The Ministry of the Facing Bench
This practice, while new to some of us, has its roots in early Quaker tradition. Even
today, many meetinghouses have a bench or several benches that are elevated in the front of
the meeting room. This is a persisting remnant of prior times when the monthly meeting elders
and recorded ministers would occupy these benches during meeting for worship. This position
enabled those gathered to hear more easily if these folks felt led to offer vocal ministry during
worship and these were the folks who habitually had that leading. From this, an important and
unique ministry--the ministry of the facing bench--has developed. Those who attend Yearly
Meeting general (or representative) sessions will notice a row of chairs placed in front of the
clerks’ table. Folks who are led to this ministry will sit in those spaces, holding and grounding
the meeting for business in the spirit and presence of the Divine.
Even though we are a programmed meeting, with pastoral leadership for worship, the
ministry of the facing bench can enrich our time together. Those who feel called to engage in
this practice do not necessarily “have to be” elders, but rather those who feel a concern for the
quality and depth of our worship time. Specifically, folks who sit “on the bench” are holding and
grounding our worship in the light and love of God, praying for the pastor or whoever is
leading worship, and responding to nudges to pray for the faces they see as they look out on
those gathered in meeting. There is no particular set of qualifying requirements, not age or
gender or position in the meeting. Mainly, you just need to be willing to be used by God to
immerse our meeting time in the Spirit.
Several members of Ministry and Counsel have agreed to have the primary responsibility
for either sitting up front or inviting another person to do so each Sunday morning. It is up to
each and every one of us to pay attention as to whether we are being called to this ministry.
Remember, according to Quaker faith and practice, EVERYONE is a minister, equipped with
unique and important gifts and talents that are to be shared. Let anyone on Ministry and
Counsel know if you would like to participate in the ministry of the facing bench.
Adirondack Friends Meeting
27 Saratoga Ave.
South Glens Falls, NY 12803