Giving Attention to Our Leadings

The most precious gift Friends have to offer is our worship and the leadings that come from it. Yet this worship can be brittle or stale sometimes, particularly if we come to it unwilling to be changed. Do we really want to know what Friends are called to today? Do we yearn to discern God’s leading now for the Religious Society of Friends? Are we ready to have the Spirit of Christ guide us?

My experience of calling has been that when I’ve really wanted to know what God was calling me to do—wanted to know this more than anything else—I’ve been given guidance. And sometimes I’ve gotten guidance when I didn’t really want it. Other times, however, when I’ve felt tired, contented, comfortable, or distracted—in other words, when I didn’t really want to know what I was being called to do—I didn’t get direction; I was left to wallow in whatever situation I was in at the time. Do we long to know what Friends are called to today, more than all the other interests and concerns that impact our lives?

When we gather for worship, we bring whatever hopes and longings we have to meeting with us. Coming to worship regularly can help us even if we feel fragile or dull. Insight and discernment grow over time as we listen and genuinely want guidance.

What more is asked of us? We are asked to give attention to leadings as we discern them and test them within the meeting and the broader Quaker community. We are asked to be faithful to what God is calling us to do, allowing ourselves and our meetings to be changed. We are asked to be faithful in daily living as well as in more dramatic callings, recognizing that the impact of what we say and do is often unknown to us.

Worship is held at Pendle Hill every morning. Some who come are skeptical about God, prayer, and the concept of a gathered meeting. One practice that draws people together is taking time after worship to hold one another in the Light and to hear and respond to requests for prayer. Those present are gathered into spiritual community, and sometimes profound change happens. The experience of daily worship and the intercessory prayer that follows grows into direct communion with God and guidance for our lives. While very few of us will sit in meeting for worship every day, we can hold other Friends in the Light, in God’s love, as we seek together to know our calling and hope to be faithful to it.

What I am writing is not new, but simply an expression of what I see at the core of Quaker faith and practice. Through yearning, worship, listening, and faithfulness we will know what Friends are called to today, and be empowered to live out our calling.

Shirley Dodson

Shirley Dodson is a member of Middletown Meeting in Lima, Pennsylvania. She serves as director of communications for Pendle Hill, a Quaker center in Wallingford, Pa., that nurtures Friends through worship, work, study, and service.