Monday, July 25, 2011

Request for Support

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I have been offered one of the open places for the FWCC World Conference of Friends, which will take place in Kenya in April 2012. I have felt a clear leading to attend this conference, and I expect that it will be an amazing, life-changing experience.

Even though I will be attending the conference as an open place delegate, I will be representing my meeting, Freedom Friends Church. Freedom Friends does not have an official delegate for the conference, but when I applied for an open place, I told both my meeting and the conference organizers that I intended to represent my meeting. Freedom Friends was enthusiastic in its support of my leading. I am grateful for its care and I feel honored to represent the meeting to the wider world of Friends.

Although Freedom Friends is able to provide me with spiritual support, the meeting is unable to provide financial support for this ministry. I have been blessed with financial support from Friends Journal, which is covering the cost of my registration, and from my parents, who gave me British Airways miles to cover some of the cost of transportation. However, I still need to raise approximately $1,500 to cover the remainder of my travel costs (including airfare and vaccinations).

So I am writing to ask for support. If you feel so led, I would appreciate your support in the following ways:
  • Prayer. Please pray for me as I continue to prepare for this conference.
  • Financial support. If you can support me financially in this ministry, please email me.  My email address is ashleymwilcox AT gmail DOT com.
  • Suggestions for grants/scholarships. I plan to apply for travel grants from the PYM International Outreach Granting Group and the NPYM Youth Opportunity Fund. I would appreciate any other suggestions you may have for scholarships or grants.
Thank you for your prayers and support.

In faith,

Sunday, July 17, 2011


"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil."  Luke 4:1-2.
Last summer, a committee I was on met to discern whether it was time to lay the committee down.  It was a hard decision.  We all cared a lot about the work we were doing, we had worked hard, and we had not achieved the results we hope for.

During our meeting, Chris H suggested three questions for our discernment:
  1. Is it good work?
  2. Is it mine?
  3. Is it now?
These questions were very helpful.  We all knew that it was good work, but for some of us, it was not our work, at least, not at that time.

These three questions have come up for me several times over the past few months, in conversations with others and in my own attempts at discernment.  

When deciding whether to do something, I can get stuck on the first question and say "yes" to some work because I know that it is good, without considering whether it is mine.  It is easy to get distracted by all the need I see and lose focus on what God is calling me to do.  And I know I can hold on to things for too long.  It is important for me to realize when it is time for others to take up work that was once mine or might be mine at some point, but isn't right now.

Discernment is hard.  Each time I enter a period of discernment, I feel like I am back in the wilderness.  But it is helpful for me to remember that I have been here before and to remember the lessons I have learned so far along the way.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Being Home

I am not going to any yearly meetings this summer.  When I said that to some Friends recently, their response was, "Don't say that too loud!" as if a yearly meeting will suck me in because I am advertising my empty schedule.

This summer is so different from last summer, when I was released for ministry by a Margaret Fell Fund grant from Friends General Conference's Traveling Ministries Program.  I traveled to gatherings in five different states to worship with Friends.  I served as an elder, a minister, a conference organizer, and a representative of my yearly meeting.  It was an amazing time and I am so grateful to have had those opportunities.

At the time, I wrote about the challenge of finding balance and a rhythm in my day-to-day life.  Although my days look very different this summer, I am still trying to find that balance.  Now it is more about making time to pray in the mornings before I go to work and going for walks on my lunch break to remind myself to reconnect with God and nature.

This week is the FGC Gathering and I am not there.  I planned to go, I even registered, but then I became clear that I needed to stay home instead.  It has been hard for me in some ways, because I have a lot of friends who are there and who I miss, but I know that I am where I am supposed to be.

I have never been to the FGC Gathering, and it feels strange to miss an event that I have never attended, but I do.  I think it will be harder when others go to annual sessions for North Pacific Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting, which I have attended for the past two years.

