Quaker Speak: Traci Hjelt Sullivan on Quaker faithfulness. When Traci gets a nudge to give vocal ministry, sometimes she feels resistant. That’s when it is time for “The Faithfulness Lecture”.
For me faithfulness is a very key element of Quakerism, perhaps the key element of Quakerism. And the hard part about faithfulness is it actually takes courage. We wouldn’t talk about it unless it took some work.
There’s many stories in my life about encountering that struggle to be faithful. There was a big one pretty early in my religious life. I had been worshiping regularly in a Meeting for maybe 3 or 4 years and I had been married about a year before and I went to someone else’s wedding and it was a big wedding.
(In a Quaker Wedding, those present are invited to stand and speak if they feel led. This is called “spoken ministry.”)
The other thing you should know is that I had given spoken ministry before but I believe I had never given ministry in song. At this wedding I had this little nudge to sing the song that had been sung at our wedding, and I thought, “Nah, I just have an association between weddings and that song. Ok.”
And the nudge came back and I said, “I’m not going to stand up in front of all these people and sing that song!”
And then the nudge came back again and I said, “I do not know all the words to that song!”
But my husband was sitting next to me and I knew he had memorized all the words to that song.
So it came back again. And finally I had to give myself a lecture and I have since named this. It is: “The Faithfulness Lecture.” And the faithfulness lecture goes something like this:
“Do you believe in this religion or not? If you do, it does not matter whether you will be on tune, whether you get the words right, whether people will hear you, whether they approve of this message. If you are supposed to give this message, give it.”
And really, I knew I was supposed to give the message. I had all those signs: it came back and back and back, I was having this quaking feeling. I was supposed to give this message.
So I leaned over and I got the words from my husband and I stood up and I screwed my eyes tight and I grabbed the bench in front of me and I sang the song. And, as so often happens when there’s singing ministry, a few other people sang with me so there was this wonderful sense of support.
But I have had many occasions since when I have had that nudge to speak or act and especially in Meeting for Worship when I’m feeling kind of resistant but its really clear I’m supposed to give, sometimes I just say to myself, “The Faithfulness Lecture” and that’s all I need. I screw up my eyes closed and I stand up and I do what I’m supposed to do.
Tags: Traci Hjelt Sullivan, Friends General Conference, Quaker Worship, Quaker Wedding, Vocal Ministry, Singing Ministry, Jon Watts, Friends Journal, QuakerSpeak, Quaker Voluntary Service, Religious Society of Friends, Max Carter, Quakerism