Sunday, December 12, 2010

Minute of Service Report

To Freedom Friends Church

Since receiving my minute of service from Freedom Friends Church in August 2008, I have traveled to many meetings and churches in the Pacific Northwest to share about the Eighth Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference.  The meetings and churches I visited included: Camas Friends Church, Multnomah Monthly Meeting, Anchorage Friends Meeting, Spokane Friends Church, Eugene Friends Church, Eugene Friends Meeting, Bellingham Friends Meeting, Sandpoint Friends Meeting, and North Seattle Friends Church.  I also attended North Pacific Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting annual sessions in 2009 and received a traveling minute from North Pacific Yearly Meeting.  I traveled to most of these meetings and churches with my co-clerk, Sarah P.  On three of the visits, I had other traveling companions: Inger H accompanied me to Anchorage Friends Meeting, Sarah H accompanied me to North Seattle Friends Church, and Leann W served as elder for me and Sarah when we visited Sandpoint Friends Meeting.

All of the churches and meetings I visited were extremely hospitable.  Although the women’s conference was the official reason for these visits, it often did not feel like the reason I was there.  Sometimes something else seemed important, and sometimes I felt like I did not really know why I was there (though I trust there was a reason).  Sarah and I felt like we were planting seeds for Friends to come to future conferences, consider traveling in the ministry, or interact with different kinds of Friends in other ways.  Many of the clerks of the meetings and churches had never had never seen a traveling minute before our visit, so this provided an opportunity for us to educate Friends about the practice of traveling with minutes and having meetings endorse them.

Something that surprised me about these visits is that I did not feel led to speak in worship in many of the meetings I visited.  This felt like a learning experience for me about when not to speak.  I did speak in each meeting and church outside of meeting for worship, either by giving an announcement or leading a presentation.  Public speaking does not come easily for me and this gave me an opportunity to practice.  I also found that it became easier to talk about the women’s conference the more I did it.

Over the two years the planning committee spent working on the conference, we had six meetings in person and six conference call meetings.  This was a challenging committee to clerk, but I learned a lot about clerking and working with other people.  As I was working on the planning committee, I talked to many women who had done this work in the past.  They all agreed that one of the most difficult things in planning the conference was keeping everyone motivated and on track in the long time between the conferences.  I was especially grateful to have Sarah as a co-clerk of the planning committee.  She and I traded off clerking and recording the meetings and we worked well together in those roles.

On June 16-20, 2010, sixty women gathered in Seabeck, Washington for the Eighth Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference.  The theme was Walk with Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends.  About a quarter of the women there were attending for the first time.  I think this was directly related to the travel that Sarah and I did to share about the women’s conference.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed facilitating the conference; it felt like good and important work.  It was incredible for me to hear how everyone’s language changed during the conference.  Immediately after the plenary on elders, I heard many women using that term.  It was gratifying because the topic of elders has been very important for me over the past few years and I felt like the women who attended the conference had a better shared understanding of what the role of elder is.  I was grateful to Ann S and Alivia B, who served as my elders during the conference, and to all of the women who volunteered their time, talents, and energy for the conference.

It has been a hard transition for me to go from having the minute of service to not having it.  As I have continued to travel in the ministry since my service for the women’s conference ended, I have been surprised by how much I have missed having the tangible support the minute of service represented.  Carrying the minute made me feel connected to and supported by the meeting, and traveling without it, I sometimes feel vulnerable and out of order.  I did not realize how much the minute meant to me until the service was completed and I could no longer carry it.

Overall, planning the women’s conference was challenging and it made me grow.  Traveling among Friends in the Northwest helped me to recognize that I am a minister and that I feel called to public ministry among Friends.  I felt honored to represent Freedom Friends Church in doing this work, and I am grateful for your love and support while I traveled and worked on the Quaker Women’s Theology Conference.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I commented to a friend the other day that I think my blog is in hibernation.  This is definitely the first time I have gone for an entire month without posting since I started writing here two and a half years ago.  But at the same time, I don't feel any need to officially lay it down.  I love this blog, how it has provided a way for me to express myself to the wider world, and a place for me to go back and remember how I felt at certain times.

But I don't feel compelled to write as much right now, for several reasons.  One is that my full-time job involves a lot of writing, and I don't have much interest in writing when I get home at night.  Also, I am still catching up on reports from my travels last summer (only one to go!), so I feel like any extra writing time should go into that.  Mostly, I am still in a huge time of transition in my life.  I feel like I am settling into my new home and new job, but there are still a lot of other things changing, and that amount of change takes a lot of energy.

I have been reading a lot lately, and so I have some book recommendations to share with those who are looking for a good read.

The first is Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor.  In this lovely memoir, Taylor describes her call to become an Episcopal priest, and how she eventually had to leave the church that she loved, though not her faith in God.  She speaks honestly about her faith journey and the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated profession.  I especially appreciated this quote: "A priest is a priest, no matter where she happens to be.  Her job is to recognize the holiness in things and hold them up to God.  her job is to speak in ways that help other people to recognize the holiness in things too."  She also leaves her readers with a query: What is saving your life now?

Another book that I have been enjoying is Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, by Gregg Levoy.  This one was recommended to me by Sarah P.  I am about halfway through it; there is so much in this book that I have to take it at a slower pace to absorb it all.  The chapters I have read so far have a lot to say about paying attention to the things in your life, both internal and external.  Levoy urges those who are discerning their calls to be aware of their dreams, hopes, and desires, as well as the things in life that are encouraging or seem like blocks, and he includes many good stories.

And now for something completely different: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  This one was recommended by my mom.  In this young adult dystopian novel, the U.S. has fallen and Panem is in its place.  The Capitol of Panem keeps 12 districts in line by forcing them to send two teenagers as tributes each year to fight each other to the death on live television.  Although this book is much more violent than I would usually read, once I started, I couldn't put it down.  Collins has created an amazing world in this trilogy, and like all good fiction, it acts as a mirror to our culture.

I have also enjoyed all of the new Hanukkah videos I have seen recently.  Thanks to Waylon W for posting this one:

And to Mark W for sharing this one:

Blessings on everyone who is lighting candles and adding some Light during this dark time of year!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Care Committee Report

Report to School of the Spirit from Ashley W’s Care Committee
August 14, 2010

The Care Committee met with Ashley on July 9 to do an annual review.  It is our understanding that we were to discern together with her where she and we have been during this first year of her program with the School of the Spirit.

