Today was the first time I had the honor of preaching (or "bringing the message," as they call it at this meeting) in my new internship position. I've preached a few times before, but it's always been about a specific topic, so this was a kind of new experience. I felt pretty good about it as far as delivery and preparedness. It was interesting going through the process of getting ready to preach, because it's one of the things I dislike most about the thought of perhaps becoming a "released minister." I wouldn't want to have to feel forced to think up a sermon every week.
But today was a great experience, because I feel like I caught a glimpse of what it might be like if done well. Not on my end, necessarily, but I felt like I was able to share my heart, things I'd learned and studied and thought about, held in the Light, looked at from different angles, and I was ready to share what I'd been given, and I floated it out there in the best way I knew how, trusting God to do the rest.
And it was incredible sitting in open worship (10-15 minutes of unprogrammed time in a programmed meeting) after the message and hearing what people shared that filled out my own words and thoughts in ways I hadn't thought of, or hadn't had time for, or were filled with the passion of their own history and personality.
I think if I were in any other denomination I would hate preaching. I would hate having to come up with something that will speak to every person in that room, something that will change their life beyond Sunday morning...but here, I don't have to do that. Even if I totally bombed the sermon, God can still speak through that experience to people, or at the very least God can speak to them in the time of open worship afterwards. I enjoyed the collaborative feel, the communal feel, of all of us listening together. I've been given the honor of being paid to sit around and listen to God and bring what I hear to the meeting, but it wouldn't be the same if everyone else wasn't listening to the same God and able to share their pieces as well.
It's an incredibly humbling process when looked at from this angle. It's not about me at all, but about God speaking through me, and through others present, to create a picture that wouldn't be the same if any of us weren't faithful to contribute our piece--even if that piece is just to show up and participate in worship. In this way I think programmed worship continues to be Quaker when done well. The same Spirit is present, the same sense of equality prevails, only we use different tools to help us center and attend to God.
Another reason I'm glad I'm a Quaker today: I met a lady at my cousin's graduation party and when she heard I was working as a pastoral intern at a church this summer she asked me about my future goals, "What are you hoping to do? Will you do women's ministry?"
I told her I might be a pastor of some sort, or perhaps a teacher at a university, and undoubtedly I would work with women but not only women. My wonderful Quaker grandfather chimed in with, "Men need good pastors and teachers too!"