Afterthought #38 Radical Encounter in the Silence

Explaining what happens during “unprogrammed” Quaker worship—sitting in silence for an hour—is a challenge. British Friend Ben Pink Dandelion does a good job, though, in the most recent episode of QuakerSpeak, “The Difference Between Quaker Meeting and Other Services.” I especially resonate with his idea about what can happen in the silence: “…we’ve found over the centuries that we have a very strong sense of presence that comes through absence. We can say that absence leads to a sense of presence.” Hear what else Ben Pink Dandelion has to say about how this practice allows space for us to explore our spirituality.

“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, comments overheard, maybe even bumper stickers.


  1. Olympia WA Meeting does it similarly. We felt it was unfair to ask visitors to share their names and information but not sharing who we are. . After holding hands a minute or two . We go around saying our names and we are encouraged to share briefly whatever is important for us to share. This custom builds a sense of community.It takes time but we find people are careful about each others time. We are also aware of who has suffered loss or experienced joy. Names often lead to new connections. There are also messages that were not quite ready. The children come in and share to the enjoyment of all. From time to time the question is raised.”Is it worth the time?” For at least 20 years the answer has been an enthusiastic “YES!” Ward Miles

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