Coming to a Quaker meeting for the first time

We hope the information in the section ‘About our Meeting’ has helped to give a sense of Chesterfield Meeting, the meetings and activities we hold and why we come to a Quaker Meeting.

The best way to really get a sense of a Quaker Meeting and what Quakerism is about is to come to a meeting for worship and talk to Friends. We hope you will feel encouraged to come but we recognise that it can feel like a big step to take particularly if you are coming on your own.

Meeting room before worship
Meeting Room ready for Meeting for Worship

We also recognise that for some coming to a few Quaker meetings will be a step on a their spiritual journey while for others there will be a sense of having found the right place – which ever it is for you be assured of a warm welcome.

It may be that you have questions you would like to ask before coming to a meeting please do get in touch with us – the contact details are on the Home page.

Set out below is what happens on a Sunday morning so you will know what to expect and also two descriptions about coming to the meeting, which we hope you will find helpful. One is about taking that step to come to a Quaker Meeting for the first time and the other is about the experience of first coming to Chesterfield Meeting.

On a Sunday morning

We tend to start to gather around 10.15 am, a short while before the meeting for worship is due to start at 10.30. A Friend stands by the door of the meeting room ready to welcome everyone and especially newcomers and visitors.  We have some leaflets, which we offer anyone coming to their first meeting to read during the meeting. These explain more about Quakerism and also the meeting for worship.

The meeting for worship begins when the first person enters the meeting room even if this is before 10.30, which is the time we all aim to be settled in our seats but don’t worry if you find yourself a little late on your first visit – do still come in, a Friend remains at the door for a while after the meeting has begun. There is a simple circle of chairs and you are welcome to sit any where in the circle – you won’t be sitting on someone else’s seat!

The section on Meeting for Worship in “About our Meeting’ gives more information about what happens during this meeting. Click here if you haven’t already read it, it will give you a more complete sense of our meeting for worship.

Just before the end of the meeting a Friend will say that the meeting is almost over and if anyone has anything they wish to contribute that now is the time. Then after two Friends have shaken hands to mark the end of the meeting, we all join hands in a circle.

This is followed by a welcome to newcomers and visitors and then any news of Friends not able to be present. There will be some notices and one Friend will speak about the charity we have chosen to support that month. We then move out of the meeting room to make drinks and have time to chat to each other. This time can also be an opportunity to look at the library and the notice board.

Refreshments on a Sunday
Friends chatting over drinks after Meeting for Worship

My first time at a Quaker Meeting

‘I live close to the Friends Meeting House and over the years I have been to numerous activities there so going in itself was nothing new.

But going on a Sunday morning for a  “Meeting for Worship” was a bit different. What was a meeting for worship?

I’d been reading up a bit about Quakers but still wasn’t sure if it was for me. From looking on the Internet I was sent me an introduction pack.

(http://quaker.org.uk/about-quakers/order-a-free-information-pack)

So rather non-committally I called in one day prior to the meeting for a chat, to get an idea. I was welcomed at the door and I asked a few questions. There was a mixed bunch of people milling round, all different ages and I viewed the meeting room with a circle of chairs and a central table with flowers. Then people started to go into the room and I went on my way.

Two weeks later I took the plunge and went in to my first meeting. Having already realised that I couldn’t sit at “the back” as there wasn’t a back because there wasn’t a front because well there isn’t a preacher. Anyway I could sit close to the door (you know escape plan in case needed). I was advised to take in a book from the library to read, as an hour in a silent meeting can be a bit daunting. It was good advice; reading helps settle my mind from all the daily concerns we fill our lives with. The room itself is light and airy with lovely views.

I don’t think anyone spoke during this meeting, sometimes someone, it can be anyone does have something to say.  This is “vocal ministry” and is nearly always short and to the point, something you can choose to reflect on, or continue with your own thoughts.

So if you are thinking but not sure, well in your own time you might want to call in and see what a “Meeting for worship” is. Your experience might be different to mine. I find it a time to sit in the company of others and find ways to find peace in quiet reflection.’

Coming to Chesterfield Meeting

‘Having attended other Quaker meetings for very short periods at various times of my life, and then stopped, a few years ago I came to Chesterfield meeting for the first time, and since then have come as often as I can.

I’m really not the sort of person who finds it easy to walk alone into a new group of people who all seem to know each other and have their own ways of doing things.  I think I appear to be quite shy until I get to know people and I find it hard to just ‘join in’ at first.

When I first came to meeting in Chesterfield, I felt more relaxed and ‘at home’ than I had expected.

Yes, everything was new but to my surprise and great relief I found that after the meeting, people wanted to talk with me – about myself and my experiences, not about what my ‘beliefs’ were (or were not). People were open and friendly but above all, I felt that they were genuinely interested in me. I was interested in Quakers and they were interested in me! This was reassuring.  Immediately, I felt accepted. It was not difficult to come back the next week.

Usually there are about 15 to 20 people at meetings on Sunday mornings, so each week I recognised a few ‘familiar’ people while gradually getting to know more as I continued to attend.

Chesterfield meeting is a very important part of my life now and I am so pleased that I took the plunge and came along when I did.’

Ready to take the first step?

 

We hope the words of these two Friends will encourage you to take the first step and come to a meeting. If you do we will go at your pace – responding to the questions you want to ask, we won’t bombard you with questions or promote Quakerism in a pressurised way. That is not how we do things – we recognise that for all of us our spiritual journeys go in different directions and take whatever time we each need. Our meeting and those in our area can provide a range of opportunities as well as support and resources, which are there when you want them.