Most liberal Quaker meetings in the 21st century find the recording of ministers or spiritual gifts distasteful - for good historical reasons. Starting in the early-20th century the formerly-labeled Hicksite meetings (today labeled “liberal” meetings) started embracing spiritual egalitarianism because of the value placed on mysticism - due to the influence of Rufus Jones (and others). Mysticism began to be viewed as the engine of liberal Quakerism. And today the degree of egalitarianism practiced by liberal Quakers varies from meeting to meeting. Nonetheless, this egalitarianism of liberal Friends makes them sensitive to not present the impression that some Friends are elevated as more spiritually gifted than others. This is because spiritual gifts come in all shapes and sizes that humans would often miss, as they sat in judgment of spiritual gifts upon recording them. A “club” of recorded ministers or spiritually gifted might hinder others from growing their own gifts as the Spirit guides them on their spiritual journey. Even if the intention is not to create a “club”, it would likely be perceived that way. Egalitarian spiritual groups mature to their full potential when such labeling is not practiced. And liberal Quakers seem to have grasped that.

An egalitarian spiritual community would be working against its own nature to start officially listing some members as spiritually gifted. A truly egalitarian spiritual community would understand that gifts of the Spirit might come from any one, at any time, in any situation. Just as there is ‘that of God’ in everyone, there are spiritual gifts in everyone as well – waiting to be manifested whenever the Spirit calls them out – at just the right moment. A liberal Quaker meeting that understands this chooses to simply encourage its Friends to be diligent as individuals and as a community to always listen for spiritual wisdom from anyone among them, including themselves. Designating certain Friends as possessing spiritual gifts could cause Friends to miss the spiritual gifts that abound within and among ALL of us - just when they need to be heard and experienced.

In summary, having the need to formally “record” certain individuals to publicly recognize them is an ego-mechanism that an egalitarian spiritual community would not want to embrace. Likewise, in an attempt to further enhance egalitarianism many liberal Quaker meetings no longer put any weight to formally recording (recognizing) members; and while they may still provide the recording of a Friend’s membership upon request, such recorded members are not viewed differently from non-recorded members. True membership, just like genuine spiritual gifts, is demonstrated humbly in an egalitarian liberal Quaker meeting, as Friends serve each other and the spiritual community that they are part of. There’s no need to announce to Friends in the meeting who among them have a spiritual gift, nor who is committed to the meeting community. All Friends are already well aware as they witness the care and concern offered by Friends to each other - just when it has been needed.

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I think Britain Yearly Meeting stopped recording Ministers c. 1924 as it was felt to inhibit the Free Ministry; there are a number of redundant Minister's Benches here in the UK (often used for storage). A lot of f/Friends complain they can't hear vocal ministry yet we make no use of the galleries and sounding-boards!  

As far as I can recall, the spoken ministry among liberal Friends in the U.S. went into sharp decline when their meetings stopped recording ministers.  During this interim period recognized ministers traveled rather frantically to supply spoken ministry, particularly at funerals.  This dearth of spoken ministry wasn't reversed until academics (professional talkers) became a large segment of liberal meeting members.

If vocal ministry is important, it helps very much to give ministerial gifts some recognition and encouragement.  This doesn't necessarily mean recognizing ministers as a distinct category but it does call for cultivating gifts of vocal ministry, which are unevenly distributed in a meeting.

Hiring "meeting secretaries" was another way of filling the need for spoken ministry when it did not occur spontaneously.  George Selleck, Meeting Secretary at Cambridge Meeting in Massachusetts, was reported to speak at every meeting for worship, arising at the same time at each meeting.

Thomas Swain (I think he was a former PYM Clerk) traveled in the Ministry in the UK almost a decade ago to help f/Friends here discern and liberate their spiritual gifts; he didn't go down to well in my Area (Monthly) Meeting. It was certainly novel, as we don't get too many visitors in the Ministry here!  

https://thefriend.org/article/thomas-swain

I like the "sounding board."  I don't recall ever seeing one before.

Matthew Callow said:

I think Britain Yearly Meeting stopped recording Ministers c. 1924 as it was felt to inhibit the Free Ministry; there are a number of redundant Minister's Benches here in the UK (often used for storage). A lot of f/Friends complain they can't hear vocal ministry yet we make no use of the galleries and sounding-boards!  

