Another thing I've noticed reading Fox's Journal is that it doesn't seem like he and other Friends spent a whole lot of time in silence at their gatherings for worship. It sounds like most of the time it was more like Fox was on a preaching circuit so people came out to hear him, and sometime's he'd speak and sometimes he would wait for a while before he spoke and "famish them for words." Once he talks about waiting until he could sense the Spirit had opened the hearts of everyone there to the extent that they were going to be opened that day, and then he spoke into that open space, prepared by the Spirit.
Other times when he meets with a smaller group of committed Friends it sounds like they would wait for a while together until they heard what they were supposed to do, and then they would go out and do it. So it was a meeting to come together and listen about the immediate action they would take, rather than just time to sit around centering and get a nice feeling, a retreat from daily life.
That kind of silence sounds like a deliberate opening up to the leading of the Spirit in ways that are challenging and scary. I mean, in meetings for worship I'm scared sometimes if I'm just led to speak out of the silence, but this took courage of a whole new level. What they heard God leading them to do was no small matter--they might go speak about "the day of the Lord" in the market place, or go debate with people in the "steeplehouses," or go visit Friends in prison. With all of these there was risk of being thrown in prison themselves, or getting beaten up, or at least being made fun of. Doing any of these things marked them publicly as a crazy Friend and even if persecution was not immediate it often would occur later.
It seems like our meetings for worship (whether programmed or unprogrammed) have veered quite far away from the meetings of these early Friends. I think it's important to come together for the simple purpose of worshiping God, but what IS worship anyway? Can it be worship if we're not willing to act on what we hear? How long do we need to wait and ponder for clearness before we go out and just DO what we're called to? (I ask these things of myself, because I'm definitely not perfect in this area, but also of us as a community.) If don't want to support our country's wars, why do I still drive out of convenience? If I don't want to encourage slavery and worse worldwide, why do I still buy consumer products that are too cheap to have been paid a fair price for? If I don't want to destroy the Earth why do I use disposable containers and buy items with unnecessary amounts of packaging? etc. etc. etc.
When will we as Friends not just listen, but ACT again?