A spiritual path for our time: Simple, radical, contemporary. We are in the Queen Victoria Hall, Oundle. I have not written what I am going to say, and am a little nervous about it. Kingsley wrote it out, and Andrew wrote notes, and I stood and spoke. Our topic is worship.
I have spoken before about my experiences of worship, and thought about it. Today I started reading “Twelve Quakers and Worship”, but it needs to be my experience: if I say the experience of others, it will not move in the same way. A thought, yesterday: I can speak about business meetings in worship.
I spoke, for two periods of six minutes, without notes. Some of my words were phrases I had used before: we unite behind God’s loving purposes. Ours is not consensus, of egos tiptoeing warily round each other, but the spiritual discipline of setting the ego aside, and seeking the good. This can be expressed in theist or non-theist language: the leadings of God or the promptings of love and truth in our hearts. Sometimes two apparently irreconcilable positions are stated, and someone will stand to say something not thought of before: and the atmosphere changes, as you can feel the meeting uniting behind this new proposal.
I told of how I had felt “The Holy Spirit is here!” when I first came to a Quaker meeting, introduced by a friend. I told of how I had once stood to share a good point from my reading in the week, and after had sensed that I had not been inspired to speak, however worthwhile what I had said was, and felt ashamed. I told of how, recently, I had come to meeting “hot from the World”- full of outside concerns, mind racing- or had felt cold and bored, checking the clock: and felt that I was being cured of any idea that the meeting was my own achievement. I found myself saying things I had not planned to say. This is not quite like ministry in meeting, as I came expecting to speak for a certain time, at a certain time; but I felt moved.
Personal experience is the most moving part of these evenings. After, Andrew suggested that I wrote what I had said, and I thought, why? My thought moves and changes, and there is so much more I can say.
Then we had coffee and chatted together. One of us used to play violin for the Hallé. He said that more than one conductor, if the timing was getting ragged, would become still, and his marking of time become ever smaller, precise movements of the baton, for unless they play accurately and together, no further expression is possible.