When I prayed about my Pendle Hill lecture in advance–held it in the Light and listened inwardly for God’s guidance–two strong messages came to me. The first was to let the event BE what it was talking about. This meant that I needed to invite my community to support my faithfulness. It meant letting myself be vulnerable and admitting to many people that I was in need of their help.
So, I did. I spoke with my faithfulness group, and they helped draw out more about my growing edges in faithfulness. I enlisted my husband’s help several times as I prepared. He invited me to reflect on my intentions and consider how best to help the group experience what I would be talking about. I invited a member of my meeting’s oversight committee for my ministry to serve as my elder during the talk; she sat near me and held me and the gathering in the Light. Eight days beforehand, I stood up at Swarthmore Meeting during the time for prayer requests, and said I was in the “high anxiety” stage before the lecture. I asked my faith community to hold me in the Light. Afterward, I was deeply moved that numerous people let me know they would do so. Several offered encouragement and reassurance; some spoke of their own experience preparing for a talk. One member of my meeting told me that when the college students she teaches are nervous about giving a talk, she tells them, “Someone may benefit from what you have to say.” Her words spoke to my heart and reminded me that I didn’t need to strive for some ideal of an inspired speaker. I needed, instead, to think about offering something that might be helpful to those listening.
Seeking to be as open as possible to the spiritual support of my community, I also sent numerous emails asking Friends to hold me in the Light. I even posted messages on Facebook asking for prayers. I received many supportive messages in response, from all over the country and even beyond. On the day of the talk, I felt an intensity of spiritual power present that wanted to move through me and reach out to others. I was heartened by the presence of those who attended in person; I know many came out in order to show support.
The second strong piece of instruction I received when I prayed about the lecture beforehand was to let God’s love flow through my heart. Each time I came back to this during moments of listening for divine guidance, I was more aware of the reality of a powerful compassionate divine love for humanity–something so much larger than myself– a sacred reality upholding our human one. I sensed God’s desire to guide and help us in the complex and troubling times in which we live. The climate changes we human beings have set in motion by widespread burning of fossil fuels (and through many other behaviors) threaten the future of all species on this planet, including ours. And yet, in this time of increasing climate-related catastrophes and social break-downs, possibilities exist for a new, more sustainable and Spirit-led way of life to emerge among us. By encouraging one another to listen attentively for our calls and leadings, planted within us by the Spirit, and by helping each other clear away any inner or outer obstacles to faithfulness, we can create loving communities able to make a difference and show new possibilities in our time.
I talked about skills we can use to help each other notice the subtle movements of the Spirit within us and pay closer attention to the divine truth alive in our hearts. I described the benefits of clearness committees to help each other discern true Spirit-led calls and leadings to action. I told about some difficult challenges I faced in a clearness process, and why that challenge was so helpful. And I explained why getting clear about how God is prompting us to action is just the beginning, since we need ongoing discernment as a call or leading unfolds. Here is the videorecording of the talk, now on YouTube:
As I prepared for the talk, my mind wanted to pin down what I would say in advance. However, I’ve learned that when I read a text out loud, I’m less able to convey the message the Spirit wants to give. Reading is one remove from fresh inspiration, and my voice and my connection with those present are more dull when I’m reading. So I write notes, instead, as reminders of the topics I could speak about, if so inspired in the moment. When actually speaking, some things come that I hadn’t planned, and others fall away. I had more notes for what to talk about than time to speak. I’m left wondering how and when I will share the second part of the talk; perhaps in future writing.
I’m heartened to learn that in addition to those who came to hear the lecture in person, a large number were watching the livestream. Some members of Lake Forest Meeting (IL), Roanoke Meeting (VA) and Brooklyn Meeting (NY) even gathered in groups to watch the livestream together and talk about it. I’ve heard about some who decided to start faithfulness groups in their meetings, or to reflect more on what kinds of small groups could best support the spiritual vitality among them.
There is a gap between the message and guidance I sensed that God wants to communicate with us, and what I was able to convey during my talk. There is a whole lot more divine love and healing directed at the Quaker community and at humanity everywhere than I or others are receiving and transmitting now. My ego swings between the temptation to grandiosity and an unhealthy delight in attacking all my efforts. The critic inside me finds much to critique, but that inner voice is not the one that can best help me to sense to what extent I was faithful and how and where I held back, and why. The support of loving friends can assist me to explore this, with the intention of all of us continuing to grow in our ability to cooperate with the divine love and wisdom that wants to shape our lives.
In my preparation for the talk, I sensed a message or teaching that needs to come to and through all of us, in loving conversation with one another and in mutual receptive listening. We need the faithful ministry of all the members of our community, near and far, and of those beyond our community also. Our cooperative growth in faithfulness, as we struggle to open up together to the divine Light, is the work of the Spirit within and among us.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the newest Pendle Hill pamphlet, by Emily Provance, Spiritual Gifts, Beloved Community, and Covenant. Here is the synopsis, from the Pendle Hill website:
“God speaks to all people and gives us all spiritual gifts – and yet these gifts are not all the same. We are organizers, pray-ers, workers, carers, innovators, provocateurs, and healers. Why? Because we’re made to fit together like puzzle pieces, as we name, affirm, and nurture spiritual gifts and ministries. In the author’s view, this fitting together is at the heart of what it means to be a covenant people, a people given to the care of one another and charged with building the kingdom of God on Earth. It’s easy to settle for less than covenant; it’s scary to stretch for the wholeness of God’s promise. We, collectively, face a choice of who to be.”
Collectively, in loving, faithful community, may we help each other birth the new way of being human in this world that we are laboring to allow to come to birth in our time, the birth described in Romans 8:14 as “the revealing of the children of God.” When we learn to live together and to make full use of the spiritual gifts offered to us, in loving community, we will help liberate creation from the terrible bondage it is suffering now.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the Children of God. (Romans 8:14–19, 21 RSV)
© 2020 Marcelle Martin
For information and videos about faithfulness groups, go HERE.
For information and videos about clearness committees, go HERE.
A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.
Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.
Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)
To order multiple copies of either book, postage free, contact us.
Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder
For information about upcoming courses and workshops with Marcelle, go to Teaching and Upcoming Workshops.