15th October 2023
My experience of giving ministry in Quaker Meeting for Worship (MfW) has never ceased to change and evolve.
When I first attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship (MfW), I was amazed how busy my brain was in the silence and wondered if I would last the hour!
Gradually, the practice got easier and I found the experience increasingly refreshing.
A major step forward for me was when an elder in our Yearly Meeting invited us to read through the entire Quaker Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) monthly over a two-year period in the run-up to the revision of that book (which is done every quarter century or so and is still ongoing). Once a month a small group of us met for an hour before MfW and shared with each other what passages in the chapters we were to read beforehand impressed us the most. More often than not, I found myself ministering in the MfW that followed on a passage that had impressed me. The pre-meeting reading was an excellent way to prepare ‘hearts and minds’ for MfW. The most memorable MfW was when I ministered early with the famous passage in George Fox’s Journal: “And I cried to the Lord, saying, ‘Why should I be thus, seeing I was never addicted to commit those evils?’ And the Lord answered that it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions, how else should I speak to all conditions; and in this I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that also I saw the infinite love of God; and I had great openings.” https://qfp.quaker.org.uk/passage/19-03/
What followed were six deep-felt ministries, leaving the longest member of the Meeting who ministered last to start his ministry with “Wow!” It was indeed what some would call a ‘gathered Meeting’.
Today, I no longer limit my ministry, vocal or silent, to MfW which has simply become one of several spiritual practices that I pursue in order to find and fully live on a daily basis the life I was created for. I have come to believe that we were each born at a specific time, to specific parents, in a specific place, and are called to grow from our beginnings to play our part in humanity and creation with our unique combination of inherited talents, learned skills, life experience and motivation (what we are attracted to). I choose today to pay attention to and care for all four parts of my humanness – physical, emotional, mental (rational), and spiritual (intuitive). In fact, I have come to believe that intuition, practiced by great inventors, scientists, doctors, athletes, writers, poets, lyricists, composers, and performing and visual artists, is our most neglected human capacity as we hurry through life without stopping to listen and observe in silence without reaction or judgment. Without intuition, we cannot fully practice what I considered our highest human capacity – the power of choice of attitude. A peaceful Quaker MfW is one of the ways that I can experience the silence needed to awake and practice intuition. It is also one of the times and places that I can best practice one of my favourite passages in Quaker literature:
“Our diversity invites us both to speak what we know to be true in our lives and to learn from others.” From the Introduction to Advices & Queries of Britain Yearly Meeting Quaker Faith and Practice https://qfp.quaker.org.uk/chapter/1/
and also in the comparable books of Ireland, France, and Germany yearly Meetings and the Section of the Americas of Friends World Committee for Consultation in Spanish:
« Notre diversité nous incite à dire ce que nous savons être vrai dans nos vies et, à la fois, nous incite à apprendre en écoutant les autres. »
„Unsere Mannigfaltigkeit lädt uns ein, über das zu sprechen, was wir als wahr in unserem Leben erfahren haben, und gleichzeitig von anderen zu lernen.“
“Nuestra diversidad nos invita tanto a decir lo que sabemos que es verdad en nuestras vidas y a aprender de los demás.”
As many have said, Quaker Meeting for Worship is the core Quaker practice from which all else follows.