These days I often find myself excited by something I’m reading – currently it’s Amos Smith’s Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots – and yet unable to bring myself to blog about it here. Recently a commenter on one of the Quaker Facebook groups referred to this blog as “a ministry”. If that is the case, then my inability to casually share things I’ve been reading, chat about the weather, and so on, makes a kind of sense.
Ministry is an interesting concept in the life of Friends. Vocal ministry in meeting is understood to be the preserve of the Spirit, where, if all goes well:
All true ministry springs from the reality of experience, and uses our gifts of heart and mind in its expression. But ministry is not the place for intellectual exercise. It comes through us, not from us. Although we interpret the Spirit it is that Spirit which will lead us to minister. The Spirit will decide which experiences are relevant and which will speak to the condition of the meeting. If you have to decide whether it is right to speak, consider that it isn’t. If your words are important the meeting will find them anyway.
But Jon Watts, interestingly, has a long post in which he discusses ministry in its wider context:
Our goal is to allow God to lead our congregation, and to decide our business. We can each be a channel for the voice of the Spirit, if we listen and humble ourselves.
Thus our congregation is traditionally not led by a single minister on 1st day mornings, but instead we wait until God selects the minister. Who will stand up this Sunday and be filled with the Spirit’s message? We don’t pretend to know…
Once upon a time Quakers used the term “Recorded Minister” to denote a “male or female Quaker who was acknowledged to have a gift of spoken ministry.” But who, in the age of the internet, might acknowledge, or record, the call to blog?
What I seem to be finding is that the impulse, for want of a better word, to write things down here is not unlike the impulse to record them in a spiritual journal – which I suppose makes sense in the context of the derivation of the word blog from weblog – and yet there is the aspect of communication, exactly as in spoken ministry, where:
Worship is the response of the human spirit to the presence of the divine and eternal, to the God who first seeks us. The sense of wonder and awe of the finite before the infinite leads naturally to thanksgiving and adoration.
Silent worship and the spoken word are both parts of Quaker ministry. The ministry of silence demands the faithful activity of every member in the meeting. As, together, we enter the depths of a living silence, the stillness of God, we find one another in ‘the things that are eternal’, upholding and strengthening one another.
You, reader, and I are not in meeting together. Our hearts don’t share the same silence, the Spirit is not leading us both in the same space, and yet the act of reading links us. We are, I suppose, Friends, despite the few or many miles that may separate us on the surface of the globe. Perhaps my own silence, here by the window looking out over the garden, and the trees screening the reservoir beyond just as evening darkens towards a summer night, may touch your own in a way we don’t understand, but which may have to do with your own openness quite as much as my stillness, watching shreds of cloud above the restless branches…
Maybe we do share a blessing, some act of grace that links us both in this other space. Maybe such things do hallow the electronic expanse we share, heal and repurpose that network, so that the Spirit links us with tongues not of fire but of electrons and distance, and the breath of a midsummer’s day slowly ending…