Over the past few years I have embraced a new approach to prayer. One that really isn’t new at all but is used in many monestaries and religious orders, prayer that uses and interacts with scripture. I find this style of prayer helps focus my attention on God as well as letting Him speak to me. As a Friend (Quaker) the speaking of God to us is very important but often times we are distracted by our own voices and ideas. Not that that is all bad though I fully believe that God gave us a brain for a reason…to think. Why else does He ask His followers, “let us reason together.” But where do we start? How do we reason with God? Am I the only one that wonders about this? Ok don’t answer the last question.
The most recognizable tradition in the Friends tradion of worship is silence. During this silence Friends wait in Holy Expectancy, expecting and often haring God’s voice. Often they are lead to speak or act accordingly. The main problem with silence is our minds aren’t really disiplined, what we add to it is what usually comes out. It doesn’t take much imagination to see problems with our mind. So to be silence it takes work and devotion. To discern God’s voice we have to fill our mind with God and then interact with Him. This is where praying with scripture and meditation on scripture is important. I feel that this is even of greater importance in a faith tradition that spends so much of its time in silence.
In the earliest days of Friends they did not bring anything to their meetings for worship. There was not a sermon written nicely on sheets of paper, hymnals, or even a pew bible. This means what your mind dwelt on was already in your head. To be prepaired for a meeting for worship one would have to have a deep devotional and prayer life to begin with. These principles are relayed often when reading the various journals written by many of the early friend like Geoge Fox and John Woolman. (Those are my favorites please suggest more) I am often struck by how often John Woolman speaks of his reading of scripture and other religious publications. These readings and times of prayer allowed them to enter into a silent meeting of worship already prepaired to enter into a deeper dialog with God. Their life of prayer I find very similar to th lives of many of the Saints throughout history and similar to various religious orders and societies like that of the society of Jesus (Jesuit) who have very clear spiritual exercises.
Well I have am encouraging you all to consider and to take a walk or journey into a life of prayer with me. I’m encouraging you to read scripture, to imagine what the scenes we encounter might look, feel, and smell like. And imagine the conversations would be if you were there personally sitting on the hillside with Jesus or seeing a crippled man rising not only to walk but jump and dance. I will be writing a few comments about my own journey and posting them here. (I may not do it every day so if I miss a few give me a nudge). And I hope you will join too. I don’t have clear map yet but I do have a starting point. I’m going to start with the Gospel of John, so grab a bible and set aside around 15 to 30 minutes and let’s start.
Please excuse a very stupid question – but didn’t Fox and the early Quakers teach that being paid to be a minister was a bad thing? How do you resolve that?
Yes they did teach that being a “hireling” was bad. To fully understand their position we need to understand how the church of England was working at that time. there were preachers that would choose parishes on the basis of pay and property. Now Fox was not an unpaid minister. He did receive support from the Friends to go on his journeys as were many of the early ministers within the Society of Friends. Yet they did not accept more than was necissary or needed. How do I justify receiving a salary? I was called by God nd the meeting to serve where I am at. I am paided for the services that I provide only because the Meeting feels it is better to have a paid pastor to consult in areas they don’t feel gifted. Could they do it without a paid pastor, of course, although many do not have flexible work schedules so it makes it very difficult to serve regularly or at a moment’s notice. But as the early Friends I only accept what is necissary. I also work outside the Meeting to provide for the needs of my family. For the pastoral friends we don’t see a conflict with Fox and others we only see that time it was necissary.
Sorry I was typing too fast on my phone again. The last statement was supposed to say “that at that time it was needed.”
Thanks for replying, I’m sorry to sound in any way accusatory – my experience has always been in churches with paid ministers, but I am reading Fox and wondering whether this is in any way ideal or what God intends.
I hear what you’re saying above, but how do you resolve his use of biblical verses to justify a position that ministers should not be paid? It sounds like you’re saying that you need payment to do the job.. but isn’t that exactly the point that Fox was making? And further, if contemporary society has little space for commitment to Christ (in the form of voluntary work), isn’t that a problem with society rather than with Fox and/or the bible?
