Readings for Reflection: November 2013
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Vocal Ministry in the Unprogrammed Meeting

The gift of vocal ministry builds up the community and draws the hearers nearer one another, providing comfort, direction, and encouragement. The speaker serves the community as a conduit of blessings. As the Meeting community worshipfully considers queries about discernment this month, this excerpt from Douglas Steere’s writing provides thoughtful reflection on how we decide whether a received message is meant for vocal ministry.

Excerpts from On Speaking out of the Silence: Vocal Ministry in the Unprogrammed Meeting for Worship by Douglas V. Steere (pp. 9 & 16). Pendle Hill Pamphlet No. 182 (1972). Posted with permission.

[Referring to needs of fellow-worshipers, and to the ministry of the fellowworshipers that may precede one’s vocal ministry] Both of these considerations would seem to me to be of first importance in the very inner workshop of ministry itself, for ministry that is lastingly helpful is always deeply aware of the people who are gathered together for the meeting for worship. It is, of course, true that if I minister to my own deep need and share something that has spoken to my own condition, it is likely to meet the needs of many others in the room, for our conditions are not so different as many of us tend to think they are. Again and again when I have shared some ministry that spoke to my own need and struggle, someone has come up to me after the meeting and said, “You must have known that you were speaking directly to me.” Yet after this has been said, ministry is often much strengthened if the one ministering knows something of the problems and the heartaches and the brave living that is going on in the room. This cannot be easily known except as the one ministering knows the people personally and has some real touch with them outside of the meeting.


What happens when something that has been shaped up in your mind in meeting does not seem to you right to be shared at this time? .... The Quaker journals have confirmed for me my own experience on two other matters: the first is that some things are given me for myself and not for sharing in the meeting: things that I am to follow out, things that I am to try to put right, things that I must test out in my own attempt to fulfill them before I am at liberty, if I ever am, to share them with others. The second matter the journals confirm is that to receive a message itself in meeting is not the same as to receive the call to give it, and that these are separate and distinguishable stages.

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