Steven Davison’s The Gathered Meeting
Adult Education Reading Group
Santa Monica Quaker Meeting
February 18, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.
Clerked by Stanford J. Searl, Jr.
This handout is from Steven Davison’s The Gathered Meeting, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 444 (Wallingford, PA, 2017).
“In the Quaker practice of group worship on the basis of silence come special times when an electric hush and solemnity and depth of power steals over the worshippers. A blanket of divine covering comes over the room, and a quickening Presence pervades us, breaking down some part of the special privacy and isolation of our individual lives and blending our spirits within a super individual Life and Power – a objective, dynamic Presence which enfolds us all, nourishes our souls, speaks glad, unutterable comfort within us, and quickens in us depths that had before been slumbering. The Burning Bush has been kindled in our midst, and we stand together on holy ground. Such gathered meetings I take to be cases of group mysticism” (Thomas Kelly, The Gathered Meeting, Davison, p. 1).
“ … a meeting in which most members feel themselves united as one body in the Divine presence. Such a meeting has a sense of timelessness and peace …” (William Taber, Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, Davison, p. 1).
“The gathered meeting is a profound interior experience of the mystical reality of the communion of worshipers with one another and with God in Love” (Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality, Volume 2, Corporate Spiritual Practice Among Friends, Davison, p. 2).
2. “The gathered meeting is the essence of the Quaker way, the fulfillment of an essential promise of Quaker faith, the promise that the assembled worshipers can commune with God directly. It is the distinctive gift we have to offer our members and attenders — and the world.
In the gathered meeting, we experience what we seek as a religious community: inward confirmation in our personal faith, collective unity of purpose in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and a profound sense of the Presence. That sense can be an awareness of the psychic presence of the other worshipers in the room with us, and, at times, it can be an awareness of a Gatherer, a consciousness of the Christ, a Mystery Reality at the heart of our collective self. And we experience joy. We revel in the overflowing of the Spirit taking place both within ourselves and in our fellow worshipers” (Davison, p. 2).
3. “Perhaps the most important factor fostering a gathered meeting is love, because it connects people so powerfully and we all understand it and possess it. However spiritually seasoned the worshipers – or not, however deep or shallow the vocal ministry, all that the members of a meeting really need in order to be gathered is love for each other. If enough Friends focus on that love, if enough Friends channel that love, silently in their hearts or vocally in their ministry, the meeting can hardly help but fall into the Heart.
Even hate or conflict in the meeting cannot hinder a gathered meeting if enough worshipers channel sufficient love. Love of the enemy is perhaps the most powerful conduit to a gathered meeting that there is. When a worshipper achieves some measure of love for someone they otherwise do not love, the meeting has just been gathered in the Spirit” (Davison, p.26).
4. “The gathered meeting is the distinctive form of spiritual nurture that we Friends can offer to those who seek real communion with God. Quaker ministry, loving each other and taking care of each other, and the gathered meeting are the spirit, the heart, and the soul of Quaker faith.
The gathering presence of the Holy Spirit we encounter in the gathered meeting for worship is what will ensure that Quakerism remains a loving, evolving religion, a religion that is always renewing itself through God’s revelation and adapting itself to the changing spiritual needs of the times. For it is this gathering Spirit of the Christ that we move forward. Throughout the centuries, we have received, recognized, and been galvanized by divine revelation in our meetings for worship when we have been gathered in the Holy Spirit” (Davison, pp. 26-27).
5. “The gathered meeting is one of the great gifts we have to offer the world. If we commit ourselves individually and corporately to nurture the gathered meeting, as well as to nurture the spiritual gifts of those who come to us, if we lovingly enfold them into our fellowship, and if they experience the gathered meeting in worship – the true presence of the Holy Spirit – then those who come to us will know who we really are. They will know what Quakerism is and what it has to offer them. They may then join us, and our meetings will thrive. But more importantly, we will have brought them to God, to the Mystery Reality within true and holy communion” (Davison, p. 28).