Back in November, I unexpectedly wrote and sent the following submission to the Friend (a Quaker publication) with the subject "A submission I couldn't not write":
Yesterday was my first ever spoken ministry in Metting for Worship. Due perhaps to my inexperience, the only words I could get out were "When you wait upon the Lord, there he is." Here is the rest.
As a Quaker child I never ministered; never understood why people stood up and spoke while I was told to be quiet.
At age 18 I discovered Buddhism and independently embarked upon an inner journey. When I returned later as a Young Quaker, I was even more skeptical of the Quaker way, and eventually just stopped attending, except once when I was called to do so, whereupon I met a Friend who became a friend with whom I discovered A Course In Miracles.
A Course In Miracles is the greatest work of written ministry I have ever encountered or ever expect to encounter. Through it, Jesus teaches us how to think like him, and by diligent study and practise to eventually reach the same state of mind as him. Part of this process is learning how to hear Spirit as he did.
This week my support worker (who happens to be that Friend/friend I mentioned earlier) was on leave and I was concerned about being alone and without support and food, to which she suggested I go to stay at Woodbrooke for a few days, where I would be served 3 very good meals a day.
While at Woodbrooke I tried again to understand spoken ministry, trying to reconcile universal principles from Buddhism and ACIM, with this specifically Quaker form of practise. I read all that Quaker Faith & Practise had on the subject and it provided some insight, but did not offer me clear instructions for how to Meeting for Worship. I have perhaps been spoiled by ACIM which always gives extremely clear and precise instructions, such that it is plainly apparent when you are not following them.
A Friend In Residence kindly lent me a Pendle Hill Pamphlet that she found helpful in this regard: A Zen Buddhist Encounters Quakerism, which I failed to find time to read until I was actually in Meeting for Worship. I read a few pages and then considered for a while, whereupon I was struck by the realisation that the notion of 'waiting upon the Lord' was entirely wrong, at least for me, now. The Lord (Jesus) has been right in my face (about an inch from my left cheek) this whole time, insisting that I speak, and I've not been paying attention because what I have to say is outside the Quaker norm both in content and in volume. I thought, unconsciously, 'surely these words can't be ministry, they are just my ramblings'. But now I understand that He does not require me at this time to speak his words, but rather my own words as directed by him. And it does not currently have to be perfect.
The moment I accepted this, I could nolonger deny him, and felt this energy building in me in stages, until I found myself standing up, heart thumping and hands shaking, to speak, though I did not know what to say. This did not seem (to him) to matter much. I found some words to say and then asked aloud whether I could sit down now. The Friend in front of me nodded and Jesus permitted. I said thank you and sat down. Yet shortly after, I started to feel that same rising energy. I had more to say. I avoided it by distracting myself - the mental equivalent of putting my hands over my ears and singing "lalalala I can't hear you!"
Fortunately I was helped in my distraction by several other Friends who ministered in quick succession until the end of the meeting.
However, the requirement upon me to minister has continued beyond the meeting. I have but 2 options: to avoid taking part in the Society of Friends, or to minister, persistently, in what seems to me the most disruptive manner.
This is the end of my story, and now comes the message. To all you who have never stood to speak, do so in your next Meeting for Worship; do not fear embarrassment - it is just a feeling and it will pass. You need not say much. You can say "I don't have anything to say so I'm going to sit down again, thank you, Friends." But whatever you do, do not place social propriety between you and the face of Christ. To you who minister routinely: I invite you to look deeper into you mind to the secret sins and hidden hates. Offer them to Him without fear, for He knowns only how to love; and if so directed, share them with the Meeting.
An edited version was published in todays issue of the Friend, under the title "Speaking in Meeting".
The edited version:
- mistakenly cites Helen Schucman as the author/voice of A Course In Miracles;
- capitalises Jesus' pronouns;
- removes my "about an inch from my left cheek" Jesus experience;
- replaces "between you and the face of Christ" with just "between you and Christ".
Not being familiar with the Course, the editor couldn't have known the meaning and significance of these details.
Shortly after submitting my article to the Friend, I had realised something like this might happen and sent a followup email asking for my submission not to be edited without consulting me. But by then it was too late - my submission had already been moved to a file to be worked on.
I fumed about this for a few days, in blog posts and in emails to the Editor, until last night when I realised that:
I gave up control of my submission the moment I sent it; and
the Friend serves its subscribers, not its contributors; people who submit articles do so to support the Friend, rather than to share their work.
I had thought that my journey with the Quakers might be over, that my way is not welcomed by them. But then I 'hear' them calling to me and now they publish my words, so clearly there is a degree of openness in some places.
meta comment 2018-06-24
I like this post. The article I wrote still feels very 'fresh' and relevant, even though my understanding of Quakers has moved on somewhat. The addendum is a bit like a fish out of water though. It was written when I was excited about my thing being published and before I discovered that it had been edited. Also it uses an alarming number of footnotes. Perhaps a rewrite is in order. But the footnotes contain some quite interesting information. Maybe they deserve their own separate articles.
Vol 176 No 25 ↩︎
Helen heard a voice in her mind that she identified as the voice of Jesus. It said "This is A Course In Miracles, please take notes", when she followed this instruction by writing "This is A Course In Miracles", the voice continued to dictate to her. This continued on-and-off for 7 years, and the result was eventually edited (under the instructions of the same voice) and published. If you obtain a copy, you'll find that no author is listed, though often in online bookshops (which presumably have systems which require an author) her name is listed. ↩︎
now deleted ↩︎
and the use of my name ↩︎
This sort of 'requirement' is not authoritarian. There are many lies, but only one Truth. When you choose truth, there are no more choices; there is no this truth or that truth; there is only one. And truth does not demand action or inaction, it just is what it is. But in its light, one sees a single path of action in the world that makes sense, and the thought of doing anything else would not occur. So in that sense, the course of action appears to be presented you from a source other than your conscious mind, and therefore seems to be 'required'. ↩︎
the articles are arriving, not the Quakers, and they are arriving in my mind ↩︎
articles to write are not a problem, they are a gift. They are like a parent calling kindly to their child who is very engrossed in play and consequently does not want to eat even though food is good. In this analogy ministry is the parent and my grumpiness is the child ↩︎