Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
Yesterday (26-9-2010), at our Quarterly Gathering at Ely, we used a piece from George Fox as a way of sharing and nurturing our faith as Christian Friends.
This piece is a sermon preached by Fox to Ministering Friends at a very early Yearly Meeting held at John Crook’s in Bedfordshire in 1658.
As Fox reminds us, we need to live in the Pure Life of God, so that we can minister from that Life and to that Life in others.
“So Friends must be kept in the Life which is pure, that with that they may answer the pure Life of God in others. If Friends do not live in the pure Life which they speak of, to answer the Life in those they speak to, the other part steps in ; and so there comes up an outward acquaintance, and such let that come over them.”
This is an essential preparation for ministry, to remain under our Teacher, Christ Jesus, living in the Pure Life or God. If we don’t then it is another spirit that lies behind our ministry, perhaps one that feeds our egos, and the ministry is not Christ’s.
Where does ministry fit into worship?
The function of vocal ministry is to bring those gathered in worship closer to Jesus Christ, our True Teacher, present in the midst. Once we are gathered under his teaching, there is no further need for words. Christ is speaking within us/among us, further words may merely serve to draw us away from him. Again George Fox puts this simply and cogently in his piece called ‘Something Further Concerning Silent Meetings’.
“Concerning Silent Meetings;
The intent of all speaking is to bring into the Life, and to walk in, and to possess the same, and to live in and enjoy it, and to feel God's Presence, and that is in the silence, (not the wandering whirling tempestuous part of man or woman) for there is the flock lying down at noon-day, and the feeding of the bread of life, and drinking of the springs of life, when they do not speak words;
For words declared are to bring people to it, and confessing God's goodness and love, as they are moved by the Eternal God and his Spirit, and so all the ravenous spirits that are from the Witness of God in themselves, cannot be still, cannot be silent, it is a burthen to them;
So cannot keep at home in their own houses, but are the hunters before the Lord like Nimrod, the first builder of Bable; but God confounded them, for they went out of the stillness and quietness, as did the Jews that went from the law of God, then they gadded abroad, and changed their ways, and so did not see their salvation; as do the apostate christians, who inwardly rove from the Spirit of God; so are gone from the silence, and stillness, and from waiting upon God to have their strength renewed, and so are dropped into sects, among one another, and so have the words of Christ and the apostles, but inwardly are ravened from the still Life, in which the fellowship is attained to in the Spirit of God, in the Power of God, which is the gospel; in which is the fellowship, when there are no words spoken.
(Fox, George. The Works of George Fox, Vol. IV. Philadelphia: Marcus T.C. Gould; New York: Isaac T. Hopper, 1831, p. 174)
We can speak too little or we could end up talking too much, if we’re not careful.
If we are not faithful in speaking, we vex and quench Christ’s Spirit in us, and his voice may not be heard in the meeting. If we give in to the temptation to fill the silence with our own words, we likewise vex and quench the Spirit, as Fox puts, we wander away from voice of Christ.
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I have just seen your comment on ministry and I am very sympathetic. Ministry is the very essence of Quaker life, yet the word is abused over and over again. All ministry should be prophetic, coming from God after the speaker has had time to reflect upon what is being passed through him or her. It should never be the expression of personal opinion; and personal experience should only be related as a rhetorical measure.
Good ministry arises from a good gathered meeting, and silence can be a form of ministry if it is arrived at in the right spirit of people coming together to wait upon the Lord.
The Epistle of James makes good reading for anyone who is tempted to offer superfluous statements during Meeting for Worship.
Thy Christian Friend,