If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:30-33

*   *   *

The act of sitting together quietly, “holding our peace,” is at the core of a traditional Quaker meeting for worship. The silent waiting itself can be comforting, but it also opens a space for those who are moved to prophesy – that is, give voice to the Holy Spirit – to speak, one by one. When we are faithful, the resulting messages can be miraculous.

Back when I was still a member of Ohio Yearly Meeting, I remember visiting one large meeting on the East Coast that had two successive worship sessions on Sunday mornings. Attending both, I found its early hour of worship was more deeply centered than its later one – more centered, I would find, than most in its yearly meeting.

At the rise of the hour, an older Friend greeted me and said, “I wonder how many messages in Quaker Meetings these days refer to Scripture?” To which I replied: “In my yearly meeting, almost all vocal ministry does.” And he smiled: “You know where I’m coming from. I appreciated your faithfulness this morning.”

Or as another related: Any nurture thee can extend through a spiritual Friend there may very well go further.

*   *   *

But here I must obviate an Objection, before I can proceed.Possibly some may ask me, Why then do those People that thou art now gone amongst, keep up their publick Meetings to preach, and to teach People the Way of Salvation? What need is there of their teaching, if every one hath a Teacher in them, able to instruct them in the Way to the Kingdom?

To which I answer, first, Though I did say as much, as that every one hath a Divine Teacher in them, yet I did not say, that every one knows this Teacher in them: For this hath been the Misery of many Ages of the World, People have gone out after the many Lo here’s and Lo there’s, to find Christ without them, in the mean Time neglecting his Appearance within them, even as was soretold by Christ himself, when he was on Earth in the Days of his Flesh: In the last Days, saith he, they shall say, Lo here is Christ, and Lo he is there; but go ye not out after them, nor follow them; behold I have told you before. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

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