One fresh spring morning, I sat down in the sparse meetinghouse I used to worship in. Sun streamed in through the window in the ceiling onto the bowed heads of people breathing deep and grounding down. We were all seated in a circle. Chairs and benches were the only furniture in the well windowed room. Everyone was bathed in light.
The silence was baited, tense. Waiting to be broken.
Then, out of a bench in the corner, a loud belch rose up into circle.
And for the rest of the meeting, this old, drunk man belched and snored cacophonous snores the whole time.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are different kinds of vocal ministry. And this man, in his big tattered coat and authentic presence in his body was the big fuck you to liberal quaker piety that meeting needed.
I think about the people I’ve cared about who have needed to talk to themselves and make noises. Who need to pace and say things we don’t understand. Spirit is moving through them, in this incarnational way. Reminding them they still have bodies that can make noises, that they still can breath words into being.
Yet these ministries are squashed down and shamed and institutionalized.
They are seen as pathological, instead of the testaments to a faithfulness of life that they are.
We were called Quakers because we quaked after all. How often do we shut someone out when their ministry seems strange and beyond their control?
Vocal ministry is faithful and brave. It speaks some truth. It is created both by god and our own volition. A yielding and an agency. And this shows up in many ways. It does not discriminate by time and place. The call to minister could happen at any time.
And through anybody.
Yet we so often only validate the voice of god if it sounds like the voices that society holds dear. Educated, middle class or wealthy, white, cis, slender, neurotypical.
And I think Quakers understand this on a conceptual level. But when god shows up in our midst in a way that makes us uncomfortable, in bodily ways, in ways beyond the control of the minister, how often do we push god out?
How often do we welcome god in?