Practice Tips for Vocal Ministry in Meeting for Worship
Have one or more regular spiritual practices during the week, daily if possible: prayer time, meditation, journal, physical activity with prayerful centering, etc. Be watchful in these times for leadings to ministry.
Get a good night’s sleep before Meeting.
Spend time in prayer and preparation before Meeting.
You may eat a good, but light breakfast before Meeting. Some prefer to fast. You may wish to be judicious in the use of stimulant beverages.
Arrive at Meeting early and find a seat where you can settle into worship.
Find a position where you can park your body for an hour or so without having to pay much attention to it. This may take some practice. (all of these things may take some practice). Arrange your face in a pleasant (smiling?) visage. Some find that attention to the position of the hands makes a difference.
As others enter the room, greet them inwardly with love and hold them and their condition in the light. This may open either the other or yourself or both to receptivity.
Opening oneself up to vocal ministry includes opening each member of the body to that option, praying for the process, praying for each one who may be called, praying for the state of the Meeting as a whole. It may be considered a collective process.
Breathe. Inward breath prayer may be helpful.
Centering tools may include an inward mandala or a fixed spot on the wall, floor or ceiling, inward repetitive prayer or song.
As ideas, thoughts, leadings come, examine and bless them and let them go. If they persist, begin to let them be molded into something that may be a message.
Pay attention to physical signs. Many experienced ministers report such symptoms as quaking (we are not called Quakers for nothing) or trembling, sensations of warmth (maybe on the palms of the hands), sweating, shortness of breath, lightness or light, etc. that seem in indicate authenticity and urgency of a message.
Examine the message. Is it coming through you, or from you? Can you deliver it without a lot of first person singular pronouns? Is it from the heart, from experience?
Be attentive to those around you. Are any likely to be holding you in the Light? Are there any you need to be holding in the Light? How does this address the urgency of your message? Is someone else in the room going to deliver this message?
Pare the message down to its essentials. Eliminate introductions or explanations.
Stand up (if able) and deliver the message with your head raised in a clear voice loudly enough to be heard by those in the back of the room and those with hearing disabilities. If there is not enough power in the message to drive you to your feet, you may wish to sit with it a while longer.
Either just before or just after standing, it may be helpful to take a moment or two of inward prayer: eg “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.”
It is good to keep Lewis Carrol’s admonition in mind: “Begin at the beginning, proceed until you get to the end, then stop.” It is good to sit with the message long enough to have a reasonably good idea of where the end is before you begin.
While it may be helpful to do some inward post message analysis of one’s message or delivery, it is best not to dwell on this.
Be grateful to and bless those who held you during the delivery of your message.
Continue to hold the message and the Meeting in the Light. You have just dropped a big rock in a still pond. This includes holding those who will be called to deliver additional messages, and the messages themselves in the light, even before one knows who and what they are.
Sometimes messages may be difficult for or incomprehensible to you. It is OK to just hold the message and the messenger in the Light and not even pay attention to the words. This is important and powerful work.
Ministry can be spiritually, emotionally, and physically draining. This is normal. Take care of yourself. Friends and allies may be useful after Meeting as a shield from those who may want to have an intellectual discussion about the message despite your drained state.
Also, be prepared as people approach you after Meeting, that what they heard may not be what you think you said …. and it spoke deeply to their condition. This is a Mystery and a sign that you have been faithful.
The practice of vocal ministry is, indeed, practice. One will make mistakes: outrun one’s guide, fall short of the mark, go on too long, etc. While not to be shrugged off, these are inevitable and if attended to, make us more competent servants the next time we are called.