When we Minister, Something Stirs – Alistair Heslop

Helpful Thoughts and Nudges

22nd October 2023

I don't minister frequently in Meeting for Worship, perhaps having stood to speak three or four times in fourteen years. For me, helpful thoughts and nudges pop up while at most meetings. Sometimes it's after the initial procession of thoughts has slowed to a trickle, and at other times it's when I settle down into a deeper stillness where the frequency and volume of thoughts is much reduced. The emergence of insights is not restricted to when I sit in silence, they pop up at other times, sometimes annoyingly in the middle of the night when something is keeping me awake, during a long walk in the countryside or even in the middle of a shower.

I can find no difference between the things that pop up in Meeting for Worship or elsewhere. I notice they are usually grounded in something that is on my mind - consciously or unconsciously. The big difference for me is what happens next. In Meeting for Worship, I sit with the thought and it occurs to me that it might be something I could minister on. Usually that idea passes, but sometimes it persists and I ask myself do I really want to minister? The answer is invariably 'no', I have no strong desire to minister, but on some occasions my heart starts beating faster and harder, an urge comes over me and I know I have to get to my feet and speak.

So what makes that difference? Maybe this from Quaker Faith & Practice provides an answer.

"Ministry is what is on one’s soul, and it can be in direct contradiction to what is on one’s mind. It’s what the Inner Light gently pushes you toward or suddenly dumps in your lap. It is rooted in the eternity, divinity, and selflessness of the Inner Light; not in the worldly, egoistic functions of the conscious mind."

Marrianne McMullen, 1987 (Quaker Faith & Practice 2.66)


Alistair Heslop