Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eldering II

". . . the signals we give―yes or no, or maybe―
should be clear; the darkness around us is deep."
William Stafford, A Ritual to Read to Each Other
I have written in the past about what is like for me to work with a minister as an elder.  This post is about what it is like for me to work with an elder as a minister.

In doing ministry, I have had the opportunity to work with many different elders: young and old, women and men, and Friends from liberal, conservative, and evangelical yearly meetings.  They have all been wonderful and gifted in different ways.

At one of the School of the Spirit residencies, I was asked to speak on a panel about Being Other in Community, and I asked my classmate Margie D to elder for me.  She had never eldered before, and had a lot of questions about what that would involve.  That was good for me―I had mostly worked with more experienced elders, and Margie's questions made me think about what I really needed.  Afterward, she said she was glad that I was the first person she eldered for, because I was so specific.

In a few weeks, I will be bringing a message during one of the plenaries at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference.  I am very fortunate to have Ann S as my elder for this talk.  Ann was on my support committee for three years and has served as my elder in the past; we know each other quite well.

Still, each ministry is different, and I had to spend some time thinking about what kind of eldering would be helpful for me this time.  Over the weekend, I sent Ann the following email:
Here is what I have in mind for eldering:  I would like to meet for worship at some point before the plenary (preferably that morning, but the night before would be okay if that works better).  I would like you to sit near me when I speak and hold me in prayer.  During the break, I would like you to make sure I am eating a snack and drinking water, and, if possible, keep people away from me.  After the plenary is over, I would like to walk with you to lunch (you don't have to eat with me, just make sure I get there!).  And, finally, I would like to get together at some point later that day to debrief about the plenary.
Even though Ann is a dear friend, I was nervous sending the email.  It is hard to ask for what I need!  But Ann responded that she was touched and impressed that I had thought it through so carefully.

The next day, I received an email from Jane S, another woman attending the conference, who is organizing a panel to speak about the FWCC World Conference.  I wrote Jane back and said that, because I would be speaking in another plenary, I would not be able to be on the panel.  That was hard for me too―it is always hard to say no, even when I am clear!

Jane wrote back quickly and thanked me for my prompt and helpful response.  Then she asked, "Do you have support planned for your time of speaking?"  I was so grateful that she understood, and grateful that Friends here have a shared understanding of the kind of support we need for ministry.

I am curious to hear from other ministers and elders:  
  • Elders, what do you do to prepare for ministry?  What kinds of things are helpful to know from the minister in advance?  

  • Ministers, what do you ask your elders to do?  What have they done that has been especially helpful?

1 comment:

  1. I've never had solid eldering for my ministry. When i asked for it the first 2 times i was asked to speak for FWCC, no one knew what i was talking about. One fFriend did go for a walk with me before a plenary talk and let me run thru the points the Spirit had led me to in preparing, but as i planned to speak from leading in the Silence, that was all i had. She did not understand what i meant when asked to pray for me and didn't know if she could "hold me in the Light".
    . When i was a released minister, i had an Oversight Committee, but no one on it felt called to be an elder - they only gathered if i convened a meeting. So both times i just acted as clerk of my own support committee... When i've been on another's committee, she resented my suggesting that there was eldership involved: she wanted only a group to rubberstamp her decisions after she made them. But she did appreciate our holding her in the Light.
    . This year i'm traveling as elder with a traveling minister, and i look forward to it a lot as he clearly knows what he needs and wants, and finds that i give it to him without being asked. I'm never clear what i do, other than pray and hold him in the light as i meditate. That can involve visualizing the upcoming event and (fore-)seeing what he will do and how he will respond to questions that arise. I never tell him what i see in visioning. But i constantly remind him to turn to the Guide and that leads him without error. During his talks (we've done only one so far) as i hold him in the Light, that involves really really Listening... down deep and totally attentive. He can tell if do. And that means i know just what he's talking about when he debriefs, so i'm able just to keep listening.


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