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.