I ask the question above, because for some reason many Friends say they don’t feel safe if I use “God” language in their presence. No matter how gentle I am in explaining that I am merely using language that best describes my understanding of the Divine Mystery, others wish to silence me because they are uncomfortable.
But isn’t this the same as claiming that gay marriage threatens marriage between a man and a woman? Isn’t that what these “defense of marriage” bills are claiming? What does one have to do with the other?

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Offhand, I'd say the 'dust from sandals' situation is apropos if you've received a prophetic message to deliver someplace, and you've walked a long way through a hot dry climate to get there; and you've got the dust on your sandals to say, 'You tried.' So you leave that there as a form of "I told you so." It might make someone think...

If you've been sitting in Meeting, taking an opportunity to tune in to God in relative peace-- and you get a message to deliver there-- Sometimes you just take a little emotional flack. You don't get back an echo of having been understood. & if you can't get that from people who are supposed to be Friends, then where? It's good to have that echo, just as confirmation that yes, you're still tuned to the Human Sanity Channel... but then again, that's not exactly why we go to Meeting.

Not an easy position, but it sounds like the right way to live in it.

From my experience,  it is helpful, outside of meeting for worship, for the meeting community to clarify that the meeting vessel holds a rich diversity of -spiritual experiences, -cultural differences, and spiritual language. I think this would be the case in most meetings. When I first began attending meeting about 30 years ago, I was told by someone with a twinkle in her eye, "in worship, we Friends become good at listening to vocal ministry and reinterpreting within with other language if needed." If there is an absence of acceptance that a variety of spiritual language will likely be heard in worship, - seems to me that a crucial task of the Worship and Ministry Committee is to recognize this challenge and lead the way in supporting the meeting to coming to common ground around the deeply held value of Friends speaking messages from the heart with the language that comes to them from divine nudgings. This might mean having second hour worship-sharings to listen to short readings by Friends, such as G. Fox, Thomas Kelly, Bill Tabor, and others. Can we listen to where the words come from? It can take time for a meeting to do the work of becoming a beloved community. Friends traditionally do not wish to stifle the Spirit that comes through us. We do want to lovingly take the time to listen and support those with wounds.  This is how the meeting and Friends grow in Love. Otherwise, for what purpose is the meeting there?

Hi again Paula,

That's wonderful that you are following your leading and being loyal to that.

I find that I am wondering what kind of messages you feel led to share (maybe sometimes it includes trying to share the Gospel or aspects of?)


am wondering if you have felt able and led to speak to exactly what you are experiencing, with vulnerability?

I do not know if this is helpful or not, but I was in a situation where I was soooo used to feeling knee-jerk reactions around me when God is named, but when I one day felt led to speak from a very nervous and vulnerable heart about how I am just in love with God and feeling pain about this dynamic, it seemed to speak to several in the group in ways that I didn't expect. 

Since the key words of Christianity feel very different to different people (through the filters of their own experience), I wonder if simple vulnerable messages from your heart which are less about sharing Christian language and concepts but more about sharing your own pain, might speak in ways that others can hear better?

Again, I don't know if this applies at all, of course.  Would be interested to hear.

in peace

I feel led to vocal ministry almost every Meeting, and I'm uncomfortable with that!  I actually go into Meeting with the attitude of , "This week, I'm NOT speaking," but then in the silence . . . something comes to me that is a new insight I have not had before, and as hard as I fight it, I generally lose that battle and am impelled into speaking.  And without fail at least one person will later thank me for my ministry.  It's very weird.  

We've been reading and discussing an article on Vocal Ministry in our First Hour group.  It's an article that the Outreach Committee (on which I serve) has decided to include in our Newcomers' Packet. 

What's interesting is that in our Meeting there's one person who is so "unpredictable" and even at times I would say inappropriate, or engages in projection as a form of defense in the things he has said in Meeting, if he stands to speak, looking around the room, I can see faces seem to "glaze over."  I'm not the only person to notice this.  It's as if to maintain tolerance, the others in the Meeting tune in to a different channel when this person speaks. 