Today, I read Peterson T's post about his experiences at the FGC Gathering and it made me laugh when he talked about the gluten-free drama.  It also reminded me of the time at NPYM annual session when I accidentally took a child's gluten-free toast instead of my own and smeared peanut butter all over it before realizing my mistake.  I felt horrible, like I had ruined everyone's breakfast.

And that's the thing about gatherings.  At times they are so wonderful―incredible things happen when Friends gather to spend time listening to God and to each other.  I have been fortunate to be a part of deeply grounded worship and to feel the presence of God among Friends.  But going to Quaker events also means unfamiliar beds and strange food and having to deal with a lot of people.  We all get cranky and sometimes we can be downright petty.

So this summer I am missing the spiritual highs and the lows.  I go to work each day and worship on first days at my home meeting, which is small but rich.  At times I feel insecure and worry that Friends will forget about me.  But I have been blessed by words from friends lately, reminding me that I don't know what impact my ministry will have, and that it's not about me anyway.

Another thing that is really different from last summer is that I am not moving.  Last year at this time, my house was filled with boxes.  Now I have been in my home for nearly a year, and it is so nice to know that I will be staying here for a while.

I have been on the go for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to have open space in my life, and I am learning to breathe into it.  As the space continues to open, I also have the opportunity to decide what I want to keep and what to let go.  And I am grateful.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gifts to Share - Part 8

“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”  I Timothy 4:14.
I felt honored and blessed in my conversations with these women.  I am grateful to them for sharing their stories with me with openness and candor.  They were honest about some of the difficulties they have faced, but expressed an amazing amount of joy in their ministries.  Many of them said that our conversation was a blessing for them too, in giving them space to reflect on their ministries.

I hope that these stories will be encouraging for other women discerning a call to ministry, and that they will inspire meetings to consider the gifts waiting to be called out in their communities.

The Ministers

Linda C, member of Housatonic Friends Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting (FUM-FGC)
§    First recorded in Croton Valley Friends Meeting (1996)
§    Transferred her membership and her recording to Housatonic Friends Meeting
    Patty L, member of Davidson Friends Meeting, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
    §    Recorded in Charlotte Friends Meeting, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) (late 1980s)
    §    Lay down her recording when she transferred her membership to Davidson Friends Meeting

    Ann M, member of South Bend Monthly Meeting, Illinois Yearly Meeting (FGC)
    §    First recorded in Chester River Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (1985)
    §    Transferred her membership and recording to Clear Creek Monthly Meeting, then jointly affiliated with Indiana Yearly Meeting (FUM) and Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting (FGC) (1987)
    §    Transferred her membership and recording to West Richmond Monthly Meeting, Indiana Yearly Meeting (1998)
    §    Lay down her recording when she transferred her membership to South Bend Monthly Meeting (2007)

    Peggy P, pastor of Freedom Friends Church (Independent)
    §    First recorded in Northwest Yearly Meeting (1994)
    §    Later recorded in Freedom Friends Church (2004)

    Darla S, pastor of Rivers Way Community, Northwest Yearly Meeting (EFCI)
    §    Recorded in Northwest Yearly Meeting (2010)

    Deborah S, member of Friendship Friends Meeting, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
    §    Recorded in Friendship Friends Meeting (1998)
    Deborah S, pastor of First Friends Meeting, North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM)
    §    Recorded in Iowa Yearly Meeting (1996)
    §    Transferred her membership and recording to North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM)


    Drayton, Brian. On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry.  Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, Philadelphia, PA (2006), especially pp. 164-78, “On Being a Recorded Minister,” and pp. 179-88, “Sample Annual Reports to Monthly Meeting.”

    Grundy, Martha Paxson. Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting.  Pendle Hill Pamphlet #347 (1999), especially pp. 17-22, “A Process for Recognizing and Recording Gifts.”

    New York Yearly Meeting pamphlet Recording Gifts in Ministry

    Northwest Yearly Meeting’s reading list for recording ministers

    [From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the stories of women from different branches of Friends who have been recorded as ministers.]