This Meeting House, in Wallingford-on-Thames UK, missed out on / was spared the 19th c. "upgrade" as the number of f/Friends in the UK got very low then (I think 12-13,000), and there were no Meetings for Worship for 40-50yrs here so it was "moth-balled". That was a consequence of the numerous disownments, a trend reversed during the Evangelical Period, and numbers increased further during the Liberal Period. What's your Meeting House like? I bet you're all seated in a circle with no central table?  

The Midlothian Friends Meetinghouse I worship at is on four acres in a 150 acre Wildlife Preserve neighborhood just outside of the village. There is a large front porch.  The worship room has a cathedral ceiling, fireplace and chairs arranged in a square.  There is no central table as is done in the UK. And the liberal Quaker custom here is to leave the worship room completely empty with nothing that might influence worship, such as any sacred writings, pictures, or even curtains.

That sounds good and very conducive for the inward communion. Meeting Houses in UK scatter Bibles, Advises & Queries and Quaker Faith & Practices around, and this can be a massive distraction for those who struggle to center-down. When new-comers see people reading it can also get them into bad habits, and in smaller Meeting Houses the library is part of the Meeting-room, and I have seen people browsing at books during Worship. The new Meeting I'm at (Reading, Berkshire) is much more disciplined and the Elders are more nurturing of Worship. Another British innovation, from the 1930's, is flowers on the table, and this can often inspire "daffodil" ministry. Two different expressions of Liberal Quakerism either side of the Atlantic; sound like your are better at plaining than we are.

Let it be noted that older terminology concerning Friends ministers used other descriptors as well as "recorded minister."  These included "recognized minister" and "acknowledged minister."

I found this entry in Wikipedia for "recorded minister";   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recorded_Minister

Matthew Callow: " 'daffodil' ministry" in the U.K.  Among liberal Friends in the U.S., I have heard (but don't know for sure because I am not a liberal Friend and rarely attend a liberal meeting) "as I was listening to NPR this morning on the way to meeting" is more common.  NPR=National Public Radio



Matthew Callow said:

Thomas Swain (I think he was a former PYM Clerk) traveled in the Ministry in the UK almost a decade ago to help f/Friends here discern and liberate their spiritual gifts; he didn't go down to well in my Area (Monthly) Meeting. It was certainly novel, as we don't get too many visitors in the Ministry here!  

https://thefriend.org/article/thomas-swain

"Religious Visits" were a feature of the recognized ministry, and I think they are very rare nowadays among liberal Friends --though there have been attempts to revive the practice in greatly modified form.  They usually entailed visits to other meetings for worship, and even families, with a minute of approval from the home meeting.  Usually, the minister was accompanied by a companion (often an elder).



William F Rushby said:



Matthew Callow said:

Thomas Swain (I think he was a former PYM Clerk) traveled in the Ministry in the UK almost a decade ago to help f/Friends here discern and liberate their spiritual gifts; he didn't go down to well in my Area (Monthly) Meeting. It was certainly novel, as we don't get too many visitors in the Ministry here!  

https://thefriend.org/article/thomas-swain

"Religious Visits" were a feature of the recognized ministry, and I think they are very rare nowadays among liberal Friends --though there have been attempts to revive the practice in greatly modified form.  They usually entailed visits to other meetings for worship, and even families, with a minute of approval from the home meeting.  Usually, the minister was accompanied by a companion (often an elder).

A Postscript: Much to my amazement, I read (and hope I understood correctly) that an Amish fellowship in Maine recently had a visit from a minister of their affiliation; I am sure that he would have been the main preacher.  They had not had a visiting minister for three years!   This particular Amish affiliation is strong and growing.  Even back in the "golden years" out-of-the-way Quaker comgregations sometimes were rarely visited by traveling ministers. 

By the way, the Old German Baptist Brethren, with whom I have close connections, have a traveling ministry and do much better than this.  In fact, I was once invited to travel with visiting church officials to visit a moribund OGB church in a midwestern state; the congregation had no resident minister, but received regular ministerial visits for many years.  This shows that it can be done!  Children of members and members of related Brethren denominations flocked in and made a decent-sized crowd even though the church had only about three or so members!

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