A Silent Witness

Worship at my meeting today was very good but still a little challenging for me. My meeting is small, though today we had three visitors. A challenge that I face is that we have several men who are frequently led to speak during worship. Their leadings are pretty consistently valid, and I do not want to take anything away from any of them.

What weighs on me is that it is somewhat rare for any women to speak during our worship. It does happen, perhaps once a month. As a result, it is common for nearly every male to speak during worship, but no women.

This has happened before. A few months ago I sensed a leading to speak during worship. The leading was not as strong as it is most of the time. While I was in discernment about sharing it, three different men stood to speak. One of the men in my meeting has been appointed to choose an Advice to read during the worship, so counting him, four men spoke at that particular meeting, but none of the women. If I had shared the leading I had sensed, it would have meant that all men present would have spoken but none of the women. I felt that would be a bad example to set, and I chose not to share the leading rather than set up such a dichotomy.

For the most part, this has not been much of a problem. I normally only sense a leading to speak once a month or so. About two months ago, something happened that seemed to pull a plug in me, and I have sensed more leadings to speak than before. Since that time, I have sensed leadings to speak in meeting about three times out of four. It is this increased frequency that has challenged my discernment process.

Today, three men spoke, the one man read an Advice, and there I was weighing a leading to speak. Part of today's challenge was not just that I felt a somewhat strong leading to speak, but that this one seemed to be among the better leadings that I have sensed of late. I felt for a while today that one of the women visitors was weighing a leading to share, and I was hoping that she would do so. That would have allowed me to also speak. She didn't, so I didn't. As the Lord brought things to pass, meeting broke a little early and I did not speak.

I struggle with the rightness of this new policy that I have. I want to be faithful to the Lord, and in fact I am willing to break my new guideline. My reluctance is based on the message that it would send if all the men spoke at a particular meeting but none of the women. God does not limit Himself to using the Y chromosone, and the women who attend my meeting are all gifted people. This struggle with balancing two different types of faithfulness does not appear to be going away soon, so I may post here about it again.


Robin M. said...

I wondered if the practice of men sitting separately from the women (on opposite sides of the same circle) was intentional or just a one time occurence.

I had no leading to speak and I think it would have to be very clear for me to speak as a first time visitor. But the worship felt deep and restful to me in the midst of a very stressful week.

I wonder though if you have spoken to your meeting about your concern. If God has made it plain to you, it seems possible you are not the only one noticing.

Christine Greenland said...

I've been struggling with a similar matter within my own meeting, in which both men and women may speak, as well as some of the children. I tend to wait for a very strong leading to speak in worship -- if I do not, I'm prone to "sparks of my own kindling" rather than being an open channel for what God needs others to hear. The other danger for me is that I speak too quickly after another has spoken.

Consider sharing the practice of discernment with the other men in your meeting. I feel with my own meeting that we might consider a longer meeting so that there is the opportunity for spaciousness needed for proper discernment. Most messages tend to pile up at the end of meeting.

Ashley W said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have had the experience several times recently of feeling led to speak, but hesitating and, in that moment of hesitation, someone else speaks. A teacher challenged me on this, saying that I might be waiting too long to speak. That surprised me, because everything I had learned about vocal ministry focused on waiting, and it had not occurred to me that waiting too long was similar to speaking too soon.

My meeting is small, too, and Friends do not always stand to give messages. I find it helpful to stand anyway, especially when I feel led to speak but do not have all the words. I stand and pray that I will be faithful in giving the message, and my hope is that my community will hold me in prayer as I deliver the message.

I think what is happening in your meeting may have to do with how we are socialized by gender. As I have grown in ministry, I have had to learn to take up more space and to speak up. I know not all women have these challenges, but I think that they are common struggles for women in ministry.

RantWoman said...

THANK YOU for your concern as to the question of women speaking.

Have you considered speaking to the women in your Meeting? It might occur to me to express interest in their voices, to ask whether they ever feel leadings to speak.

I have a mental list of Friends frequently called to vocal ministry, who I sometimes wish would wait and see whether their message gets delivered from others' lips.

In several cases, I am aware that mine is not the predominating view. In general, I think Meeting for Worship is an act of faith regardless.

paula said...

Now I better understand your kind remarks to me at OYM, about not being too reticent. Such notice on your part is very good listening and much appreciated.