Called Meeting -June 24th & 25th
Discernment about the structure of future Meetings for Worship

 Please set aside 90 minutes to help in this discernment which will occur at 7pm on Thursday June 24th and again on Friday the 25th. Please try to attend either or both of these meetings in person at the Meeting House or online. see below

Dear Friends,
As we proceed through the first weeks of June, we can feel the shift beginning to occur as we are released from the control of COVID restrictions on our lives. For the past year we found ways to adjust to the restrictions on being physically present with our family, friends, and members of our faith community. With resilience we have adapted. Emails, phone calls and yes even handwritten letters have flowed. Opportunities taken in the outdoors at safe distance and even sitting outside an open window of a friend who was sick. Our offices and classrooms changed to remote experiences using video conferencing. We made the best of these changes. Now we are coming back together and that is bringing its own challenges and decisions.

Last April we began worshipping using online conferencing tools. Bringing these tools into the space which we reserve for opening ourselves to God’s presence has been a challenge. With the closing last spring of our Meeting House many in our Meeting community found that our link to one another was nurtured as we came together to worship weekly, to check in with one another afterwards and in the sharing of music together during the online music circle. Friends who were at a distance or in a venue of their life that had prevented traveling to the Meeting House began joining our weekly online worship opportunities. We also had opportunities of focused prayer when members of our meeting suffered during this COVID era. The use of this technology however was not helpful for all our community. We learned as we reached out to those not attending that there were a variety of experiences with or reasons for not experiencing online worship. For some, the technology that enabled the worship was a hurdle too big for them to navigate even with help. Some had no place in their homes that was quiet and with access to the internet in which to join the worship. Others tried our online worship and found that for them their worship time did not center and deepen into communal prayer as they were used to it doing in the Meeting House, so they continued worshiping and holding members and attenders of our community in their own space and time.  Others had enough Zoom meetings during the week at work and school and therefore chose to use the Firstday morning in another way more enriching to them.

As we begin to move back into our Meeting House for worship together, we find our beloved community desiring to find a way for all of us to come together in worship and communion with one another. Our community has broadened over the past year with Friends who have been worshiping from out of state each week. Others, who have not been able to attend in person in the last few years because of the venue of their life have once again joined us regularly in prayer on Firstday morning. Members who are traveling have been able to attend worship from wherever they are. And there will be a slow return to the Meeting House for some who need to be especially protective of their or their beloved’s health.  
 
We began experimenting with blending worship (onsite and online) last summer and again this spring. We found that, like the variety of experience that members felt with online worship the same occurs with blending online with onsite worship. The experience is different depending on if you are attending online or onsite. When attending online those attending onsite are experienced as an additional Zoom box on the screen. We have experimented with the video of the box to show the person who is offering ministry or locking the video to show a view of those gathered in the Meeting House leaving an area that is not videoed for those who wish not to be visually part of the online experience. The experience of blending in the Meeting House is different. There is no video representation of the people joining worship via the internet. There is a small camera/microphone/speaker that has been placed in various areas of the worship area. It is known as the Owl system. It provides video and audio to the participants online and audio only for those on site.

The experience of blending worship has been mixed. Some find that it connects them to members. Others find that the changes in the way we interact in worship and afterwards detracts from their centering and connecting with others.  Technically we continue to try and minimize the presence of the Owl/computer and their wires and improve the audio. We are learning by trial and error how to guide the entering worship and the time after worship. The more important aspect however is how the blending impacts the worship of our members. What in the experience of our communal worship that helps and what detracts from the spiritual flow is and always has been personal. Think about the variety of experiences of our clock in the Meeting, how a person’s ministry of singing or reading scripture is received or how worshiping outside or inside changes our worship experience. We each come to the experience of the presence of God in our own way. Hence the numerus number of expressions of faith within the wider world of Quakers. When expectant prayerful worship is done communally by a gathered Quaker community of numerous personal needs it is particularly nurturing and guiding and therefore the centrality of meetings for worship to the Society of Friends in all of their forms.

Worship and Ministry asks that as a Meeting we continue to be open to a dialogue and deep listening about:

  • how do we wish to worship communally?
  • what are the variety of possibilities for worship for the variety of needs of our members and attenders
    • varieties in ways, times of worship, worship in large and small groups
  • how do we not separate into different groups but create numerous ways to interact with one another and in true sense the body be members one unto the other?


We have had some experiences over the past year that will help inform this dialogue. Worship and Ministry will host an online meeting for us to listen to one another about how we can provide worship experiences for all people who worship here at Plymouth.  Please set aside 90 minutes to help in this discernment which will occur at 7pm on Thursday June 24th and again on Friday the 25th. Please try to attend either or both of these meetings in person at the Meeting House or online. Those attending online may use the same login as that for Meeting for Worship. If you do not have this information, send an email to d.j.miller@verizon.net.

During the next several months of worship we will continue our experimentation of different ways of worship. For a period of time, we will alternate the onsite and zoom worship experiences along with blending of the two together. How we will proceed long term will be determined by our experience and sharing thereof at future meeting in October.  

Blended worship:                                                    1st, 4th, 5th Firstdays of the Month
Non-blended Zoom and Onsite worship:                2nd, 3rd,  Firstdays of the Month
Mid-week worship will be blended

Blessings
Worship and Ministry Committee