From John Woolman (1741)

I went to meetings in an awful frame of mind, and endeavored to be inwardly acquainted with the language of the true Shepherd. And one day, being under a strong exercise of spirit, I stood up, and said some words in a meeting, but not keeping close to the divine opening, I said more than was required of me and being soon sensible to my error, I was afflicted in mind some weeks, without any light or comfort, even to that degree that I could take satisfaction in nothing. I remembered God and was troubled, and in the depth of my distress he had pity upon me, and sent the Comforter. I then felt forgiveness for my offence, and my mind became calm and quiet, being truly thankful to my gracious Redeemer for his mercies. And after this, feeling the spring of divine love opened, and a concern to speak, I said a few words in a meeting in which I found peace. This I believe was about six weeks from the first time, and as I was thus humbled and disciplined under the cross, my understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the language of the pure spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart, and taught me to wait in silence sometimes many weeks together, until I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet, through which the Lord speaks to his flock. John Woolman (1741)

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Comment by Marcia P Roberts on 7th mo. 25, 2020 at 4:25pm

This discussion thread has provoked more consideration of what leads members to vocal ministry.

The phrases "daffodil" ministry, and "listening to NPR on the way to Meeting," seriously reflect where some members find inspiration. Is this to be criticized? Does this judgement not imply "reflecting on persons?" something that definitely gets in the way of Spirit, according to both Fox and Woolman.

Comment by William F Rushby on 7th mo. 25, 2020 at 11:28pm

Much depends on what a meeting for worship is for!  If "inspiration" is what it is all about, even a meaningful account of one's visit to Europe would qualify!  Traditionally, Friends have attended meeting for worship to draw closer to God and to hear from Him.  This understanding of the purpose of worship has over time eroded in many liberal meetings, often supplanted by philosophical musings and/or political discourses.

As for the value of spoken ministry, traditionally Friends relied on elders to encourage ministry which drew congregants closer to God, and to discourage ministry which scattered rather than gathering attenders spiritually.

The basic issue is what worship is for.

Comment by William F Rushby on 7th mo. 25, 2020 at 11:48pm

Lest I be misunderstood, please be assured that I love roses daffodils, and roses!  And occasionally, I even listen to NPR!

Comment by Keith Saylor on 7th mo. 26, 2020 at 12:58am

Hello Marcia,

Your question is significant. Early in the history of the Quaker gathering, it happened that many did not agree with the outward forms Fox and others were promoting to guide and  inform relations in the gathering. A key disagreement centered around those in the gathering who were drawn out of all formalities to guide human relations and those who were drawn out of "ungodly" forms (like those of the protestants and catholics of the time). The latter, while denigrating those forms they reflected on as ungodly, readily promoted those reflected forms which were godly or established in the power and presence of God. The pivotal point of contention was over whether reflective thought (in the presence of God) had a role in guiding and informing human relations and interactions. There were those in the gathering who testified to the witness of being drawn out of the process of reflection to guide human relations. Fox and others were deeply troubled by those people in the gathering. He wrote that they make no distinction between godly and ungodly. That is, they were drawn out of the process of reflective thought by the immanent presence of the spirit of Christ in their conscience and drawn into the direct experience of the living motion of the Spirit. That motion is the living through the increase and decrease of the Christ’s presence relative to human particular interactions. I suspect Woolman matches Fox's trust in the process of reflection as long as it is in line with what Woolman calls "Divine Wisdom." This study is just beginning, so it is going to be interesting to see how things "thrash out" as time progresses and more and more of Woolman's words are considered in context with one other.

Oh, it is ever curious to me how Fox speaks against reflecting on others, but we can find untold numbers of instances in his writings where he does not follow his own recommendation. There is strong evidence that Fox would answer something along the lines of, because his reflections on others is in the power of God, they are valid and righteous.

Comment by Marcia P Roberts on 7th mo. 26, 2020 at 5:46pm

The question posed by William Rushby on, "what a meeting for worship is for?" And his answer, "if inspiration is what it is..." can be answered with the dictionary's definition ( for Inspiration under theology as "a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul." In fact, worship, if it is to bring members closer to God, or the Christ in spirit, is in fact Meant to be  a listening for "inspiration." Friends can quibble over the source, by judging the "Giver", but is that what we are intended to do in Meeting for Worship?  The traditional Quaker practice for listening means to be open to what comes.  If study throughout the week and prayer and worship prior to meeting come as "inspiration" for a Friend's message in worship, does that make that Friend more worthy in "God's sight."?

Comment by Keith Saylor on 7th mo. 27, 2020 at 9:02am

If I understand you correctly, I do not attend outward meeting or church service or worship before Meeting in search of inspiration or to worship. Both these are of the nature of a conscience and consciousness in immanent and self-evident being itself in itself. Inspiration and worship is living in the Life itself in all things and circumstances in daily life. It is in sharing and living in the immediate inshining presence of Christ that I am sometimes moved to gather together with others. Gathering with people who sharing the living presence of God in their hearts sufficient. A spoken message during meeting is irrelevant. Being worthy is the living experience of the presence of the spirit of Christ inshining upon the conscience and consciousness which is personal.


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