Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
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Readings for Reflection: March 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 c all to vocal ministry. This month we hear from a seasoned Friend about ministry that is ďin the LifeĒ of the spirit.

"In the Life"

When I settle in the Meetingroom, there are lots of thoughts going through my mind so I concentrate on centering down to worship, usually feeling grateful for this hour of worship and contemplation and for the people around me. Then, when others begin to speak, their thoughts are added to mine. My thoughts might be about personal worries, memories, feelings, thankfulness, things I forgot to do, funny incidents, and much more. They seem to represent various dimensions of existence: the physical, emotions, relationships, intellectual processes, politics, and perhaps other dimensions. For me, the life of the spirit connects with all of these, but also lies beneath them as a stream of healing water - as a life-sustaining force that gives meaning and coherence to the other dimensions. A message worth sharing in worship seems to well up from those depths. "In the Life" is how early Friends referred to it. If I am moved to share a thought or a message, I ask myself, "Is this in the Life?" Seventeenth-century Friend Robert Barclay describes it richly and simply:

Not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came I to receive and bear witness of the Truth, but by being secretly reached by the Life. For, when I came into the silent assemblies of Godís people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart; and as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised upÖ . (Britain YM Faith & Practice, 19.21)

Messages that feel inwardly ("secretly") RIGHT tend to feel as if they are given to me rather than coming from my thoughts or needs, i.e., "Bearing witness of the Truth." So, if I am tempted to say something that starts with "I think...," it gets vetoed as a contribution from me rather than a result of "being secretly reached by the Life." If a potential message has touched my heart, weakens the evil in me, and raises up the good, perhaps it will do the same for others in the room. The words and images used in a message that is in the Life are usually about something quite ordinary about the physical world, or relationships in our lives, but they always take us deeper into the spiritual dimension.

Thatís the process I try to be open to, but I canít say Iím always successful. Sometimes I am not sufficiently connected and speak too easily; at other times, I am not faithful to a prodding to speak because I am so appreciating the gathered silence. Sometimes I feel no proddings at all and doze off, alas. I have also found myself holding back from speaking because there has already been a lot of speaking and I know that others may be wishing for the silence to deepen so their spirits can more easily descend to the healing waters below the surface.

All Readings for Reflection

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