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Readings for Reflection: December 2017
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Practicing Awareness of the Spirit

Iíve never been a good note taker, but would like to contribute to recording minutes for Ministry and Counsel. Inexperienced with the task, I thought Iíd ask for advice. Maybe someone on the committee would let me shadow them? Then it occurred to me that I should begin by asking my motherís advice. As a boy, I remember her at the clerksí table at New York Yearly Meeting, quietly writing, occasionally seeking clarification, methodically reading. So I called Mom. Matter-of-factly, she told me to go read her Friends Journal article on recording. So I did. It starts with three paragraphs about Quaker life, hardly mentioning recording. No, Mom, I need practical help! Reading on, though, the article uses this opening to set the stage for understanding the meaning of the practical advice. Quite helpful. I share these first three paragraphs with the hope that you too may find them helpful reflection on our faith and practice, whether officially recording or not.
                                                                                                      ~ Mark Hoover

For me, the first step in all aspects of living, including recording the minutes of a meeting, is the personal practice of awareness of the Spirit. I can practice silence when I have to wait at a stoplight, or when I am walking down the hall to another meeting. Itís as simple as relaxing my shoulders and slipping into a moment of silence. I might read a few lines of a spiritual calendar or book; I can bask in the beautiful long shadows of the rising or setting sun; I can record the dayís gratitudes. The more I practice inner silence, the more I am ready for any task.

Bill Taber was a longtime released minister in Ohio Yearly Meeting and a noted teacher and spiritual nurturer of Quakers of diverse theological styles. He suggested that over time, as we practice silent worship alone and with others, we will learn to move into an "altered state of consciousness" as we enter a worship meeting for business. We will put on "joy" as we come together into community, then we will move gradually to "assurance": "It is as if we are entering into a stream, which I am fond of calling the Stream of the Quaker Process, which is as real as stepping into a stream of water." Taber [. . .] advises Friends to enter into worship before a business meeting with "a strong inward intentionality." Ben Pink Dandelion, currently at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and the University of Birmingham, also reminds Friends . . . that we are "open to new light . . . a community of seekers," and he, too, remarks on the importance of our "intention: to be faithful above all."

So: First is daily practice. Second is the joy of gathering. Third is our intention to be faithful. Each participant in a meeting for worship with a concern for business is a consequential part of the whole, even if he or she is silent, for we all are part of the "Stream" Taber mentions. Each participant is partly responsible for the quality of the discerning, clerking, and recording.

~ "The Task of the Recording Clerk: Spiritual Exercise and Ministry," by Sharon Hoover This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Friends Journal, and is reprinted/republished with permission. You can read the article at https://www.friendsjournal.org/task-recording-clerk/ and subscribe at www.friendsjournal.org/subscribe/.

All Readings for Reflection
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