One Friend’s exploration of drawing as worship in Meeting for Worship

In the mid-to-late 2000s, while on hiatus from Quakers, I attended Sunday services offered by an evangelical Christian faith group. At one point, creating art as a form of worship was introduced. The artist for that day’s service was up on the stage with the praise and worship band. As the band played for the first 20 minutes of the service, the artist began to create a drawing or painting of a spiritual subject. I thought this was an interesting way to express a sense of God’s movement in one’s being.

 Another experience I had was while attending a death penalty execution vigil at a Catholic church. (At the time I lived in El Paso, TX, and the death penalty was--and still is--legal.) While a musician played a mournful tune on the flute, a vision came to me of the individual music notes carrying our various petitions--for comfort for the prisoner and their families and friends, for mercy for the prison staff, for the end of the death penalty--to God. It was a pretty profound image that stayed with me. So, when I got home to my drawing pencils and notebook, I recreated what I had seen in my mind’s eye.

In the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Quakers page on the Friends General Conference website, Meeting for Worship is described as:

“...silent waiting, where we expect to come into the presence of God. In this living silence, we listen for the still, small voice that comes from God through the Inward Light.”

Based on my experiences, I wondered if drawing is a way at Meeting for Worship to:

  • enter the “living silence”?
  • listen for “the still, small voice”?
  • connect with the Inward Light?

While researching if there is a precedent for what I call Quaker Worship Drawing (and there were very few), I came across the below in an article titled “Art as ministry: Elinor Smallman reflects on a Quaker Arts network event:

We have come together as a Quaker group and have shared our individual experience of creative activity being a way of connecting to a greater energy, coming both from outside ourselves and also from a deep place within. We experience our art work as a way of exploring and communicating the mystery of the divine, often using a language beyond words.
— The Friend, 03/15/13
Karen drawing.JPG

I thought I would consider for myself if drawing was beneficial to my experience of Meeting for Worship. It seemed promising based on the few times I did. I am not a trained artist. But the drawings I did create were meaningful to me because they were an expression of what I feel the Spirit had put in my mind. This practice made Meeting for Worship more meaningful to me, and gave me a sense of a greater connection to the Inward Light and the people gathered for Worship.

Wanting to share this experience with others, I brought pencils and small journal booklets to this past Spring Gathering. I left the pencils and booklets on a table, including a handwritten note introducing the concept of drawing as worship and inviting others to take a few pencils and a booklet to try it for themselves. There was no request for anyone to report back; I considered this a “soft” introduction and wanted to see what would happen organically. Over the weekend, I did see and hear of a few people trying drawing as worship during various sessions and the Meetings for Worship and Business. One person remarked that after drawing their image at the beginning of Meeting for Worship, they felt that they had gotten out “all the noise” in their mind and was better able to center down for worship. That Friend spoke my mind.

Based on all these experiences, I believe that drawing as worship can help us to enter the “living silence” in Meeting for Worship where we listen for “the still, small voice” and connect with the Inward Light. What do you think?