Who Speaks at Meeting

The following was written by Sam Hartman and is a personal reflection- I speak for no one but myself.

Experiencing Quaker worship for the first time can be a somewhat bewildering experience. Quakers are known for silent worship, but it may be confusing as to why a particular individual may break the silence and rise to speak. It will help to know that most Quakers share two beliefs in common: that there is that of God in us all and that we possess an Inner Light.

In unprogrammed Meetings such as Wrightstown, we have no ritual or program of service.  In fact we have no single minister, but are all considered ministers to one another, and one of the functions of a minister is to share one’s understanding of God with others.

There are any numbers of references in Quaker literature which indicate suggestions as to when it is appropriate to share a verbal ministry with the Meeting. They are not rules but they do give a parameter.

  1. We should not come to Meeting for Worship prepared to speak.  In the same spirit, we should not arrive promising ourselves not to speak.

  2. We should respect the silence and process our ‘leading’ before rising to speak.

  3. In silence many thoughts will pass through our consciousness.  Some are ordinary concerns.  But a thought that persists, an idea that continues to form and develop, may be a call to a vocal ministry.   The persistent idea manifests itself in the individual as a ‘call,’( described as a quickening or profound silence before speaking- and a sense of relief or release afterword.”) (Faith and Practice, p 9)

  4. The message flows from the heart, the soul, rather than from the head.

  5. It is interesting to find that the speaker is often unable to recreate the message that he or she has expressed.  This seems to indicate that the message had an origin not from the individual’s ego but from a deeper source.

  6. Generally we encourage a period of contemplation between messages.  When one message follows another in quick procession we refer to it as a ‘Popcorn Meeting.’  Popcorn meetings can have their place at special times but tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

  7. It is important to note that a vocal message does not have to be complex and theologically intricate.  Some valuable biblical messages are quite simple, such as ‘God is Love.’  Sometimes the most simple can be the most profound.   

Let's not be hypocritical

"Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people; before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all His children; before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give."
Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey-D)

Bridging a chasm

Chris Hedges has written an important book exploring Evangelical Christendom: “American Fascists - the Christian Right and the War on America”. I was drawn to the Cult on Masculinity chapter. The more I read about those that subscribe to male dominion, the more alien they seem and certainly Quakers have embraced equality of the sexes for most of their existence.

So, in thinking about healing what seems to be an ever-growing divide in this country, how do we communicate across this chasm?

Stewardship vs. Exploitation

Don spoke of facts vs. beliefs today in meeting. I agonize over how few agreements are possible in today's American society.

To me, stewardship, one of the "SPICE" testimonies, is a high calling. In my mind it is epitomized by the Native American concept of considering the next Seven Generations in all decisions. It is a fundamental part of my faith.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, a media outlet that also seems to double as a propaganda arm of the Trump administration, Environmental Protection Agency [disgraced and departed] chief Scott Pruitt said his Christian convictions led him to conclude that America should use gas and coal freely because natural resources exist purely for man’s benefit.

“The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,” Pruitt told CBN’s David Brody.

Christians have little or no common ground.

Quakers and Activism

On June 17th, we had a lively Spiritual Exploration Group (SEG) discussion about activism. Jim spoke of the Gnostic Gospel of Mary and our ascending to heaven while living through our actions and through seeking truth; sin as illusion and our struggle for goodness; our body as raiment cast off from the soul. God is within creating divine discontent when we see injustice in the world and aids us in our struggle to put harness aside.

Nelson and Alice spoke of their involvement with Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), protesting successfully to get the PNC bank to stop investment in mountaintop removal, and the ongoing effort to get PECO to embrace renewable energy sources.

Alice spoke passionately about her search for where to put her activism energy and how working with EQAT gave her hope. She and Nelson mentioned Eileen Flanagan's book, "Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope". (Another of her titles with an intriguing title: "The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make a Change-and When to Let Go"). Significantly, Alice claimed that Quaker activists are much larger (and louder?) than our numbers suggest.

We explored working alone vs multiplying our efforts by enrolling others in our causes. And in terms of motivation, it was suggested that some view good works as a "ticket" to heaven. (It was suggested in jest that enrollment into our causes would be easier if we could offer indulgences.) In terms of corporate shareholders activism, it was suggested that a scheme for choosing the right path might be to follow the lead of the activist Catholic nuns. Living unselfishly helps to guide our path as well.

As we age and are less able we may slip into a more silent role, hoping for new young and energetic activists to step up. In our spiritual environment it was suggested that we speak on issues vs partisan politics.

We can all ask ourselves: where does my heart feel the most discontent (and be assured that there are many feeling similarly)?

Quakers serve as the Conscience of the Nation

43% of Americans think that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. If we cannot recognize our mistakes, there is no hope of learning from them.

Now the administration is assembling a belligerent foreign policy team, perhaps more bellicose then any we've had before. There is harsh talk of dealing with Iran and North Korea.

Quakers will most likely be called on again to testify to the folly of war and the serve as the conscience of the nation.

War is NOT the Answer

As many Quakers will tell you, War is NOT the Answer… and this has been made very clear by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Exhibit A is the Afghanistan War, the longest in our history, which has no plausible end in sight and no definition of the end goals.

As for Iraq, millions marched against that invasion in February 2003 and yet a belligerent few sent us careening into it. By most accounts it has been a disaster in terms of lives, money, and reputation for the U.S. but 43% of Americans think it was the right thing to do. We can’t learn from our mistakes if we don’t recognize them.

In spite of continuing in Afghanistan with not even a definition of how it will end,

And here we are, watching an assembly of even more belligerent gang readying us for further war. The most belligerent are the chicken hawks, never having seen the horrors of war.