If a Meeting has a person who perhaps has Ausberger's Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury/Organic Brain Syndrome, a form of dementia, etc., I think the healthiest approach is to tune in on the tolerance channel as far as is humanly possible.  I did not know the person but have heard tales of a weighty Quaker who was in our Meeting, and with advanced age, did suffer from dementia, and if she stood to speak, she could go on and on and . . . yeah.  That's a difficult situation, because you don't want to hurt that person's feelings, but if their "communication" impairs the functioning of the Meeting, Ministry & Worship MUST find a constructive way to approach the problem. 

I think most Quakers are tolerant of "semantics."  I've even heard people during Vocal Ministry say, "I don't have a better word for this, so I use _____."   That's OK!   That's constructive. 

There does appear to be some controversy over whether Vocal Ministry should include "I" focused messages, unless the message can apply to at least one other person in the Meeting.  Vocal Ministry is not meant to be "True Confessions."  The purpose of Vocal Ministry is to minister to the Meeting! 

And it doesn't seem to be productive if the Vocal Ministry in a Meeting for Worship becomes a prairie dog colony.  We need time between messages to "process."  Also, eldering a person in public via Vocal Ministry is rude and unkind, at least that's my opinion. 

peace & blessings,


Betsy Packard

Lexington, KY

I love God!

Amen, Ken! Hope you are well.

Kenneth Lawrence Schroeder said:

I love God!

Friends, I have taken great joy in this conversation. I have also taken joy in the conversations our meeting is having on our Facebook page. We are really examining "God talk," and talking about our journeys and feelings. I have to believe that this is very important for Friends to do, no matter how painful it might be for us.

I keep coming back to Isaac Penington:

For our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations against another, but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

This is such simple and loving guidance for us. Primitive Christianity Revived. By these means we fulfill the Spirit, whose fruits are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:22)


Yours in Faith and Love, Paula


Though I am not a Christian,  I find it a curious thing  when some Friends stress that Quakerism has always been "universalist," but apparently regard universalism as including any religion in the universe but Christianity. Thus, they object strenuously when someone gets up and speaks of Jesus.

Over and over throughout my life I've had to recognize that there were some people who simply knew more than I did about some things.

This has never been pleasant; but why should anyone find it unacceptable?

To what privilege are you referring, Cotswold Quaker?
OMG Paula! I would advise you to continue to "speak truth to power", that is the negative culture (power) within your meeting that is hung up on terminology. The Spirit (God) will give you the sustenance to continue using language meaningful to you, while you demonstrate your tolerance for the language used by others (as an example of how a loving and affirming spiritual community should act).

I would say that you are the one whose safety is being threatened! Have you thought of requesting a Clearness committee from your meeting's Care and Community committee? I think it would help you, and it will bring into the light of day this negative culture within your meeting.

I read the other day that George Fox was unusual for his time in that he did not make distinctions between God, the Light, the Holy Spirit, and Christ. I like to believe that's because he knew from experience that the ultimate Spirit in the universe simply IS, no matter what people choose to call it. "A rose by any other name is still a rose".

"Liberal" (as in 'liberal' Quakers) means tolerant, accepting, and inclusive. Sounds like to me you are being true to that meaning. I will hold you and your meeting in the Light.

Thank you, Friends. As an update, I am deeply saddened to report that some terrible events led to a breach that set me outside the meetinghouse door.

And yet God is good. During the time our meeting was coming apart, I attended Quaker Spring in Barnesville, Ohio, at the Stillwater/Olney complex. Another local Friend (i.e., lives in Columbus), who is a member of Stillwater Friends Meeting, was also in attendance. She approached me and asked if I would be willing to meet with her in worship. I jumped at the opportunity.

Now we are four. Our worship is deeper than anything I had ever imagined. My joy knows no bounds.

A happy story for me, but, alas, not for the local meeting. Please keep the meeting in your prayers, as I do. Pray for healing. Pray for wholeness. Pray for love and trust among Friends.

As I hold Friends in the place of prayer,  I feel God now pulling them into the prayer with me. We are all one. I know this experimentally.

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