As a lifelong musician, Anna Fritz has played a lot of gigs. But when she sang in Quaker worship, Friends in her community started treating her music as something more than performance.
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I think that one of the most powerful gifts that Quakers have to offer the world is an understanding of discernment, and a practice around discernment, and an understanding that there is something larger than us guiding us, and that there is a practice of listening and discerning that can help us know our right path. I think that if we are to realize the kingdom of God here on Earth, it has to involve each of us following our deepest leadings from moment to moment, and we need to support each other in doing that, and we need to teach people how to do that from a very young age.
Exploring Music as a Quaker Ministry
I’m Anna Fritz. I’m a member at Multnomah Monthly Meeting and I’m a cellist and folksinger and songwriter and composer. I’ve been a professional musician for most of my adult life, and in 2013-14 I was coming back to Quakerism after the thing that a lot of young adults do—kind of meandering away—and I was attending this meeting, Multnomah, and really connecting here and starting to put down roots. I went to the Pacific Northwest Women’s Theology Conference and had my first experience there of performing my songs out of worship, and that was really transformative for me, as was the reaction from Friends, which was: “Do you have support for this ministry?” And I was like, “This what?”
Exploring Music as Ministry
So having what I was doing named as a ministry by Friends outside of myself and then connecting with Friends in my Yearly Meeting that were wanting me to bring the music to their meetings, I traveled in Washington State sharing my ministry at a number of different meetings, and that was my first experience of spiritual accompaniment, actually having someone supporting me, which was novel to me as a touring musician who is used to wearing all of the hats and doing everything alone. It was such a rich experience of seeing the power of spirit moving through me and having it reflected back, seeing the power of the songs that spirit had given me and watching them at work in the communities that I visited. It showed me that I had to keep doing this, even though it was hard for me. Even though I’m an introvert who doesn’t really want to perform, that there was real medicine for my people in what I had been given.
Music as a Spiritual Opportunity
In my work as a solo performer, even when I’m performing in bars or clubs, I see my work as carving out sacred space in that secular environment, and when there are people in the audience who are holding you in prayer, it makes it a lot easier to do that.
Approaching Performance in a New Way
I’ve always struggled with performance anxiety. That’s always been a thing I just had to deal with. When I was working as a musician that was primarily entertaining people, that performance anxiety was very egocentric. I was concerned that I wasn’t good enough, that I was going to make mistakes, that it was going to reflect poorly on me. Now performance for me is an opportunity to connect to the divine with the other people in the room. I now prepare for a performance with prayer and with a deep understanding that my work is to get out of the way. My work is to surrender to spirit’s will and to spirit’s movement through me, and that there are no mistakes. I’m still really nervous, but it’s ok.
- Anna Fritz says that “even when I’m performing in bars or clubs I see my work as carving out sacred space in that secular environment.” Have you experienced music that carved out that kind of space?
- Anna says that it’s easier for her to do this work if she knows there are people in the audience praying for her. Have you experienced this kind of “holding space”?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.