As you know, Ashley has spent the first year of the program in Seattle, as a sojourning member of University Meeting.  She has now moved to Salem, OR and will be at Freedom Friends Church.  Since she knew this would be the case, she put together a Northern Care Committee and a Southern Care Committee.  For this year, the Northern Care Committee has met in person with Ashley.  She has written a report before each meeting, which was shared with both committees.  A member of the Care Committee took notes during the meeting and sent them to Ashley.  Ashley them made additions and/or corrections and then sent them to both committees.  This report is from the Northern Care Committee.

We all acknowledged what a privilege and amazing opportunity it has been to serve on the Care Committee.  The regularity of the meetings (we came pretty close to once a month) and the depth and challenge of our discussions have contributed to the spiritual growth of each of us.  One Friend said it had been the most spiritual place for her for most of the past year.

There is a relationship between ministry and a community – or multiple communities.  Ashley’s ministry is rooted in University Meeting in Seattle and Freedom Friends Church in Salem, OR.  But it clearly extends to the Pacific Northwest (Women’s Theology Conference) and beyond (e.g. being an elder for Wess D and Martin K at Pendle Hill; the whole School of the Spirit experience).  One of her communities is her “K” group, which is very important to Ashley.  We challenged her to think about how she might keep connections with those Friends after the SoS ends.  Ashley mentioned that she might try to visit North Carolina YM (C) Annual Session some year.  This is an example of her expanding sense of community, as well as her sense of continuing to travel in the ministry.

As Ashley reflected on the past year, she noted her relationship with University Meeting and her struggle with “shoulds”.  She felt it was good to look back and see both accomplishments and struggles.  She has a sense of satisfaction about the PNW Quaker Women’s Conference and is glad it is over!  Some of it was hard, but she overcame the difficulties and grew.  She spoke of learning to “find her voice.”  She has grown to respond with more confidence to the call to speak in worship.  She is learning to ask for what she needs, although this is still hard. She admitted she had been hesitant to ask for an elder or traveling companion.  She feels she is getting better at accepting when she or others do not measure up to her self-acknowledged very high standards.  Serving as an elder for Wess and Martin was “good work” (and hard).

She asked for a traveling minute directly from NPYM (to apply to the Susan Bax Fund).  She realized in retrospect, it would have been better to start with the Monthly Meeting and then go to Yearly Meeting.  The Yearly Meeting M&O Committee might also have recognized it was not following its own process.  However, she was in a unique position, since she was a sojourning member of UFM, and Freedom Friends is not part of any larger body.

The committee raised the question about whether there is a new pattern for recognizing and supporting ministry, not rooted in a local Meeting.  Some Young Adult Friends do not feel rooted in a particular Meeting, and/or do not want to be limited to a particular branch of Friends.  Is this an issue to which Ashley is called?  Ashley felt that both University Meeting and Freedom Friends have been spiritual homes for her this past year.

The committee further explored if there had been blocks to feeling part of the UFM community, either within herself or the Meeting. Ashley noted that the meeting with the Worship & Ministry Committee was a really good start, and it is too bad it took so long to do that. Ashley and 2 members of the Care Committee met with W&M April 28, 2010.  She reported on her ministry and her disappointment in University Meeting.  At the end of the meeting, she said she would like to have some open time for everyone to share about ways that the meeting can provide ongoing support for Friends feeling called to ministry.  Members of W&M as well as the Care Committee found the meeting exciting and opened new ways the committee might work.  Ashley still has a sense that a lot of people in UFM did not know what she was doing.  Meeting as a whole should nurture ministry.  It was helpful to her hear about the experience of other Young Adult Friends, who had also felt limited support. The Care Committee has reminded itself to follow up with the UFM Worship & Ministry Committee about responding to the challenge to further explore how they might recognize, nurture and support ministry.

In the July 9 Care Committee meeting, we explored some of the reasons UFM is not good at supporting ministry.  In our discussion we agreed that UFM is not afraid to be a community.  It cares very well for people, e.g. “Care Committees” (for people who are ill or need special assistance).  However, it is a stunted community, because it is afraid to be a faith community.  We do not talk about our faith.  It would be good to have some conversations about words we can and cannot hear. We need to hear people and be gentle when they use their own words when speaking about faith experiences.

Ashley sees her ministry, now, as “turning people to God, in whatever language they use to describe God.”  We identified that a part of that ministry is bridge building.  Ashley noted that her vocal ministry is both in worship and also in presentations.  When she and Sarah were at Bellingham and Sandpoint Meetings, they gave workshops and got people talking about God.  She felt that one reason people don’t talk about God is their fear that everyone “gets it”, and they don’t.

We asked Ashley where her ministry is going and what areas she wants to work on.  One area is a paper and panel for SoS on being the “other” – standing outside of groups and offering a perspective. (This relates to the Care Committee June 30, 2010 discussion about being a prophet.)  She will continue to travel in the ministry, but is less clear how that will work.  She needs to be careful with her time, since she will be moving to full-time paid work AND, probably starting in February, to clerking Freedom Friends Church.  The SoS residencies and work will be a lot, even though her boss is supportive.  She may have to limit other activities.  Living alone may be a good idea, as she will have a steep learning curve with her job, new people and new systems.

The committee asked her about support resources, both practical and for discernment. Ashley expects her Care Committee to be a resource. She also has talked with Wess D about starting a meeting of ministers and elders.  The  “Northern Care Committee” noted it is really important for Ashley to ask someone to clerk the “Southern Care Committee” and to set a date for a meeting.

Ashley again thanked the committee and committee members responded, thanking her for the opportunity.  This has been a place where we can be our real selves and feel known – what we all seek in community. And it has been a place where we have all grown spiritually.  We thank the School of the Spirit for providing this structure.  We look forward to hearing about Ashley’s next year through reports and notes from the Southern Care Committee, and each expects to maintain contact with Ashley.

Care Committee: Ann S, Clerk; Lucy F, Sarah H, Jana O

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Semi-Programmed II

I got the news a few weeks ago that I will be leading semi-programmed worship at the next School of the Spirit residency.  I am very excited to share the way Friends at Freedom Friends Church worship with the rest of my class. 

It's not that there is a lack of worship at the residencies.  Each morning after breakfast, we spend an hour in worship together.  This is one of my favorite things about the program.  After more than a year of meeting together, our worship is rich and deep.  There are several gifted vocal ministers in our class and many more who ground the space with their presence.

But until now, it has all been unprogrammed worship.

I don't want to give the wrong impression, I love unprogrammed worship.  After spending three years sojourning with University Friends Meeting, I feel nearly as at home in unprogrammed worship as in semi-programmed worship.  And I have cherished the times when I have been able to sit with Friends in extended unprogrammed worship. 

