Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Presence in the Midst

I've been reading (and thoroughly enjoying) A Living Faith; An Historical and Comparative Study of Quaker Beliefs by Wilmer A. Cooper. One of many fascinating insights that Cooper points out is that Quaker worship can be viewed as a distinctly third form alongside Catholic and Protestant. Catholic worship is centered around the alter and Eucharist. Protestant worship is centered around the sermon and teaching of scripture. Quaker worship is centered around the experience of the presence of God.

To illustrate, Cooper uses the painting The Presence in the Midst, by Doyle Penrose.

Cooper describes it thusly: "...The Presence in the Midst graphically presents the historic Quaker understanding of worship. Penrose painted the famous Jordans meetinghouse outside London with the figure of Christ set in the midst of Friends gathered in silent worship. It is often remarked that the concept of worship portrayed here bears a striking resemblance to the Catholic Mass (the Eucharist), with the real presence of Christ in the midst. Because Friends historically believed that, according to George Fox, "Christ has come to reach his people himself," Penrose's painting lucidly presents the "gathered meeting" around the feet of Christ without benefit of priest or ordained minister and without the need for liturgical ceremony. Such "silent waiting upon the Lord" in an attitude of expectancy represents both the attitude and posture characteristic of traditional Quaker worship."


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