Nurturing Vocal Ministry in Our Meeting

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A report from the Worship & Ministry Committee

Sixteen members and attenders of the Meeting gathered on September 6, 2003, for our second retreat this year on nurturing vocal ministry. We began our morning by exploring our experience of holding and being held in the Light together during our corporate worship. We considered experiences of hearing Spirit-led ministry through which God had spoken to us, and named qualities of such ministry. In small groups we later. discussed our experiences of offering vocal ministry, remembering times when such ministry seemed to come from beyond ourselves and others when perhaps part or all of the message may have originated only in our human personalities,

We then approached the question of supporting others in their discernment concerning vocal ministry. Friends shared some ideas about how to respond to those who have spoken in meeting. Immediately after Spirit-led vocal ministry the speaker may feel quite vulnerable, and it would be best not to say much to them about it at the moment. If we believe that true vocal ministry comes from the Spirit, it is not appropriate to compliment the speaker for it, or to refer to it as the individual's message. If the message really spoke to us, perhaps the most we should say is something along the lines of the old Quaker phrase "Thee was well used". Because of the way a person may feel after speaking, some (perhaps wordless) expressions of comfort may be welcome, and it may be also helpful to inquire how they are feeling. if one wishes to discuss the content perhaps it is best to wait until later.

Given the sensitive nature of the process of seeking to be a voice for the Spirit, the group expressed the idea that it may not be appropriate for individuals to take it upon themselves to offer any critical comment to one another about another's vocal ministry. When Friends are troubled about an individual's vocal ministry, a good practice is to share their concern with a member of the Worship and Ministry committee.
Friends present appreciated the opportunity to reflect and share about our experiences with vocal ministry, and recommended that more opportunities be created, including another such retreat in the future. The retreat generated the following ideas about how to support Friends in their discernment concerning vocal ministry:

For the community:

  • Affirm the meeting's responsibility, in particular Worship and Ministry committee's Promote conversation on the subject of Spirited ministry
  • Offer opportunities to practice (worship and sharing, gatherings with a lower threshold)
  • Encourage sharing among Friends about their spiritual lives Foster religious education opportunities
  • When addressing conflict regarding vocal ministry, look at the broader issues involved
  • Offer alternative venues for Friends to share personal concerns (support groups)
  • Offer spaces to bridge differences
  • Encourage the person who speaks
  • Encourage the Friend who might be feeling the call to vocal ministry but may be reluctant to, speak
  • Support the listener
  • Nourish the person who may feel alienated
  • Nourish the ministry of silence

For the individual, when responding to another's message:

  • Test your own reactions; discern where they come from
  • Look at your own reasons
  • Separate the ministry from the minister
  • Be open
  • Face the message; come to terms with it
  • Seek God's help; wait
  • Use the channels of the community (W&M) to bring up your concerns
  • If you must speak to another about his/her ministry, be extremely careful
  • Speak in love
  • Listen and give thanks