“The Meeting for Worship is, however, not all silence. The silence is preparation. One listens before one speaks. There is a quickening power in the living silence… Where the temperature and atmosphere of the group are right, the one who prays or speaks is not just a solitary individual saying words. One becomes in some real sense a voice for the cooperating group. There is more in the words than we consciously know or explicitly think out.” Rufus Jones
There has been some wonderful vocal ministry rising out of the waiting silence in the past six weeks or so. And though, from time to time, there are those amongst us who are especially gifted and offer messages full of Spirit… we are ALL ministers… and each of us, no matter how shy we may feel… are, from time to time, called to rise and say a few words.
During Worship on the last Sunday of February, your pastor sensed that there was a message trying to rise, and yet there must have been some hesitation for there was no vocal ministry… and that hesitation did seem to change the quality of the silence in which we were waiting.
I remember well the fear that I felt the first time I rose to offer ministry in Meeting for Worship… because we do have such a strong sense of God’s presence there with us, it is an awesome thing to rise and say a few words. And, it so easy to forget that even the ordinary events of life, when held up into the Light are sacred; and that the most meaning full ministry is neither fancy nor polished, it is heart felt.
In the Atlanta Meeting there was a large Burundi refugee population, and from time to time someone would rise and offer vocal ministry in Burundi; words which most Friends could not understand yet often someone would comment later that those Burundi words had indeed “spoken to their condition.” This reminds me of the quote from John Woolman’s Journal about his ministry while traveling amongst the Delaware Indians:
“On the evening of the 18th I was at their meeting, where pure gospel love was felt, to the tendering of some of our hearts. The interpreters endeavored to acquaint the people with what I said, in short sentences, but found some difficulty, as none of them were quite perfect in English and Delaware tongues, so they helped one another, and we labored along, Divine love attending. Afterwards, feeling my mind covered with the spirit of prayer, I told the interpreters that I found it in my heart to pray to God, and believed, if I prayed aright, he would hear me; and I expressed my willingness for them to omit interpreting; so our meeting ended with a degree of Divine love. Before the people went out, I observed Papunehang (the man who had been zealous in laboring for a reformation in that town, being then very tender) speaking to one of the interpreters, and I was afterwards told that he said in substance as follows: “I love to feel where words come from.”
So, let us when we feel called to offer a few words of vocal ministry take courage and rise… let us, also, make it our practice to listen to the vocal ministry in our meeting in the same deep way that Papunehang listened to John Woolman… and then, let us, trust in the Divine love that attends us in our waiting Worship.