guest post: stephen matchett’s listen epistle

stephen matchett is one of my personal heroes. his understanding of god and the world is so gentle and loving that i can’t help but be inspired. he’s the first person i go to with spiritual concerns. part of that is because we’ve got a similar outlook on things, and part of it is that i know i will be stretched by his perspective.

recently, we were talking with a newish quaker, and he asked us both what we thought quakerism needed. stephen spoke about how it’s actually a religion and people forget that. i rambled about demographics and diversity… then after a minute, i said something about listening– about how we could all listen better– to ourselves, to god, to each other. stephen pulled this out of his bag. i asked him if i could post it here. he said yes. it’s also in our meeting’s newsletter for this month.

An Epistle
submitted by Stephen Matchett, from an epistle-writing exercise that was part of the final session of Krista Barnard’s recent series on spirituality and the Bible. (2/19/2008)

To Friends in meeting: Now the time has come for you really to listen to one another, to the messages each brings, with open, tender ears and hearts, not with suspicion, not derailed and distracted by language or preconceptions; God’s moment is here, the Spirit breaks in, you are poised at a convergence of the currents of life that can take you far and bear you up and amplify my Peace, Word and Revelation if you let them pour in. Listen: If you have given up, or come up dry before, or made a judgment that I have departed from here, come back. There is more going on than you know. Listen: If you are assailed by perceived criticisms, put out by the apparent demands of workers who came late to the harvest, or jealous of the Truth you have come to know, then know that others may not express my gift in the same way; relax into my Peace; but do not doubt my love for all, or the purpose of my instruction.

Opening to my message together may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Agreement on first principles must be in the heart and must proceed from trust.

You need not dispute. Build one another up. If you falter or fall back, don’t give up. Bear with one another. Listen: I am speaking through each one of you. Listen.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful epistle with us. It is so obviously spirit led and moves me just to read it. It brings to mind the traveling ministers of the old times, and even the epistles of Paul writing to the followers of Christ. It is a blessing for all of us to hear this message.

  2. Thank thee, Friend–I needed to read this today.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Cubbie.

  4. Yay Stephen Matchett! I love this, this is great.

    I agree with both you and Stephen about what we need.

    I decided I don’t like the word “Quaker” because I think “Religious Society of Friends” describes what we stand for much more than “Quakerism” does. To me, “Quakerism”, or the culture that has popped up, is part of the diversity/demographic problem. Personally I’m going to only use Friends whenever and wherever I can.

    I finally saw that after reading the intro to Friends for 350 Years that you recommended. Thanks! I’m going to the study group on Thursday too.

  5. As others have already expressed, I am grateful for these words. …Many times in recent months I have thought that the monthly meeting where I am could benefit from a required workshop on compassionate listening.

    We are often tempted to insert our own stories into or onto what another person is saying that we forget to practice the discipline of Staying Present, or even, as this Friend points out, the practice of listening deeply for God’s instruction…

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

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