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Fidgeting in Worship

As I sit in meeting for worship, I move a lot. I wish I could say that these movements were guided by the Holy Spirit, but sadly they are not. Instead of being still (both inwardly and outwardly), I fidget. I will sit upright, and I will lean forward to put my elbows on my knees. Then my feet will start acting independently, like they are back on the dance floor in Mexico. My feet will be here and there and everywhere. I feel really embarrassed by all of my movements.

I travel among Friends frequently. I have found a new appreciation for individual chairs and carpet in meetinghouses. Though old meetinghouses are always fascinating to sit in and I try to imagine Friends gathering in the same place for worship two hundred years before. The downside is the old benches which tend to creak with every movement and sometimes they just creak without any movement too. I become more embarrassed by my movements in these old meetinghouses because of the additional noise I cause.

I attribute this fidgeting to my troubles with the process of centering down. I was never taught how to center down, and I have only discussed this briefly with a couple people. This includes reading recent responses to a query I have posted in the Young Adult Friends Facebook group: “Friends, how do you center down during worship?”. Several people responded to this query. A couple people talked about how they center down by silently whispering phrases like “Maranatha”(A word that means “Come, O Lord” which Paul uses to end his First Epistle to the Corinthians) or “Come Lord Jesus”. This query confirms my belief that Friends use varying methods in centering down.

For me, I find it difficult to quiet my mind during unprogrammed meeting for worship because during the rest of my week I lead a very busy life. I constantly find myself “plugged” in, whether texting with friends, answering emails, and checking Facebook. A couple years ago, I realized that I needed to prepare for meeting for worship. For me, this means spending time in prayer each day (well that’s what I try to do) and having some quiet time before heading to meeting.

As I sit in meeting, I use prayer as a way to center down. I have a list of people that I usually pray for and I use the idea of “holding others in the light”. (For more on this practice, I highly recommend the Pendle Hill Pamphlet entitled Holding One Another in the Light by Marcelle Martin.) I try to imagine lifting the person into a palm of bright light that engulfs him or her, like an encompassing halo of light. I imagine that this light as God embracing the person. When I pray for other people, I begin to center down and slowly arrive at a place of deep mediation. Over time, I have realized that I have reached a calmer place in my worship than I had previously where I feel open to God. Prayer has led me to be less fidgeting in meeting. But even after adopting this technique, I still have trouble getting to this centered place. I don’t despair, instead I look forward to continued growth in my faith.

How do you, the reader, center down in meeting for worship?

Greg Woods, a member of Columbia Friends Meeting in Missouri, has been involved in youth and young adult ministry for the past eight years. Currently he serves as the Assistant Coordinator of the Young Adult Leadership Development (YALD) Program at Pendle Hill. He graduated from Earlham College and in the fall he will start a MA program in Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. In his free time, he enjoys traveling the world, attending demolition derbies, and telling jokes of all kinds.


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