Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Some Counsel From Alexander Parker, Part 1

I recently came across an epistle from Alexander Parker to Friends published in Letters, &c, of Early Friends (Douglas Steere referenced it in the introduction to "Quaker Spirituality"). The opening reminds me of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 when he talks about worship in his time, beginning with "What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, …".
So Friends, when you come together to wait upon God, come orderly in the fear of God: the first that enters into the place of your meeting, be not careless, nor wander up and down, either in body or mind; but innocently sit down in some place, and turn in thy mind to the light, and wait upon God singly, as if none were present by the Lord; and here thou art strong. Then the next that comes in, let them in simplicity of heart, sit down and turn in to the same light, and wait in the Spirit: and so all the rest coming in, in the fear of the Lord, sit down in pure stillness and silence of all flesh, and wait in the light; a few that are thus gathered by the arm of the Lord into the unity of the Spirit,—this is a sweet and precious meeting, where all meet with the Lord!—Those who are brought to a pure, still waiting upon God in the Spirit, are come nearer to the Lord than words are: for God is a Spirit, and in the Spirit is he worshipped; so that my soul hath dear union with you, who purely wait upon God in the Spirit, though not a word be spoken to the hearing of the outward ear. And here is the true feeding of the Spirit; and all who thus meet together to wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength daily. In such a meeting, where the presence and power of God is felt, there will be an unwillingness to part asunder, being ready to say in yourselves, it is good to be here: and this is the end of all words and writings—to bring people to the eternal living Word. So, all dear hearts, when you come together to wait upon God, come singly and purely; that your meetings together may be for the better, and not for the worse.
One thing that struck me in reading this passage was the idea of being drawn together in meeting such that we don't want to part. One time during worship at Atlanta Friends Meeting, a small child of a visiting family was a little noisy and his mother decided to take him outside. As they were going, he said "I don't want to leave", and I thought how lovely it would be if we all had that feeling during worship. Years ago I talked about having a time limit on Meeting for Worship, and that came up in conversation at the NCYM-C annual sessions last week. My current feeling about this is that I wouldn't want to arbitrarily say that there is no time limit, but my hope is that one day we might all feel like we don't want to leave.

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