But I really miss singing in worship.  By all accounts, my School of the Spirit class is an unusually sing-y class.  We sing together fairly often, and we sing well.  Most of the singing, however, happens during the free time, or as an afterthought.  I miss singing as a way for all of us to come together and start focusing our attention on God.

So I asked if I could lead semi-programmed worship at the next residency and the teachers said yes!

They also suggested I ask someone to elder for me.  I hadn't thought about having an elder, but it seemed like a good idea, so I asked my classmate, Mark W, to be my elder and he agreed to.  He asked if there was anything he could do before the residency other than holding me in prayer, and I said that sounded perfect.

I also asked another classmate, Kristin O, to lead the music.  As much as I like to sing, leading singing is not my favorite thing.  Kristin is great at leading singing, though, and just asked which songs I would like.  She also asked when we would be having the semi-programmed worship, and whether there would be time to rehearse beforehand.

I am grateful for all this support and preparation, but it also strikes me as kind of funny.  My original idea was to give everyone a taste of how we worship at Freedom Friends, but I can already tell that this is going to be much more polished than worship at Freedom Friends ever is.

All of this reminds me of some conversations I have had recently about how different Freedom Friends looks from the outside than from the inside.  I am surprised by the impact this little church has had on the wider Quaker world, especially the Quaker blogosphere.  As a member of Freedom Friends, I feel honored when it is mentioned by someone from outside the church (as it was on Micah B's blog), but I know that the reality is a lot messier than our image sometimes is.

When I have led worship at Freedom Friends, it has usually been a last-minute thing.  Someone else was not available, and I am there and able to lead, so I do.  We do sing almost every week, but we don't really sing very well.  There are a few people with great voices, but for the most part, it is not something you would want to listen to.  It is all very homespun.

It is a church that struggles.  Many of our members and attenders are living with mental and physical disabilities.  Quite a few are unemployed and no one makes much money.  We consider it a good month when we can make rent.  Sometimes we can't afford to pay the pastor the tiny amount we give her to release her for ministry.

But we truly care for one another.  And that is part of what I hope to express in leading semi-programmed worship at the residency.  The way we worship, by singing together and sharing our gratitudes and petitions, shows how we are involved in each other's lives.  We may not always sound great, but we are happy to pray for each other.  It is a real community, which means that it is sometimes messy, and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Visitor Report II

Report from Northwest Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions 2010

Meeting for Worship for Business

As is the usual practice at Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM), Friends met for meeting for worship for business each morning.  The business sessions lasted about three and a half hours, with a half hour fellowship break at 10 a.m.  This year, Lorraine W, assistant clerk of NWYM, served as clerk of the business sessions because the clerk, Tom S, had a family concern that kept him from being able to clerk (though he did attend the annual session and continued to clerk the Administrative Council).  Lon F joined Lorraine as assistant clerk.  

At the start of the business session, Lorraine explained to everyone how business arises out of worship and is a way to worship God.  Throughout the business sessions, we took time to worship in silence, in song, and through vocal prayer.  I was struck this year by what a natural response vocal prayer is for Friends in NWYM, both when it is planned in advance and spontaneous.  I also appreciated the music in the business sessions; it was gentle and complemented the prayer and business.

Shortly before annual session, it came to light that a NWYM staff person had been involved with a minor several years ago while on the NWYM staff.  This was one of the first items addressed during the business session.  I appreciated Colin S’s efforts to make sure everyone had the same information, and I found the discussion about this topic very tender and sympathetic.  It also made me wonder where can we, as Friends, confess when we fail to live up to our measure of light?  How can we walk alongside each other when we make mistakes?

Most of the business sessions consisted of the boards describing their work.  Before annual session, each board writes a ministry plan, which is included in a document that is distributed to everyone attending the annual session.  Each ministry plan describes the work that the board feels God is calling them to do and a budget for the board, which is incorporated into the NWYM budget.  It was clear that the boards have been doing deep discernment to determine how to be faithful while living within the yearly meeting’s means.

A theme throughout the annual session was finding ways to support those who are experiencing a call to ministry.  A highlight for me was Darla S’s recording.  In NWYM, the recording process begins when the local church recognizes a person’s call to ministry and sends her name to the Board of Leadership Development.  Recording is a process that takes a few years, which is time for the yearly meeting to get to know that person’s heart and her call to ministry.  Darla, pastor of Rivers Way Community, shared her story of being faithful and struggling with accepting her call, even while she knew she was called.  After Darla gave her testimony, Lorraine prayed a blessing over her and NWYM recognized and recorded her call to ministry.

Many Friends expressed interest in intervisitation and appreciation for churches working together within the yearly meeting.  Friends noted that there are fewer released youth ministers than in the past, and suggested youth groups joining together are a way of supporting younger Friends.  The discussion about intervisitation included Friends of all ages and Friends shared their desire for connectedness across age, language, distance, and ideological differences.


On Monday afternoon, I co-led a workshop on Convergent Friends with Wess D, a friend of mine and pastor of Camas Friends Church.  Our intention was to have the workshop be a worship experience, so we began with about 15 minutes of unprogrammed worship.  Then we introduced ourselves and Convergent Friends.  I talked about the work I have done across the branches of Friends in the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference and in traveling to meetings and churches.  Wess described the Convergent Friends movement and how Friends from Camas Friends Church, Multnomah Monthly Meeting, and Bridge City Friends Meeting have been worshiping together.  

We opened up the discussion by asking Friends to share different words they use to describe God, and writing those words on the board.  After we had about 30 words on the board, we asked Friends to share why those words are meaningful to them.  The discussion was wonderful, and I think we could have used a second hour for everyone to tell their stories about the language they use and their experiences encountering different kinds of Friends.  For some in the room, this was the first time they had heard about the different branches of Friends, and the workshop started some ongoing conversations.

The other workshop I attended was Godly Play the Quaker Way, led by Caryl M.  This workshop lasted for two hours and was a wonderful experience.  Caryl began by describing some of the ideas behind Godly Play: recognizing that children have deep spiritual lives and helping them find language to talk about their spiritual lives.  In Godly Play, teachers tell stories that allow children to do work around loneliness, meaning, freedom and death―topics that adults are often afraid to talk about with children.  After hearing a story, children choose their own work, often using art supplies.  The teachers let each child know that they are seen and ask children honest questions about the stories they have heard.  Caryl told us three stories during the workshop: the sacred story of Abraham and Sarah’s journey, the parable of the good shepherd, and a Faith and Play story about how Friends experience God.  I loved hearing the stories and I hope to have a chance to learn more about Godly Play in the future.

