One of the things I liked about my old Quaker job is that I occasionally had a moment in between all of the staff meetings (and meetings about staff meetings, and meetings about meetings about staff meetings, I kid you not) to take interesting calls and emails from Friends wanting to talk about the state of Friends in their area: how to start a worship group if no Friends existed, how to revitalize a local Meeting, how to work through some growing pains or cultural conflicts. I’ve thought about replicating that on the blog, and halfway through responding to one of tonight’s emails I realized I was practically writing a blog post. So here it is. Please feel free to add your own responses to this Friend in the comments.
I have read that Meetings that are
silent for long periods of time often wither away. But I can’t remember where I
read that, or if the observation has facts to back it up. Do you know of any
source where I can look this up?
can’t think of any specific source for that observation. It is
sometimes used as an argument against waiting worship, a prelude to the
introduction of some sort of programming. While it’s true that too much
silence can be a warning sign, I suspect that Meetings that talk too
much are probably also just as likely to wither away (at least to
Inward Christ that often seems to speak in whispers). I think the
determining factor is less decibel level but attention to the workings
of the Holy Spirit.
One of the main roles of ministry is to teach. Another is to remind
us to keep turning to God. Another is to remind us that we live by
higher standards than the default required by the secular world in
which we live. If the Friends community is fulfilling these functions
through some other channel than ministry in meeting for worship then
the Meeting’s probably healthy even if it is quiet.
Unfortunately there are plenty of Meetings are too silent on all
fronts. This means that the young and the newcomers will have a hard
time getting brought into the spiritual life of Friends. Once upon a
time the Meeting annually reviewed the state of its ministry as part of
its queries to Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, which gave neighboring
Friends opportunities to provide assistance, advise or even ministers.
The practice of written answers to queries have been dropped by most
Friends but the possibility of appealing to other Quaker bodies is
still a definite possibility.
Your Friend, Martin