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[NOTE: The letter below was written by Terry Hobday and submitted for publication to The Friend, the British weekly Quaker publication. It was rejected for publication as "not being right for The Friend."]
Thank you for writing to me. I am delighted to hear that your Meeting would like to experiment with semi-programmed worship. I am sure you are right in saying that you want to keep it separate from unprogrammed Sunday morning worship which is unique and foundational to our community.
Perhaps the way in which I can be of most help to you is to tell you something of our story and the way that we have developed as an "outreach meeting". Every group of people is different; what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another so stay as close to the leadings and promptings of the Holy Spirit as you are able. Be prepared to let go of anything that appears out of the spirit no matter how much you feel it "ought" to work. We have made mistakes, learned from them and changed. It is a continuing process.
The Meeting which calls itself "Creamore Fellowship of Friends" began as a response to the request of a small group of people for Christian teaching, rooted in the Quaker tradition. Some folk were already Friends, some enquirers and some from other churches where they felt spiritually malnourished. We started life four years ago in an old grain mill, which had been converted to workshops by one of our members, who is a woodturner. We outgrew this space and are now happily settled in the lounge of the local Methodist church, the members of which have been welcoming, accommodating and kind to us.
We have tried to stay close to our leadings and so a new pattern seems to be emerging which at present consists of a once monthly public Meeting for worship on the first Sunday evening of each month. The format of the meeting consists of readings around a theme, i.e., Creation, Peace, Forgiveness, etc., with music in the form of songs and hymns. The resources we use for our music are the new Quaker hymnal, Worship in Song, published by Friends General Conference; Songs That Tell the Quaker Story, by Friends United Press; the new Brethren/Mennonite Hymnal and some old favourites. We try to balance old and new. We don't have a pianist so tend to favour songs which sound good accompanied by flute, guitar and Irish fiddle. To my surprise a real music ministry is developing and one of our members is composing music to accompany some of our best loved readings. The meeting has a music group which meets once each month to prepare music for worship. This group is valued not only for the music-making opportunities it affords us but also for the very real friendship and fellowship that it generates. The worship time also includes a teaching on the chosen theme and a period of silent waiting upon God, usually about 15 to 20 minutes. At the end of the meeting Friends and visitors are given a tiny loaf of homemade bread, baked by one of our members, to take home with them as a gift from the meeting. In with the bread is the message "Welcome to our Meeting, we have enjoyed your presence with us this evening. This loaf is to remind you that Jesus is the bread of life. Come again soon." Worship is followed by homemade cake and coffee and a time of fellowship.
Each month we also meet for study and reflection in each other's homes. At the moment we are reading Quaker Faith and Practice in tandem with the appropriate Scriptures and it is proving both nourishing and challenging. Lastly we also have a scheme of Spiritual Friendship in place and several of us are working together using various resources including Learning to Listen: A Guide for Spiritual Friends, which comes from the Mennonite tradition. So although we do not yet meet for worship every week we do meet together for something each week and the whole month is covered.
Our social concerns at the moment are a "food box" which contains enough food to feed a family for a week and which was last claimed at Christmas by a family whose benefit had been cut and who were without money over Christmas, and the Christian Aid Supermarket Campaign. Each year we have an outing together, the Quaker Tapestry one year, the Chester Mystery Play another. We have an annual Harvest Supper and just before that a Family Picnic and blackberry outing, for the pies!
The Meeting is loving, lively and very responsive to the holy spirit, it cherishes the presence of Jesus in its heart and is always learning something new. Lives are being changed, deep friendships are being wrought and love is flowing freely. In the words of one of our favourite songs
Now is the darkness vanished away
Here in this place our fears and our dreamings
Brought here to you in the light of this day.
I don't know if any of this will be appropriate to your circumstances but if it has in any way encouraged you in your own experimenting it will have served its purpose.with love from your friend
[Old information - I do not have current information.] The Creamore Fellowship of Friends meets first Sundays at 8 PM for semi-programmed worship in the lounge of the Methodist Church in Wem, Shropshire. Beginning in September 1998, the Fellowship will also meet third Sundays at 8 PM for silent worship at 2 Pyms Cottage, Lowe Hill, Wem, Shropshire. For more information, call Terry Hobday at 01939-234082. Terry does not have e-mail, but Phil Petty is willing to pass along enquiries.
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