Keynote Speaker: Colin Saxton

The theme of NWYM annual session this year was “Eyes Fixed, Running Free.”  In his keynote address, Colin began by describing the ostrich as an animal with amazing speed, but that runs in circles when afraid and can be easy to catch.  Colin talked about how a mother ostrich buries her egg in the ground when she goes to look for food, but has to keep an eye on the egg or she will lose her hope and treasure.  Colin asked, “Where are we fixing our eyes?”  He said that God has given us everything we need, but sometimes we choose to act in fear.  Colin encouraged Friends in NWYM to think of themselves as a team running together, sometimes having to carry others and helping each other find the path.  He said that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on, and we are part of that cloud of witnesses.  He also reminded us that we are called to put aside extra baggage that is not helpful in the journey.  He asked if this could be an inventory week for NWYM, a time to allow the light of Christ to shine in and see if there are things to lay down.  Colin also asked, what does it mean to have our eyes fixed on Jesus?  He suggested it is about knowing him intimately and about the living God being active in our lives.

Videos of Colin’s keynote and the other evening programs are available online here:

Guest Speaker: Scott Daniels

The guest speaker this year was Scott Daniels, pastor of Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene.  The focus of his talk was on two questions: “What is God doing in the world?” and “What does a church look like that understands what God is doing in the world?”  Scott used the story of Jonah to talk about responding to God’s call.  He explained that a word that dominates in the story of Jonah is “godol,” which means big, great, or weighty.  He said that like God’s call to Jonah, the call on our lives is great.  Scott encouraged us to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.  He said that as a church, we need an eschatology of hope―faith that God can redeem all things.  I enjoyed many of the things that Scott had to say, but his joking style was a little hard to listen to.  Also, because I know there are many gifted speakers within NWYM, I have been disappointed that at both of the annual sessions I have attended, the main plenary speakers have been from outside the yearly meeting.

Youth Yearly Meeting

On Wednesday evening, the high school Friends led worship before Scott Daniels spoke.  They read the story of Pentecost in several languages with a screen behind them that asked, “In what ways does God speak your language?”  The young Friends painted images of flames, wrote words on paper on the walls, did cartwheels, and juggled as the screen changed to “In what ways do you best hear from God?” and “In what ways do you most beautifully worship God?”  They then led singing, prayer, and a time of open worship.  The energy that they brought to worship was wonderful and I was glad that the yearly meeting gave them an opportunity to share their passion with everyone.

Silent Worship

One aspect of the annual session that could use some attention is unprogrammed worship.  It is held each evening at 6, which is a difficult time because dinner begins at 5:30.  The schedule has listed the wrong room number for unprogrammed worship both years I have attended NWYM, and the room it is held in is a front-facing lecture room, which is not the best set up for unprogrammed worship.  I attended unprogrammed worship on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.  The first evening I attended, there were many high school-aged Friends there, but they were mostly reading Bibles and did not seem to have a shared understanding of unprogrammed worship.  The second night, a family visiting from Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative and I were the only ones attending unprogrammed worship.  Afterward, when I described this worship to some weighty Friends from NWYM, they suggested that Friends at the unprogrammed worship need some education.  I agree.

Observations and Suggestions

I was very glad to have an opportunity to visit NWYM as the North Pacific Yearly Meeting visitor for two years in a row.  I felt a lot more comfortable during annual session this year because I knew more of what to expect.  It was good to see friends and I enjoyed getting to know people better that I met at annual session last year.

NWYM is doing an excellent job using technology and social media.  They have posted several videos on their website about annual session and they update frequently on Facebook and Twitter.  I recommend that visitors to NWYM explore their website ( before attending annual session.

I was blessed to have Julie P and Leann W as my elders during my time at NWYM.  I am grateful to them for holding me in prayer while I led the workshop, for checking in with me and listening when I needed an ear, and for taking me out for a much needed ice cream cone.

Thank you for the opportunity to visit NWYM on behalf of NPYM again.  I enjoyed my time at NWYM annual session and I felt well used while I was there.  I am glad that NPYM and NWYM have such a good relationship and I hope that the yearly meetings will continue to send visitors so that Friends in the Northwest can get to know each other better.

Related post: Visitor Report from 2009

Saturday, September 25, 2010


In preparation for Marge A's workshop on support committees next month, I have been reading Michael Wajda's Pendle Hill Pamphlet Expectant Listening: Finding God's Thread of Guidance.  Near the end of the pamphlet, Michael Wajda strings together the many leadings and messages he has heard in his life and says they look something like this:
Wake up.  You are loved.  I am leading you.  Nurture others who are following me too.  Go deeper.  Give more of yourself to me.  Share the fruits of your authentic searching and finding with others.  Support everyone in going to the Deep Place.  Know that I am with you all the time.  Help the world to wake up too.
He then asks, "What does God's deep, long thread of guidance look like in your life?"

This question struck me as an important one to answer, and when I think of the messages I have received from God all together, they sound like this:
If you choose to follow me, it will not be easy.  I will ask you to do and say hard things, but I will be there too.  I made you and I love you.  Your feelings are valid.  Speak up.  You have something to say.  Speak up.  I will use your experiences to speak to others.  You have everything you need.  Others will use many different words to describe their experiences of me.  The language they use is important.  Help them express their authentic experiences.  Take care of yourself.  Because you are human, you will make mistakes, but I will never stop loving you.  If you listen, I am here.
And now I'm curious for all of you out there, what does the thread of God's guidance in your life look like?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Checking In

I noticed yesterday that I had only posted once this month.  That's not a whole lot of blogging, even for me, but a lot has been going on, so I thought I'd check in.

The biggest change is that I moved to Salem, Oregon almost a month ago.  This was not a sudden move (I'd been planning it for years, actually), but moving tends to take a lot of time and energy regardless of how long I know about it in advance.
My new home is a lovely little cottage, which is right down the street from Alivia and Peggy's house.  I think it's going to be a lot of fun living near the two of them.  Peggy has been in Africa the whole time I've been here so far, so Alivia and I have been hanging out quite a bit.

Being in Salem also means that I am back at my home church, Freedom Friends Church.  It has been wonderful to see everyone at Freedom Friends and they have all been welcoming me home.

I started a new job just about two weeks ago.  So far, it has mostly been orientation, but I am starting to work on real work.  I think it will be a good place to work and everyone there seems very nice.

I think the next few weeks and months will be mostly more settling in, getting used to new people, places, and systems.  There are a few things coming up that are noteworthy, though.

The second week of September, I will head back to North Carolina for the fifth School of the Spirit residency.  After so much change, I am looking forward to seeing my classmates' familiar faces!  I will also be participating in a panel during the residency and, God willing, will be speaking on "the other" as a prophetic role.

