Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
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Readings for Reflection: February 2005
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Out of a concern expressed by many in our Meeting community, Ministry and Counsel has been considering how we might nurture and support one another in the call to v ocal ministry. This month we hear from a seasoned Friend who rarely speaks in Meeting. Friends are invited to consider also this month’s Query on Ministry.

Many fine messages are spoken during our Meetings for worship. Why are there many of us who speak rarely if ever?
I can only answer for myself. Practical guide-lines for what might make a message meaningful to others exist and are helpful. Beyond that, is the standard of divine source and prompting. It is daunting to sit next to a Friend who is receiving a message and a signal to deliver it. Friends have described for us the physical signs of such a communication. This is deflating for some of us who have never experienced such symptoms during our quiet musings in the silence. Some privately say bah humbug to this talk of pounding hearts and powerful urges, others of us accept it as a selection process by which the Great Spirit speaks to those so favored. Considering, however, the vast differences among the many in this world who believe that a god speaks to and through them, I rather think that it might be best for any communication between God and human to be a private matter, not to be used as a yardstick of worthiness.
I feel sure that the Holy Spirit will not go unheard for lack of a microphone. Any God who wants to be heard, surely would know how to do it openly and clearly, out of respect for those of his creatures who don’t respond to hints, as when God spoke to Noah. As Bill Cosby retells it, no great discernment was needed. Noah was in his garage sawing lumber to build furniture. The introduction came in a clear voice. “Noah,” it said, “Noah, this is the Lord.” When He had Noah’s attention, He said, “Noah, I want you to build me an ark.”
In the meantime I use my own judgment to know when to speak in Meeting. When I sit in the silence, many thoughts come and go, some seeking for clarity, some for acceptance. It is not much different from what I do frequently every day, little with which I would want to disturb the silence. I try to refrain from preaching, as I know how that sounds to others. This I have learned from my grown children.
I am much aware of those around me in that room, and of the comfort of being in each other’s presence. I see in the world little evidence that there is any resource beyond our own, any powerful divine force that is doing its best for us. We who inhabit the earth have been left to fend for ourselves, to do our best with the love and wisdom and creative potential that we call “that of God within us.” I am troubled that it seems so inadequate to the task.
I am thankful in Meeting for the sense of togetherness. I am in awe of the many in that room who live lives of quiet courage – those who share their distress and loss as well as those who don’t. I am cheered by the abundant joy in this community and encouraged by the refreshing eagerness to make the world around us better. We meet each Sunday to be silent together, to shake hands, to break bread, and to insure that a candle continues to burn in the vast darkness. The thoughts that help to sustain me all week every week are not extraordinary, and I am satisfied that they are quite amply shared without words. I draw comfort and strength from being in Meeting for Worship, and I am grateful for the generous spirit of the Friends community that allows each of us a great deal of latitude to be spiritual in our own way.

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