Monday, May 3, 2010

Reflection Paper

In preparation for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, we have asked each woman attending the conference to write a brief reflection paper on the theme, Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends, and three quotes:
From: 2 Timothy 1:5-7
I’m reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and now, I’m certain, in you as well. That’s why I want to remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, of self-discipline.

From: Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, p. 27, Pendle Hill Publications.
“Many Friends today are crying out for spiritual mentors, for ministers and elders who are lovingly steeped in our tradition. Some Friends hunger for a deeper relationship with God, for a connection with a divine power that heals and empowers. We long for wise and loving role models and examples.”

From: Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality Vol. II, 1999.
“As meetings became settled, elders performed a variety of functions, according to their gifts and leadings. . . . [A]ll gifts and ministries were for building up the spiritual life of the meeting and the Society: directing and re-directing people to the Spirit of God, to the Inward Christ, the Light, the Inward Teacher, the Guide, the one true Priest and Shepherd. It was clearly understood that any member of the meeting might be called to some part of this service, but that some were specifically led by the Spirit at any given time.”
This is my reflection paper, which will be shared with all of the women attending the conference.


Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends

As a child, I had frequent nightmares.  Seeing any sort of violent picture or watching a violent movie would give me terrible dreams.  I convinced my younger sister to share a bed with me for years to try to keep the bad dreams away (though I told her that it was because she might have nightmares, not me).  When I talked to my mom about my bad dreams, she gave me a Bible verse, II Timothy 1:7.  In the translation she taught me, the verse was, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind.”

I think the verse was helpful for me when I was younger, and the translation we are using for this conference seems like an appropriate message for me now.  “For God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, of self-discipline.”  I sometimes act as if God had given me a spirit of timidity.  I resist giving vocal ministry until I am visibly shaking and my breath is ragged and it is clear to everyone around me that I have to speak.  I dread public speaking and I am embarrassed when I am the center of attention.  But God keeps telling me to speak, so I do.

As I have helped plan this conference over the past two years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the theme.  The first time I heard Quakers use the word “elder,” I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew it sounded like a bad thing.  These Friends were discussing someone’s inappropriate behavior in meeting and having to “elder” that person.  Since then, I have learned a more positive definition of elder: someone who names and nurtures the spiritual gifts of people in a meeting and cares for the spiritual needs of the meeting as a whole.

Part of the work I have done to prepare for this conference has been to visit Friends meetings and churches and invite women to come.  Sarah P and I have gone to many meetings and churches to worship with Friends and talk about our experiences with the conference.  Although speaking in front of groups has been challenging for me, overall, this travel in the ministry has been a very good experience.  Friends have been welcoming and we have had wonderful discussions about the different ways we talk about and experience the Spirit.

I am so grateful to all of the women who have been walking alongside me for the past two years.  Each time the planning committee met, elders would hold us in prayer.  I have a wonderful support committee made up of women who meet with me once a month to worship, listen, and hold me accountable as I try to discern what I am called to do.  As Sarah and I have traveled and worked together, we have tried to be intentional about our spiritual friendship, giving each other space to talk about how God is at work in our lives.  I am also thankful for all the friends who have checked in with me and given me phone call pep talks.

Many people have commented on how young Sarah and I are to be co-clerking the planning committee.  When I attended the last women’s conference, I was so impressed by the amount of experience the women at the conference had.  I met women who had served as leaders in their meetings, churches, and in the wider Quaker world.  I look up to these women as mentors and elders, and I hope that this conference will provide space for women to share what they have learned with each other, across lines of age and tradition.

Setting aside time to listen to God and to listen to each other is a powerful thing.  As much as I have been trying to plan this conference, I know that I can only do so much.  I look forward to hearing what each person will bring as we gather together to listen.

[If you are interested in attending the conference, registration is open until June 1 on our website.  We are also accepting donations for scholarships.]

2 comments:

  1. It is not a surprise that women meet and network on issues of their experience of faith. I have noticed that men fall short in this area, preferring meeting to talk about what they do rather than how they are spiritually.

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