On October 23, Marge A will be leading one-day workshop called Supporting and Grounding One Another In Our Ministries: Committees for Clearness and Support, Peer Groups, and Spiritual Friendships at the Multnomah Monthly Meeting meetinghouse.  I will be serving as Marge's elder for the workshop and I think it will be really good.

I think that's all the news for now.  Thank you to everyone who has been holding me in prayer during this transition.  I am glad to be done moving and I hope to write more after I have had time to get used to all of these changes!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


As I have traveled to various Quaker gatherings this summer, a lot of people have asked me what I do.  Or the people who know me ask, "What are you doing other than this?"  My answer is an unusual one in Quaker circles: I have been financially released for ministry this summer.  So this is what I am doing.

Back in April, it became increasingly clear that I had to quit my job.  I had been working off and on for months, and I thought that my current stint at work would end on its own.  But my boss kept adding on to it and asking me to stay a little longer.  For a while I said yes, then I knew I had to stop.  It was scary because I didn't have a lot of money, but it felt right.

Around the same time, I sent an email to Noah M and mentioned that there were several gatherings I wanted to attend over the summer, but I wasn't sure if I could afford them.  Noah asked if I had heard about the Margaret Fell Fund.  I had not.  The Margaret Fell Fund is a grant administered by Friends General Conference's Traveling Ministries Program, which provides "grants to monthly meetings in need of financial support for releasing their members for travel in the gospel ministry among Friends."  The grant covers the minister's living expenses while she is traveling in the ministry.

At the end of April, I quit my job, worked with my meeting to apply for the grant, and started traveling.  Near the end of May, I learned that my application was approved, and I was financially released for ministry for three months.

I was so relieved.  I had already planned my travels and had a clear sense of where I needed to go, so that didn't change, but now I could focus on what God was calling me to do without having to worry so much about money.  

Over the summer, I went to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Montana, and Oregon to worship with Friends.  While I was attending yearly meetings, I could focus on just being there, instead of worrying about "going back to work on Monday."  The fact that others took my ministry seriously enough to support it financially made me take it more seriously too.

My summer had a very different rhythm than my usual working life.  Between times of intense fellowship, I had weeks to decompress and focus on self-care.  I spent a lot of time listening: to God, to others, and to myself.  

I had to figure out what a life of ministry looked like on a day-to-day basis.  Frequently, it involved waking up, going for a run, having breakfast, spending time in prayer, and catching up on emails and phone calls.  I planned events and workshops, spent time reading and writing (though not as much as I expected!), and took a lot of naps.  Some days my life of ministry included a visit to the farmer's market or a long walk with a friend.

Next week, I will be going back to full-time, paid legal work.  While part of me is sorry that my summer of ministry is ending, it feels right to be going back to that kind of work now.  I am so grateful to the Traveling Ministries Program for the opportunity to focus on ministry for the past few months, and I know that when I do go back to paid employment, I will try to be more intentional about bringing the rhythm of prayer and listening to my daily life in that work as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Letter of Introduction

Dear Tom

It is with pleasure that I commend Ashley W to the care of  Northwest  Yearly Meeting.  Ashley is attending your yearly meeting as the official representative from North Pacific YM.  She enjoyed her experience from last year so much that she reapplied and was once again accepted to represent us and bring our greetings to you. 

Many Friends in NWYM need no introduction to Ashley, but to those who do, she currently lives in Seattle Washington and is very active in University Friends Meeting and in the Seattle area Young Friends group.  Ashley is a bridge builder, working to connect Friends in the NW into one Quaker Family.  In addition to attending University Meeting she is a member of Freedom Friends Church in Salem, OR.  This past year she has been active on the planning committee for the NW Women’s Theological Conference which happened at the Seabeck Conference Center on Hood Canal a few short weeks ago.  This conference unites women of Freedom Friends Church, NPYM and NWYM through worship, play, and sharing of their spiritual journeys. She also helped plan the FWCC regional gathering that met at Canby Grove Conference Center in March 2009. 

Our annual session will precede yours by a few days this year so we will not get an immediate report back from Ashley.  We look forward to hearing from her about her time with you and hope that one or more Friends from NWYM will be moved to join us next year when we meet at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, July 13-17, 2011.  Information about our yearly meeting including annual session is available on our web site, 

May the Spirit of Christ be with you for your annual session and throughout the year.

In Friendship

Janet J
Clerk, NPYM

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Traveling Report to NPYM Coordinating Committee

Since receiving a traveling minute from the North Pacific Yearly Meeting Coordinating Committee at annual session last summer, I have visited the following meetings and churches to share about the 8th Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference:
  • Northwest Yearly Meeting annual session, with Sarah P
  • Camas Friends Church (NWYM), with Sarah P
  • Anchorage Friends Meeting (Alaska Friends Conference), with Inger H
  • Spokane Friends Church (NWYM), with Sarah P
  • Eugene Friends Church (NWYM), with Sarah P
  • Eugene Friends Meeting (NPYM), with Sarah P
  • Bellingham Friends Meeting (NPYM), with Sarah P
  • Sandpoint Friends Meeting (NPYM), with Sarah P and Leann W
  • North Seattle Friends Church (NWYM), with Sarah H
All of the churches and meetings I visited were extremely hospitable.  Although the women’s conference was the official reason for these visits, it often did not feel like the reason I was there.  Sometimes something else seemed important, and sometimes I felt like I did not really know why I was there (though I trust there was a reason).  There were several people who came to the women’s conference for the first time this year and I think that was a result of the visits.  It also felt like Sarah and I were planting seeds for Friends to come to future conferences, consider traveling in the ministry, or interact with different kinds of Friends in other ways.

In this report, I will give a more detailed description of each of the visits (the format varied), followed by some general thoughts about the experience of traveling with the minute from NPYM.

My primary role in visiting Northwest Yearly Meeting annual session was as the NPYM visitor, but I did have several informal conversations about the women’s conference while I was there.  Sarah P, my co-clerk on the women’s conference planning committee, and I met with the NWYM Administrative Council (AC) to talk about the women’s conference and ask for a traveling minute for Sarah, like the one I had received from NPYM.  The AC approved giving Sarah a traveling minute and the women of the AC offered support and guidance for Sarah as we discerned where to travel.

During our visit to Camas Friends Church in early October, Sarah P and I stayed with Wess and Emily D.  It was wonderful to spend time with them and we had an opportunity to worship with them in their home.  On Sunday in programmed worship, Sarah gave a prepared message.  We met with several women from Camas after lunch to talk about the women’s conference.  Women shared their experiences in going to the conference in the past as well as times when they had encountered different kinds of Friends. 

