One thing I love in silent worship is that speech is only when led and not by rote.

One thing I miss in silent worship is that songs of praise and joy are never voiced.

In (and immediately after) several meetings I've attended, I felt led to sing, but didn't. I'm only an attender, I'm incredibly self-conscious about singing in public, nobody else ever does it (that I've heard), and it would have seemed awfully pretentious. And yet...

Has anyone else felt led to sing in meeting? Has anyone heard someone follow such a leading? Does God not call any of His people to worship Him in song?

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I've heard singing at least twice in the two-and-a-bit years I've been attending Meeting.

Baltimore Yearly Meeting also occasionally (seasonally?) has Meeting for Singing, rotating between monthly meetings, and for a while there (maybe still?) my meeting was having singing sessions for an hour (I think?) before worship on third Sundays.

While we are not a part of any particular Meeting, I will sing the hymns while playing them on piano. I do like the a cappella singing, motets, cantatas, of: Jan Pieterzoon Sweenlink (Non omnis qui dicit mihin, Domine), Thomas Tallis, Vasily Titov, and many others. I like the chants, polyphony, and hymns within the past hundred years. I really find healing in singing, though I'm not a professional, and I also must have quietness—both equally are important to me.

Of course, the Unaffiliated Mennonite meeting I attend, sings each First Day. Two hymns to start with, one before the break up for SS hour, one before the announcements, another after the message, one after the message, and then the doxology "Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow." That is the layout. It hasn't changed. Why? Because that is how it's always been done. 

I don't know how Friends do things well. I haven't attended a Meeting of Friends. I live too far away from the Rockingham Meeting in and near Harrisonburg, VA and I don't know if the one in Lynchburg still exists. I'm sure this would vary greatly, from what I've read at least that is what I conclude with. 

I don't know if any of the early Friends sang or not. I thought there was an old hymnal they compiled, but I'm not certain about that. I'm sure if it was a Spiritual Leading, it may well have been permitted. . . I am not very gifted as to this though. I'm merely a Seeker, not a birthright Friend, or yet an attendee. I would think someone else would have better discernment than I and wiser answers for thee though I am sure of that. 

I do it once in a while at my own meeting & have done it elsewhere.  i believe it happens at other meetings as well.  I've also played a hynm on a harmonica and with a guitar when so led.

Interesting!

I feel there is a time and a place for it in moderation. Don't ye agree? Not overdone or underdone or there again, not done at all. I think there could be a balance with the use of hymns. "Speaking to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts as unto the Lord."

I'd like to thank everyone who has already taken the time to share their thoughts. One quick correction to my original post: I meant to say that singing would have felt presumptuous, rather than pretentious. There's nothing pretentious about singing with my voice!

One of the things that spurred my post was wondering how it is that (apparently) nobody feels actively led by the Spirit to sing in meeting...certainly it's been a common call over the ages.  Was it that others sometimes felt what I did, but were similarly reluctant to follow; has the spiritual practice not to sing by rote become, over time, a rote practice not to sing? Or is the Spirit simply not leading Friends in unprogrammed meetings to song, and what might that mean? Or is there something else entirely going on?

In my own case, there is a particular song that kept rising during meeting (and afterwards). A secular song by India.Arie, written by a woman to her would-be lover, that has become something very different, and very powerful, for me. Below are the verses that speak to me in this way:

I am ready for love

Why are you hiding from me
I would quickly give my freedom
To be held in your captivity

I am ready for love
All of the joy and the pain
And all the time that it takes
Just to stay in your good grace

They say watch what you ask for
Cause you might receive
But if you ask me tomorrow
I'll say the same thing

I am ready for love
Would you please lend me your ear?
I promise I won't complain
I just need you to acknowledge I am here

I am ready for love

If you'll take me in your hands
I will learn what you teach
And do the best that I can

I am ready for love
Here with an offering of
My voice
My Eyes
My soul
My mind

Tell me what is enough
To prove I am ready for love


Timothy Bruffy said:

Interesting!

I feel there is a time and a place for it in moderation. Don't ye agree? Not overdone or underdone or there again, not done at all. I think there could be a balance with the use of hymns. "Speaking to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts as unto the Lord."

I have felt led to sing in meeting on several occasions. A member of my meeting was lead to sing at a memorial meeting and it served to gather the meeting and lead to sweet celebration of our Friend's life.

I think the issue is whether the Spirit is leading you to sing.

I have experienced a message of song from other worshippers many times in my meeting, a liberal Quaker meeting in Midlothian, Virginia. The song is delivered as any other message. The Friend simply is moved by the Spirit to share the song out loud. It has always been a beautiful experience whether the message bearer has a nice singing voice or not. This type of ministry has happened more times than I can count over the 25 years I've been attending that meeting.

My particular meeting does not have songbooks in the worship room, so that there is no "programming" of the worship to a written song. So, when a song is offered it is from the memory of the singer, and usually others don't join in; although on occasion that has happened if other worshippers are moved to do so.

In my meeting, there is no distinction made between members and attenders - so I am uncertain why you being an attender makes any difference. We've even had attenders as our clerk of meeting.