I’m also thinking that too often in churches, the presence of paid staff tends to create a them/us divide. They’re the priest/minister/pastor/paid professional Christian and we’re the plebs who sit in the pews and listen. In contrast to the idea that we’re all supposed to be Priests of the Kingdom of God, we all have particular roles to play. There are no professionals.
You raise some very good points. And just so you know I would continue to do what I do even if I weren’t paid. I have actualy served as a youth minister without pay in the meetin I attended prior to this. A paid minister does often cause a division in power…but it doesn’t have to. In most cases I serve as an encourager and lieason between commitees. I will rarely speak up in a meeting for business unless I feel that the meeting isn’t seeking unity. The pastoral Friends meetings are a unique group, its true we don’t quite fit the “traditional” quaker mold…but neither do several of the other groups to be perfectly honest. All Friends meetngs have evolved to express friends ideals within a community. Some communitees the unpastoral meeting works great and when/if they bring in a pastor it may fail. Others may need that more perminate person that consistantly encourages, even if a ministry doesn’t seem to be effective.
Pastoral meetings are still very much quaker because the core values and business discisionmaking remain. The expression may differ. The meeting I minister with is a pastoral meeting and it has been since it started, but we emerged out of an unprogrammed meeting that has since closed. We also have attenders that have come from unprogrammed meetings, as well as convinced Friends. I am an advisor and encourager. The meeting chose to offer payment for what I do. I would have come even without it. I serve because I love the Friends Church. They offer payment because they respect and love what I do. Does it have to be that way no. I grew up in this system and have been like you wondering why we moved from the original, yet wthout the pastor growing up I wouldn’t have had the education and encouragement that I did receive. Not that I never would have received it, but I wouldn’t have gotten it in the way that I did. I encurageyou to continue to read Fox, and also recommend Robert Barclay and John Woolman. There are several other tooc, (but these are the ones that lead me to love this expression of faith). And I am always open to conversation. Just so you know there are severa new unpastoral meetings opening all the time. Many are started or planted from the pastoral meetings. So we do still hold to the teachings of Fox, but we have seen other options also. Friends are very fluid in tradition to hold to tightly to tradition would be just as un”friendly” as hiring a pastor.
Fair enough, what I know about Quakers can be written on a postage stamp, but I’m genuinely curious how the views of Fox have been interpreted down the centuries.
Some are very similar to what Fox invisioned and others are slightly different. The Socety of Friends does not have a large over arching structure so it has evolved in many mays to differet cultures and communities. The Friends in Kenya and Rwanda are different yet similar than the us and uk. But the core is still there. I believe that the core is what made us great and what has kept us around for so long even though we have never been a dominate denomination. But our influence is found where ever you go in fair trade coffee, to the banking system, to te local department store. Even the candy enjoy has a quaker influence. The greatest andprobably least recognized is found in the US constitution, which is drawn largely from the charter prepaired by William Penn. Keep studying and let me know if you find a really good book. I grew up as a quaker yet am daily amazed by my ancestor. (By the way where are you living I may be able to help you find a meeting if you wanted to visit. And I am excted to know a soil scientist. I used to work for one in college and really miss that job, my bs is in crop science so I remember a lot of the soils clases I took. And really getinto Jesus’s parable of the sower and the seed since it talks so much on the soils!)
Thanks. I suspect God is calling me to give up my ambitions to be a soil scientist, which is kinda hard for me. I keep returning to this idea that I could ‘be somebody’ and join the intellectual high-fliers and then go somewhere. Then there is a crash-landing when it doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
I’ve just started looking at Penn’s book ‘No Cross, No Crown’, which looks to contain a lot of good stuff.
I’m in the UK, not far from Dover in the far south-east corner of England. I’m reasonably sure that there are no ‘primitive’ Quaker groups anywhere in the locality.
Most of the quaker meetings are unprogrammed in the uk. I’d almost say all of them (but I’m not really sure) the Britian Yearly Meeting website does have an application on it that you can search for meetings. I trid I and there isn’t a meeting in dover but there are some in the surrounding areas. I’m from middle USA so the distance doesn’t look long to me but I realize that the distance is different there :-). Well the website is quaker.org.uk
I hope you are able to find God in your quest.