One thing that was surprising to me on this visit was learning more about the central role of the pastor in NWYM churches.  Sarah stepped into this role as the person preaching on Sunday and I felt more like a support person.  Sarah and I encountered some difficulties in traveling as two ministers without an elder, as well as in balancing our friendship and the different kinds of work we were doing together.  We continued to work on these issues between this visit and our next official meeting visit together, which for a variety of reasons did not take place until the end of February.

My visits to Anchorage Friends Meeting and Spokane Friends Church were informal visits while I was traveling for other reasons.  I visited Anchorage Friends Meeting while I was staying with my family for Christmas.  My friend Inger H, who is not a Quaker, accompanied me and agreed to hold me in prayer if I felt led to speak.  After worship, the Friends there asked me to read my minutes aloud and speak briefly about the women’s conference.  I enjoyed worshiping with these Friends again after visiting them the previous year.  I visited Spokane Friends Church while spending the weekend with Sarah P.  Sarah and I attended programmed worship together and Sarah made an announcement introducing the women’s conference and me.

Sarah P and I visited Eugene Friends Meeting and Eugene Friends Church in late February.  We stayed with Tom and Vicki S, who were wonderful hosts.  On Saturday evening, Tom and Vicki hosted a potluck with about a dozen Friends from the meeting and the church.  I felt like the potluck was the reason we were there; Friends from the meeting and church really enjoyed spending time together and suggested getting together regularly and having official visits to each other.  The next morning, Sarah and I attended 8:30 a.m. programmed worship at Eugene Friends Church, and made announcements about the women’s conference at two Sunday school classes there.  We then went to Eugene Friends Meeting for singing and attended 11 a.m. unprogrammed worship, making announcements about the women’s conference at each.

Sarah and I rescheduled our visit to Bellingham Friends Meeting at least once before our trip in late March.  We also ended up driving up on Sunday morning instead of staying overnight because we were too tired to make the trip after clerking a committee meeting all day.  We sang and worshiped with Friends, then led the adult religious education hour after meeting.  In adult religious education, we began with worship and then asked Friends to name all of the words they could think of to describe the divine.  We wrote the words on the white board as they spoke and ended up with about 40 words.  It was a good visual and opened up the conversation.  We talked about the women’s conference and I gave an example of narrative theology by telling the story of how Sarah and I met.  Friends shared many stories about encountering different kinds of Friends.

Before Sarah and I visited Sandpoint Friends Meeting in April, Leann W offered to come with us as an elder.  We really appreciated her offer and enjoyed having her with us while we traveled.  Leann met with Sarah and me on Saturday afternoon for some worship and singing.  During worship, we noted that we were all in times of transition in our lives (jobs changing, coming to the end of traveling/working on the women’s conference).  On Sunday, the three of us went to Sandpoint Friends Meeting for unprogrammed worship.  After worship, Sandpoint had a potluck, then we led a discussion session.  We talked about the women’s conference, narrative theology, and different language for God.  Friends there asked us to talk about the different kinds of worship at our meetings and churches: Sarah described programmed worship at Spokane Friends, I described semi-programmed worship at Freedom Friends, and Leann talked about her Friday night worship group.

My visit to North Seattle Friends Church was fairly informal, though it was planned in advance.  Sarah H, who is on my care committee, agreed to come with me as an elder.  I made an announcement about the women’s conference during their “God stories” time, but my old fears about public speaking returned and I did not say everything I had hoped to say about the women’s conference.  Fortunately, Jan W added on to what I said and talked about the work of reconciliation the women’s conference is doing in this part of the country and the impact that it has beyond the Northwest. 

After this visit, I realized how tired I was from all of the travel and work on the women’s conference.  Travel in the ministry was physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting for me in general.  I needed at least a day to recover from each of these trips and ended up using quite a bit of sick leave from work.

Something that surprised me about these visits is that I did not feel led to speak in worship in any of the meetings I visited.  This felt like a learning experience for me on when not to speak.  I did speak in each meeting and church outside of meeting for worship, either by giving an announcement or leading a presentation.  Public speaking does not come easily for me and this gave me an opportunity to practice.  I also found that it became easier to talk about the women’s conference the more I did it.

Traveling with Sarah P was good and sometimes challenging.  We found that we had to work on our relationship in order for the ministry to work and at times it was very difficult.  Spending this much time doing ministry together was very good, though, and I think it helped us when we had to work together all the time during the women’s conference.  I felt that we were yoked together in ministry and made a deep spiritual connection through this work.

Over the past year, I have met with a care committee as part of the School of the Spirit program I am doing.  They were very supportive of my ministry and helped me through some of the more difficult times.  Other than my meetings with them, I felt pretty disconnected from University Friends Meeting.  At the time I requested the traveling minute from NPYM, I did not look at the section on traveling minutes in NPYM Faith and Practice.  I recently read it and learned that the process for granting a traveling minute is for it to first go to the member’s home meeting’s Oversight committee (p. 80).  Although this would have taken longer, I think going through this process and having the minuted support of University Friends Meeting would have made me feel more connected to the meeting while I was traveling.

Faith and Practice also says, “When a meeting grants a minute of travel, it should take care that, as far as possible, the service is not hindered for lack of funds or other resources.”  Fortunately, I received a grant from FWCC and spiritual support from my care committee, but it would have been nice to have more interaction with Friends from NPYM regarding whether I needed funds or other resources.

Thank you for giving me this traveling minute and the opportunity to represent NPYM while visiting meetings and churches in the Pacific Northwest.  Please let me know if you have any questions or would like any further information about my time traveling in the ministry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


This morning in worship, I felt very unsettled.  I could feel myself preparing internally for the upcoming yearly meetings and strong emotions were going through me.  On Tuesday, I leave for Missoula, Montana for North Pacific Yearly Meeting annual session.  I return the following Monday, spend about a week at home, then go to Newberg, Oregon for Northwest Yearly Meeting annual session as the NPYM visitor.

I did the same thing last year and I don't know whether it was better to not know what I was getting myself into.  Yearly meetings may look like a vacation from the outside, but they are hard work.  Last year, I spent NPYM fighting with God about a message I felt led to give.  And on the last day of my time at NWYM, I wrote in my notes that my heart was broken and that this is "hard work, harder than anything else because it requires everything."

