and then still my body in order to get it as far out of the way as I can. Then I still my mind and let it open to God in silent prayer, for the meeting, as we understand it, is the meeting place of the worshipper with God. I thank God inwardly for this occasion, for the week's happenings, for what I have learned at God's hand, for my family, and the work there is to do. I often pause to enjoy this presence. Under God's gaze I search the week and feel the piercing twinge of remorse that comes at this, and this, and this. I ask forgiveness for my faithlessness and ask for strength to meet this matter when it arises again. There have been times when I had to re-weave a part of my life under this auspice.
I hold up persons before God in intercession, loving and seeing them under God's eyes, longing for God's healing and redeeming power to course through their lives. I hold up certain social situations, certain projects. At such a time I often see things that I may do in company with or that are related to this person or to this situation. I hold up the persons in the meeting and their needs, as I know them, to God.
--from Douglas Steer, Quaker Meeting for Worship
When we meet
We meet for worship every Sunday at 10:30am, Eastern. (South Bend is on the same time as Michigan, Elkhart, IN, and New York. 10:30am in South Bend is 9:30am in Michigan City, IN, and Chicago.)
Additionally, on the second Sunday of most months we have our meeting for worship for the conduct of business, beginning at noon. We do not have a meeting for business in August.
Where we meet
Our meetings take place at the Charles Martin Youth Center, 802 Lincolnway West, in South Bend. You can access a map and get directions by following this link. If you are coming from east of South Bend, please NOTE: Lincolnway East does not become Lincolnway West. Please use the interactive character of this map to get correct directions.
There is a parking lot at the western end of the building, next to the children's playground. Enter the building through the main door, which is just off the sidewalk along Lincolnway West between the trees and the building. You will be greeted by a Meeting member who will show you the way to the Quaker Room where we worship.
What to expect
"A Friends meeting, however silent, is at the very lowest a witness that worship is something other and deeper than words, and that it is to the unseen and eternal things that we desire to give the first place in our lives. And when the meeting, whether silent or not, is awake, and looking upwards, there is much more in it than this. In the united stillness of a truly 'gathered' meeting there is a power known only by experience, and mysterious even when most familiar."
You may not even notice the opening of worship because it is simplicity itself. But its very simplicity can make it seem strange at first to those used to more structured forms of worship. The worship starts when the first worshipper arrives and sits down to worship in the circle of chairs behind the divider of paintings.
Every Meeting for Worship includes a First Day School for children.
We gather for worship in the Quaker room of the Charles Martin Youth Center. It's at the end of the hallway to the left after you enter, the other side of the doorway at the end of the hall.
You many enter through either the door on the left or the door on the right. Please sit as close up to the center of the worship space as you can so that worshipers coming after you can easily find a seat.
Once worship has started, other worshippers will join the circle and continue in concentrated silence, not pausing to greet worshipers who come in later.
The worship itself
Once the worshippers have gathered, the meeting settles into a deeper silence. Individual Friends use different techniques in this period of centering. In silent prayer of any form, meditation techniques, silently recollecting spiritually meaningful pieces of music: anything that brings the worshipper closer to the heart of the shared silence is appropriate.
Out of the collective silence that develops, Friends may find themselves led to give spoken ministry. As a rule, these spoken messages are quite short and unpolished. They are spontaneous reflections that have come to the speaker during their worship. Once the ministry is given, the silence is allowed to gather again. There may be several messages during the course of a meeting for worship or there may be none. The absence of spoken ministry does not mean that something has gone wrong with the meeting. Often Friends find that a completely silent meeting for worship can nevertheless be a very powerful one.
After roughly an hour, the Friend who has been designated to close the meeting will indicate the close by linking hands with his or her neighbors. At that point we all join hands for a moment. Worshippers are invited to introduce themselves and to share any reflections that came to them during meeting but that they were not led to speak. There is then a short period of time during which announcements can be made, and following that we take time to socialize.
People of any age who wish to worship with us are welcome to do so. However, during the worship time, childcare is available year round for those younger than high-school age. From September through May, age-appropriate First-Day School programs are provided for children from pre-school through junior-high.
The usual arrangement is for children to be present with the adults in worship for the first 10-15 minutes of the worship time. They then leave with the childcare providers and First-Day School teachers. Children who want to attend the whole meeting for worship are welcome. But they, and their parents, should be aware that those in the worship room are expected to be actively engaged in worship.
Quaker worship is a come as you are affair. This is an expression of Friends' sense that we are in God's presence at all times, as much so when engaged in the activities of our daily lives as when we are actively engaged in worship. It might, however, be better not to bring cell phones. If brought, they must be turned off during the meeting.
There is considerably more information about meeting for worship, as well as some interesting relevant links, in the Practical How-to Guide published by the Quaker Information Center.
South Bend Friends meeting began as a worship group in 1978. In the early 1990's, South Bend Friends Meeting became one of the member meetings of Illinois Yearly Meeting and thus we came to our full and official title "South Bend Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends." Illinois Yearly Meeting is affiliated with the Friends General Conference.
Illinois Yearly Meeting is in the process of preparing its own book of Faith and Practice. In the meantime, we use Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice for guidance and inspiration.
Within our local area, the South Bend Friends Meeting is a member of the United Religious Community (URC--574.282.2397). We are also a member group of the Center for Peace and Non-Violence.