While I have only spoken out of the silence once, I have felt urges to speak in other parts of meeting for worship. I come from a semi-programmed meeting in which we have songs, a choir number, scripture readings, and a message given by the pastor. There is also a time at the beginning of worship for prayer concerns. Sometimes I have felt led to say something; other times I was purely a listener. I question whether people in my meeting believe that meeting, or centering, starts at the very beginning. I come to this concern from looking at my experience at Westtown School and my regular form of worship. It deeply disturbs me. Is the first half of meeting a joke? Do my meeting members not realize that others are feeling led to share their concerns? I raise this question because we all need to discern whether to speak during programmed worship, just as we wait to be led to speak out of silent worship.

In meeting for worship I have also shared a concern or asked for a prayer. On one occasion, the father of a childhood friend had died. I had not been close to this girl for at least four years, but when I found this out I went to her school and hugged every one of my childhood friends. I am a deep mourner and wanted to share in grief. Likewise, I went to meeting that Sunday and had this death and this childhood friend on my mind. When there was a call for prayer concerns I sat there with the sensation of trembling, the same feeling I have right before sharing a message out of silence. I made myself push my feet down and stand up. I did not know what I was going to say—I had not thought out a message—but the words came anyway. I got through my concern, with a few choke-ups and tears.

I think I have only once spoken out of the silence in meeting. I say "I think" because the sheer power one feels when speaking, or even when feeling led to speak, blanks out your mind and memory. I can remember certain messages that were on the tip of my tongue and mind but that I never expressed. I can only vaguely remember the time I stood up, yet my message and visual images of the experience are ingrained in my mind. I have very distinct memories, and yet I am a blank book.

When I spoke, it felt just like a roller coaster. When you stand on the ground looking up at a roller coaster while waiting in line, you feel your stomach start to push in towards your back, as if pushing you away from the line. This is the initial calling, when you first realize that you could say something but are so scared about doing it. You think through what you are going to say over and over. Then you sit in the seat and someone straps you in. You say to yourself, "I should not do this"; then, "It will be fine"; then, "Why scare myself"; and lastly, "I want to get off." But you know you will not get out of the seat; the ride has started and you are buckled in.

This part of the "ride" is all about making the decision and not turning back. When you get the calling, you either decide that you will say it, eventually, or that you will not. Once you have made the decision to share your message, your gut and mind begin a power struggle over when to stand.

Finally, the roller coaster starts. There is no turning back, and you do not have time to be petrified—instead, you are exhilarated. You scream—to shake the fears —and you do not let yourself think too much, because if you do it will only turn the ride into a bad experience and bring you to tears.

This parallels the moment in meeting when you finally stand up. There’s no turning back, and you just cannot think too much about what is coming out of your mouth. But if you do, you stumble and trip on the words; the meaning remains strong.

And then you come to the end of the ride. Your car slows down, and you realize the belt that strapped you in is being undone. You rise up out of your seat and marvel at how awesome the ride was—and how crazy you would be to consider doing it again.

After you have shared your message, adrenaline still rushes through your body. As you sit down and begin to settle back into silence, you are not as scared as you were. Maybe you think of things to add to your message, but it would be crazy to stand up again—not to mention rude. You feel a burden has been lifted, as though God gave you a load to carry and you have put it down in its proper place.

I may not often speak in meeting, but I recognize a calling. I can feel the power of others’ messages. I can hear God’s voice, or the spirit around me. I can be helpful in prayer by participating with others and silently sharing my thoughts with those around me. I can hold others in the Light, and still reflect on my own values and problems, and discern what is most important at the time. I have only stood up in meeting once, but I still search constantly to see the Light within each person, including myself.

Emily Holzer

Emily Holzer, a member of First Friends Meeting/Whitewater Monthly Meeting in Richmond, Ind., is a student at Westtown School.