My Experience of Sharing Vocal Ministry

My Experience of Sharing Vocal Ministry 

by Regina Baird Haag

 

I came to Friends in the early 1980’s because of my relationship with, and then marriage to, a Quaker. I joined the local programmed meeting and began to acquire knowledge about what it meant to worship among Friends. It seemed to me that there existed a love/hate relationship in that meeting with the vocal ministry that could or might evolve from the rather short period of open—or waiting worship—that happened in the regular order of worship. I remember one Sunday specifically when someone rose from the silence to announce that he had puppies for sale…

 

There were glimpses and experiences of a deeper, more spiritual type of vocal ministry over time in various worships and meetings on the Yearly Meeting level. These inspired me to seek the place from which those messages came, and my love of silent unprogrammed spaces of connection grew. However, I remained primarily affiliated with programmed Quaker meetings. Over time, my call to ministry led me to become involved as a pastoral minister, responsible for bringing a message each week in worship. This, then, is what I am most familiar with in terms of vocal ministry.

 

My love of the study of scripture and the topics or themes within the weekly chosen passages (I was basically a Lectionary preacher), coupled with the experiences in my daily life, both on a local and wider perspective, were the source of my messages. These were written, usually, on Saturday or early Sunday morning; then delivered in our worship service, after the corresponding scripture had been read to the gathering. My process always felt as though it was founded on and seasoned throughout with the action of the Holy Spirit working in me, as the message simmered and thickened throughout the course of the week before our Sunday meeting.

 

However, a call to the more extemporaneous vocal ministry out of silence and Spirit, continued to be a challenging dynamic (a thorn in my side!) underlying my ministry in worship. I sought to incorporate a more impromptu, spiritually driven and alive way of offering vocal ministry. But, my bottom line came to be that I would use what gifts I had been given, which included a very spirit-led preparation process that ended with a manuscript. It included the spiritual practice of writing out my manuscript by long-hand for many years, before I began using a laptop computer. I concluded that when I was supposed to alter my practice, God would let me know and then lead me into a new way.

 

That new way came unexpectedly one Sunday morning in 2014, as I finished the message on my laptop and promptly pushed “don’t save” instead of “save.” After repeated attempts at recovery, it was too late to do anything else but prepare a brief outline of what I could remember for use in worship. Later, out of the silence, I rose to deliver a message that was more closely grounded in and led by Spirit than I had ever allowed myself to be before then. I felt as if I had truly experienced the practice of speaking out of my divine center, enabled and supported by God.

 

Since that Sunday worship, I have found myself more inclined and responsive to leadings to share vocal ministry out of Silence. While I still prepare diligently when occasions to plan to preach arise, melding scholarship, daily life, and spirit over time, I am more sensitive and responsive to those inner leadings and the Spirit, from which ALL vocal and non-verbal ministry are born and enlivened. I am so thankful for those who are nudged, and then who rise to bring messages that inspire, challenge, and affirm us for our life beyond our worship.