In addition to all of this, I will be moving to Salem a few days after I return from NWYM.  I have been fighting with God a lot about this move lately.  I felt a clear call to move to Salem and I have arranged my life around that call, but at times it feels like too much.  I don't want to give up my home, University Friends Meeting, or my friends here.  I am sad to leave my godson, who just started to be able to pronounce my name.  And I am not thrilled that even though my moving date is less than three weeks away, I still don't know where my new home will be.

Worship this morning gave me time to sit with all of this, and to cry.  Friends on either side of me gave me silent support as I grieved all that I am giving up as I attempt to follow God's leadings.  

I think I sometimes unintentionally give the impression that this faith stuff is easy for me.  It's not.  It is very, very hard.  But I committed to try to make God the center of my life, and I shouldn't be surprised when God moves in and disrupts all of the ideas I have about how my life should go.

A Bible story that I return to frequently is the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  This story speaks to me because that is how I often feel about my relationship with God: I am angry with God and we fight.  At some point, God usually breaks me, but I know God also blesses me.

I probably won't have a lot of time to post here in the next few weeks as I travel and pack.  I will be out doing my best to follow the Spirit, though, and I would appreciate it if you would keep me in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Women's Conference Epistle

Here is the epistle from the 8th Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, written by our fabulous epistle committee: Iris G, Aimee M, and Erin M.
To our Quaker family,

Surrounded by the waters and wildlife of Hood Canal and the snowy peaks of the Olympic Mountains, sixty women gathered in Seabeck, Washington from June 16-20, 2010 for the eighth Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference. Begun fifteen years ago to promote dialogue and build relationships among different Quaker traditions, this conference continues to be deeply Spirit led and enriches the lives of women who attend.

Though we represent different backgrounds and branches of Quakerism, the lines between these seemed very thin and blurred. No one avoided talking about her home meeting or church, but our membership didn’t have as much weight as our personal experiences shared in love. Even as we attempted to be open and accepting, at times we misstepped and unintentionally hurt each other. Many of us felt broken open and left this conference changed.

Through reflection papers we wrote, plenary sessions, home groups and discussion, we each connected personally with the theme, “Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends.” Each plenary brought us back again and again to the awareness of the need for support and mentorship in our lives. We identified places in which we are being accompanied and are accompanying others and places where we feel the absence of that loving presence. Many of us made commitments to seek those relationships in our meetings, churches and beyond.

Despite colds, more serious illnesses and concerns for the health of loved ones, we drew strength, support, and encouragement from one another. Many think of the Women’s Conference as a reunion and newcomers found they were welcomed into the family with open arms.

In keeping with the testimony of community, we opened ourselves to another group, Interplay, also staying at the conference center. We described the kind of work that we each came to do, invited them to join us in worship, and likewise were invited to experience their ministry and we shared grace together before meals.

We celebrated the gifts of many through plenaries, workshops, singing and readings by several published authors. During one plenary session, several young adults shared personal experiences of their ministries in relation to the theme of the conference. We were thrilled to hear stories of women being supported and held sacredly in their ministry. However, we were deeply saddened to learn that some are not empowered or recognized in their ministries. We were thus reminded of the reality of sexism in the Society of Friends. Encircling the young adult women, we joined together in heartfelt prayer and were moved by its healing and supportive power. This experience deepened our worship and fellowship together. We challenged ourselves to be aware of internalized sexism, as well as the sexism in our churches and meetings, and to work toward true equality.

During business meeting on Saturday, we reaffirmed the work of this body of women and our leading to continue meeting together as an intra-faith group. We look forward to the next opportunity to join in fellowship.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And Be Glad

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.  (Matthew 18:20).
Tomorrow evening, 60 or so women will gather in Seabeck, Washington for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference.  I have been living and breathing this conference for so long now, it is hard to believe it is actually almost here.

In a couple hours, I will go to the airport to pick up Sarah P, my co-clerk on the planing committee.  She and I have been working on the women's conference for over two years now, longer than I have had this blog.  I am glad that she will be here soon, because I am having a hard time focusing on anything today.  I don't know that she will be in any better shape, but it seems good for us to be together.  We are planning to go to a yoga class in the morning and then, God willing, head downtown for the ferry and over to Seabeck.

I keep thinking that I will get a call or have a sudden realization that I forgot something big, something crucial.  So far, that has not happened.  I am trying to let go, to know that we have done as much as we can do, and need to leave the rest to God.  

Over the past several weeks, a song has come to me in a variety of contexts.  We used to sing it when I was a kid, repeating each line:
This is the day
That the Lord has made.
I will rejoice
And be glad in it.
Regardless of what happens, I am doing my best to remember that this is the day that the Lord has made, and to rejoice and be glad in it.

Please keep us in your prayers as we gather together to spend time listening to God and each other.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Valiant Sixteen

Traveling Ministers and Elders

Micah B, 26,*  Heartland Friends Meeting (Great Plains Yearly Meeting)

Betsy B, 32, First Friends Meeting (North Carolina Yearly Meeting)

Julian B, 27, Central Philadelphia Meeting (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting)

Sadie F, 26, Putney Friends Meeting (New England Yearly Meeting)

Sarah H, 29, University Friends Meeting (North Pacific Yearly Meeting)

Sarah H, 30, Freedom Friends Church (Independent)

Kathy H, 34, Multnomah Monthly Meeting (North Pacific Yearly Meeting)

Faith K, 24, grew up in Shiloh Chapel Evangelical Friends Church (Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region)

Erin M, 27, unprogrammed Quaker without a meeting membership

Treye M, 29, University Friends Meeting (North Pacific Yearly Meeting)

Noah M, 30, Putney Monthly Meeting (New England Yearly Meeting)

Sarah P, 32, Spokane Friends Church (Northwest Yearly Meeting)

Christina R, 29, Atlanta Friends Meeting (Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association)

Emily S, 28, Durham Monthly Meeting (Piedmont Friends Fellowship and North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative)

Jon W, 26, grew up in and attends Richmond Friends Meeting (Baltimore Yearly Meeting)

Ashley W, 28, Freedom Friends Church (Independent) and University Friends Meeting (North Pacific Yearly Meeting)

*All ages are at the time of the interview/correspondence.