Oh for sure they exist – what I meant was that I’ve no interest in Quakerism outside of Jesus Christ (hence the ‘primitive’ label)
I understand and there are many meeting in the uk that are Christocentric you’d have to look though. I’m not sure if there is any other Yearly Meetings in the UK other than the British ym that would be more Christ centered. The fun thing with Friends though especially the unprogrammed side is that you can plant a meting easily. If you are intrested in that I could get you into contact with some christ centered projects in the isles. I know there are 3 meeting in Ireland if they had others closer they may be more likely to form an alternitive YM.
Thanks for this, I don’t really understand the way you are organised, I need to read into that some more. There is a group in Scotland http://www.plainquakers.org/ and one in Riply (both a looooong way from me) http://www.rcquakers.lomaxes.me.uk/ who seem to follow a meeting in Ohio, but I’ve no real idea what those terms mean. Forgive my ignorance.
You actually are more knowledgable than most. I still get asked if we use horses. I would ventue to say if the meeting has connctions with friends united meeting or evangelical friends international you wuld feel comfortable. Both are international Meetings that affirm Christ. The united meeting is a mix of both forms of friends in regards to paid ministers. Efi is mostly pastoral. I’m a member of efi and we affirm Christ as the center of our faith, I have been involved in Fum too and they are more open with “theology” but still very christ centered. I enjoy worship with both. I do not know how many meetings they have in the UK but I do know that there are small groups of EFI meetings since I just talked with a guy 2 weeks ago that has planted metings there (they are mostly atteneded by imagrants to the UK). There is very good ideas among Friens and I would not be anything else and I tried other churches. The greatest thin is the ministry of al members because when you serve you grow greatly in the Spirit. Keep seeking Christ and He will meet you and direct you! And I will pray that a meeting will open near youm
Hello Jared A. Warner, I have read with interest your 2011 exchange with Joe Turner of the UK. There is much more to the question that he raised than whether or not you qualify as a “hireling minister.” I would suggest you consider the following passage from Vol. II, p. 128: “At another place, I heard some of the magistrates said among themselves, If they had money enough, they would hire me to be their minister.’ This was, where they did not well understand us, and our principles: but when I heard of it, I said, ‘It was time for me to be gone ; for if their eye was so much to me, or any of us, they would not come to their own teacher.’ For this thing (hiring ministers,) had spoiled many, by hindering them from improving their own talents ; whereas our labour is, to bring every one to their own teacher in themselves.”
A very simple question put to the members of the meeting will serve quite nicely to settle the matter of whether or not Willow Creek is following in the footsteps of the early Quakers. Put out a questionnaire with just the question, “Why are you here?” on it.
I suggest you read and consider Fox’s To all the Kings, Princes, and Governors in the whole world: and all that profess themselves Christians, and others, to read and consider. This was upon me from the Lord to write unto you. By G. F. It starts on page 313 of Vol. IV of the Works of Fox. Compare what Fox had to say, which is still of vital importance, to the answers you receive.
My final suggestion is that you read the various lectures of Lewis Benson that are available on the New Foundation Fellowship website (we are adding to them as time goes on). To see a listing of these lectures and links to the individual ones visit http://nffquaker.org/page/lewis-benson-writings.
If you have questions or objections to raise, or want to discuss any of these things, I would be happy to enter into conversation with you.
These are the things the Lord has laid upon my heart to write you since reading parts of your blog last evening.
Oops! I said page 313 of Vol. IV, it should be Vol. V for Fox’s To all the Kings, Princes, and Governors…
I will have to check it out. Thank you for providing the reference.
Hello Jared, I could not find a “contact me” link on your blog, so I am using this comment to invite you to look at a new blog I have established. You can see what I have done at https://thiswasthetruelight.wordpress.com. Up till now, I have been only commenting on other folks’ blog posts, but with this new venture, I can provide the material that I am finding “MUST BE PUBLISHED.” My posts come from a life-time of seeking and gaining understanding of the gospel preached by George Fox and the early Friends. That gospel is as relevant to Friends today (Evangelical, Liberal, or what-have-you) and to the whole of humanity as it was when George Fox was preaching in the 1650s. I hope you will take the opportunity to visit my site and consider following the blog. I would even hope you will consider commenting on material I put up.