There is a close-by meeting in Richmond (about 30 minutes drive) that does have song books in the pews. I believe they also have a piano in the worship room. They are a liberal Quaker meeting, too. There, a Friend might be led to invite others to turn to a song and everyone sing, as a designated Friend plays the song on the piano. At least that happened some 20 years ago - not sure if that is still their practice.

I think my meeting would likely think that arrangement too much programming. We have refused kind offers of donations of pianos/small organs before due to a woory of that influencing worship to be more programmed.

I have noticed several times when occasionally attendng the Pittsburgh Friends Meeting that one can come earlier, about half an hour before Meeting for worship, and in the room from which one enters the meeting-room, there is a baby grand. There several gathered, some bringing instruments such as guitar and flute, one  woman played the piano, and all were free to join in singing from a hymnal. Most of the songs were not familiar to me, but having sung in church and school choirs and choruses since the age of six, and often singing a capella as part of my storytelling, I had not trouble following along. Since I am not a member of this Meeting, and don't attend it often, I don't know if this is a compromise between some wanting to sing and others preferring silent worship, or not. As Timothy observed, at times I need both, but I come from a family music tradition, so for me, singing is a natural way of worship, as much as sometimes being moved to write a poem or speak a prayer. Since I have never spoken in meeting--uncertainty as to whether I am really led to prevents me, as well as being a non-member (and I must not be led, or I would be compelled to speak) I have never dealt with the singing issue.

When my father died in 1997, aged 90, he had expressed a wish that there not be a funeral or viewings, simply a brief graveside service. My parents had outlived most of their siblings, who all lived at a distance, and all of their friends, so it was only the immediate family and the minister from the church they used to attend (and at one time were very active in). I know that this was out of a desire to make things easier for my mother, always his first concern, and his own modesty, but I missed most the fact that there was no song. It was the same when my mother died at 95 in 2005, and will probably be the same again when my older brother the family hermit dies. I later wrote a song about Daddy, the only one I've published (part of a privately printed collection by 11 harpers), and derive some comfort from it every time I sing or play it on my harp. --Barra

The Unaffiliated Mennonite meetinghouse we attend, does not permit instruments in their meetinghouse but a cappella four part singing instead. They do allow instruments in the homes. So singing is something I appreciate greatly. The old hymns and some spirituals as well.

At funerals, there is a few selections of the family, sometimes a group or quartet will sing, other times there are congregational pieces. Usually all within order and time frame. I have found and discovered some of the most unusual hymns within the past six years or so. Funeral hymns, chants, polyphonic type, and just odd pieces. Some are found within the 1835 hymnal published by a Mennonite named Joseph Funk from Singers Glen, VA.

Not only that, but I compose my own tunes. I have tried my hand at poetry and set the words to tunes. I have also done a bit of compiling and arranging. I did two "dirges," one was Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," and Alfred Tennyson's "In Memoriam." I play the piano in our home and sing the pieces at leisure or as "lead" to do so. . . If lead to sing when the Spirit is laying it on thy heart, then I see no harm in singing. (Of course, I do not know all about the different Meetings views on such issues, nor yet different Yearly Meetings views either, so this is inconclusive and merely thoughts.)

Hi Howard,

Thank you very much for your response, and my thanks to everyone who has responded. It's great to hear that I'm not totally out in left field on this.

I didn't mean to imply that the meeting I attend treats attenders differently than members, or that anyone had ever done anything to make me feel uncomfortable...nothing could be further from the truth! It just seemed to me that, as a non-member, it would be a bit more 'cheeky' to depart from the common practice in a way that might possibly disrupt somebody's (or somebodies') experience of the meeting for worship.

Regards,

Aaron

Howard Brod said:

I have experienced a message of song from other worshippers many times in my meeting, a liberal Quaker meeting in Midlothian, Virginia. The song is delivered as any other message. The Friend simply is moved by the Spirit to share the song out loud. It has always been a beautiful experience whether the message bearer has a nice singing voice or not. This type of ministry has happened more times than I can count over the 25 years I've been attending that meeting.

My particular meeting does not have songbooks in the worship room, so that there is no "programming" of the worship to a written song. So, when a song is offered it is from the memory of the singer, and usually others don't join in; although on occasion that has happened if other worshippers are moved to do so.

In my meeting, there is no distinction made between members and attenders - so I am uncertain why you being an attender makes any difference. We've even had attenders as our clerk of meeting.

There is a close-by meeting in Richmond (about 30 minutes drive) that does have song books in the pews. I believe they also have a piano in the worship room. They are a liberal Quaker meeting, too. There, a Friend might be led to invite others to turn to a song and everyone sing, as a designated Friend plays the song on the piano. At least that happened some 20 years ago - not sure if that is still their practice.

I think my meeting would likely think that arrangement too much programming. We have refused kind offers of donations of pianos/small organs before due to a woory of that influencing worship to be more programmed.
Thanks for the explantation, Aaron. I'm so glad to hear that no one is making you feel not part of that spiritual community.

I have from time to time felt an urge from the Spirit to provide a message in song during worship. Why, I don't know - because I have a horrible singing voice. I have always suppressed that urge because I didn't want to break anyone's eardrum!

I can definitely relate, but maybe hearing a message in your horrible singing voice will give somebody else (like me) the confidence to share a message in their horrible singing voice.  :)

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