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 12


For meetings and churches:
  • What gifts do you recognize in the young people in your faith community?  How do you name those gifts?  How can the community as a whole receive these gifts?
  • Are Friends in the meeting or church aware of Friends’ history in traveling in the ministry?  
  • How do you define terms such as minister, elder, and spiritual gifts?
  • How should a young Friend who is experiencing a call to ministry ask for support?
  • Are Friends prepared to form support and accountability committees for young Friends feeling a call to ministry?
  • What is the process for creating a traveling minute or a minute of service?
  • How can your meeting or church provide financial support for those called into ministry?
  • How do you make space available for Friends returning from traveling in the ministry to share their experiences?
For young Friends experiencing a call to travel in the ministry:
  • How have you experienced this call to ministry?
  • What are your daily spiritual practices?
  • Who would you like to have on a support and accountability committee?  Who could serve as a traveling companion?
  • What kind of support do you think you will you need for your travel?
Suggested Reading

Abbott, Margery Post & Peggy Senger Parsons. Walk Worthy of Your Calling: Quakers and the Traveling Ministry.  Friends United Press, Richmond, IN (2004).

Drayton, Brian. On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry.  Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, Philadelphia, PA (2006).

Grundy, Martha Paxson. Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting.  Pendle Hill Pamphlet #347 (1999).

Wilson, Lloyd Lee.  Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order.  Celo Valley Books, Burnsville, NC (1993).

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 11

“I think that everybody is a minister, and if you don’t think you’re called to be a minister, try thinking again!”  Julian B, Central Philadelphia Meeting (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting).
When I asked young Friends what advice they had for others feeling called to travel in the ministry, the overwhelming response was, “Go do it!”  These ministers wanted to encourage Friends young and old to go to other meetings and churches and see how truth prospers among Friends.  

The second thing that most of them said was that those feeling called into ministry should go to their meetings and churches for support.  Friends have a wide range of ways to support ministers, and those feeling called into ministry should be aware of the ways their meetings and churches can support and encourage them as they test their leadings.

Traveling in the ministry has been one of the most difficult things I have done, but it has also made me feel more alive and more aware of the presence of God in my life than at any other time.  Like the young Friends who so generously gave me their time and stories, I encourage anyone who feels called to travel in the ministry to do it, and then come back and share how God is at work in your life with the rest of us.

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 10

Naming Gifts
“I really didn’t feel like I was capable of being a traveling companion until Deborah recognized a gift in me and asked me to be her elder. I was shocked at first.  It was amazing to have a gift named, to have a Friend see something in me, and then for me to recognize it in myself and want to step more fully into it.”  Emily S, Durham Monthly Meeting (Piedmont Friends Fellowship and North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative).
To really nurture and support ministry in our meetings, we need to know each other.  If we have deep relationships with each other, we will be able to see and name gifts in another that he may not see himself.  Christina R, from Atlanta Friends Meeting, and Faith K, who grew up in Shiloh Chapel Evangelical Friends Church, spoke of how it can be difficult for the meeting to see those who have grown up in the meeting as adults.*    

Julian B, from Central Philadelphia Meeting, suggested that meetings try to see people of all ages, including children, as ministers and “potential sources of God’s light and God’s wisdom.”  He also encouraged Friends to look at the things they are passionate about as leadings.

Emily S, from Durham Monthly Meeting, recommended that meetings provide young people with “a spiritual language that they can draw on to articulate their beliefs.”  Meetings can help people discern their callings by developing a shared vocabulary and defining terms such as leadings, callings, elder, minister, and spiritual gifts.  

Engaging in conversations about how God is calling each of us to be faithful in using our gifts will set the stage for encouraging young Friends to discern what those gifts are and how they are being called to use them.  And as Friends, we know that God gives these gifts for the benefit of the entire community, not just the individual.  With that in mind, encouraging each person to use his gifts also builds up the life of the meeting and the Religious Society of Friends as a whole.

*Faith also noted that the same thing happened to Jesus and asked, “Why should we be different?”

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 9

Spiritual Friendships
“We can be such a gift to each other if we can sit with each other and pray for each other and accompany each other, even from really far away.”  Noah M, Putney Monthly Meeting (New England Yearly Meeting)
Even with the support of one’s faith community and a traveling companion, traveling in the ministry can be lonely work.  Many of the Friends I interviewed spoke of the importance of spiritual friendships and being in touch with others who are doing similar work.  In addition to talking about their own experiences, ministers said that they appreciated how spiritual friends could point them toward spiritual practices or passages in early Friends’ journals or in the Bible.  

I found that I felt incredibly nurtured by the conversations we had about traveling in the ministry.  It was so good to talk to others who have had experiences that are similar to mine and to share and compare stories.  Even though we were from different places and, sometimes, different branches of Friends, there were so many similarities
Several of these ministers longed for a spiritual accountability group, where ministers and elders would share their experiences of traveling in the ministry and be able to encourage each other and hold each other accountable.  These descriptions reminded me of early Friends’ Second Day Morning Meeting, where ministers would come together to worship and provide each other with support and guidance.*   

After meeting with all of these ministers, either in person, by email, or over the phone, I wish there was some way to get them all together, so that we could all worship and share our experiences directly with each other.

*“By 1763, ministers either resident or visiting in London met regularly on Second Day (Monday) mornings for worship, mutual support, encouragement, and, occasionally, chastisement.”  Margery Post Abbott and Peggy Senger Parsons, Walk Worthy of Your Calling, p. 258.

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 8

Returning Home
“I wish I could have felt more spiritually nurtured upon return from traveling, when I almost felt like some Friends had forgotten about me.  My community was happy to see me, but I would have like to have had more check-ins about how I was recuperating [and] processing.”  Treye M, University Friends Meeting (North Pacific Yearly Meeting)
Traveling in the ministry is exhausting.  While ordinary travel can be tiring, travel in the ministry has the added components of trying to be present to God and to others for extended periods of time and sometimes having to give vocal ministry or presentations.  It is essential for meetings and support committees to provide support for ministers as they return, because the minister will probably feel tender.  As one example, I have found it especially helpful when Friends have given me a ride home from the airport so that I do not have to take the bus home.

Once the minister has recovered from traveling, it is important for meetings and churches to create space for ministers to bring back what they have learned and experienced.  Jon W, from Richmond Friends Meeting, commented that the important question to ask after ministry is “was I faithful?”  It is helpful for the minister to meet with a support committee to process how the travel went, especially if things seemed to not go well or as expected. There must also be time for the minister to communicate with the community as a whole.  

In my interviews, many Friends expressed deep sadness in not being able to share their experiences with their home faith communities.  It can be difficult for the minister to initiate this communication alone.  Sarah P, from Spokane Friends Church, noted that “the fact that folks didn’t invite me to share was decisive in whether things got shared or not,” but she felt that her meeting was missing out on its half of the experience of traveling.  Sarah H, from University Friends Meeting, said that she felt that her ministry in Palestine was to witness and carry stories back and it has been excruciating to not have space to share the stories.  Some mentioned that it felt supportive for individuals to follow up and ask about the ministry.

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]