Back in the 17th century, our ancestors risked a great deal to try to prove the point that God didn’t speak more or more clearly to educated clergy, that every person had equal access to Truth. In an age where church and state were the same, it was a dangerous idea. A radical idea. A revolutionary idea.
Some might say that a lot has changed since then.
I would argue that the 17th century concept of “educated clergy” is still alive and well, but has been internalized and manifests in different manners.
- Culturally, we give more potence to someone with letters behind their name, if they are wealthy, or speak in an educated manner.
- We relegate our gifts into one professional specialty that then becomes so strongly linked with our identity that we cease to experiment with other forms of expression.
- We as Quakers often present ourselves based on “Quaker credentials” (what committees we’ve clerked, where we have membership, etc).
Sing with Me!!!
One aspect of my musical ministry is improvisation. I love to make music in the moment, using whatever is available. I find that it allows for a kind of playfulness and communication amongst Friends that silent worship or verbal dialogue does not.
I am often astounded and frustrated at the level to which (seemingly) liberated, playful, spontaneous people are not willing to engage in this kind of musical spontaneity, hiding behind the reasoning that they are not trained in music.
Friends, I am not trained in music. I took a few theory classes in College, but certainly not enough to feel like my credentials give me leave to say anything professionally worthwhile on the matter.
But instead of chasing degrees, I have instead spent a great deal of energy releasing myself of these feelings. Often music comes to me directly from the Spirit, often in a way that I cannot comprehend intellectually.
Often by the time we have fully been indoctrinated by the education system, the life and power of our gifts have left our practice of it.
Do it Now. We need you.
But here is my point: we spend too much of our lives feeling insignificant, feeling not-powerful, waiting for someone to tell us that its okay to use our voice now.
Stop waiting for cultural credentials to write your book. Write it now. Stop holding back from singing in the streets. Stop waiting for an “appropriate” message to stand up with in Meeting for Worship. Stop robbing us of your gifts.
So: I want to say to you (especially if you are a younger Quaker), what do you have to say now, friend? How might you be holding back your gifts because you do not have the proper “training”?
Speak, even if your voice shakes.
As Quakers, we are supposed to speak, even if our voice shakes. I beg you to use your voice now, and throughout your journey.
As a personal matter, I was given a voice in the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Friends program long before society deemed me a potential decision maker or contributor and it had a radical impact on my life.
But in a time where the Religious Society of Friends is rapidly losing youth, it might be a question that we can turn in on ourselves: at what point in ones’ life does ones’ voice begin to matter? How can we find ways to hear and value the untrained, the inexperienced?
Remember, we didn’t get rid of the clergy. We got rid of the layman.