Monday, August 13, 2012


The next class for the School of the Spirit Ministry's program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer will be starting in just a few weeks.  Mary Linda, who I met at North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative), will be in that class.  Over the past few days, she and I have been having an emailed conversation about my experiences with the School of the Spirit.  With her permission, I am posting some of that conversation here.

MARY LINDA:  What was the most surprising thing you learned from SotS?

ASHLEY:   I think the most surprising thing for me was how much I had to say. I struggled with the grand silences because a lot of the program for me was about finding my voice. Once I did, I didn't want to be quiet!

MARY LINDA:   What do you mean? Like learning to trust the intimacy of the group and yourself so you were able to share yourself? Or something else?

ASHLEY:   More like the group was a safe space for me to learn about myself, and that one of the things I learned was that I had a lot to say. Does that make sense?

MARY LINDA:   Yes, and it must have been a wonderful thing to come to realize. Has it carried forward to other aspects of your life?

ASHLEY:   Absolutely. I feel much more grounded and confident as a result of the program. Particularly in ministry, but the line between ministry and everything else is pretty blurry!

MARY LINDA:   Did anything disappoint you about your experience with SotS?

ASHLEY:   It was a little hard for me that people weren't very good at keeping in touch between the residencies. I think I felt that especially because I lived so far away from everyone. We were all so close when we were together, and there would be a flurry of emails right before and after each residency, but not an ongoing conversation.

MARY LINDA:   I can see that. How's it been since your class ended? Have you been able to maintain contact with the people you felt closest with?

ASHLEY:   Our last residency was in May 2011, so over a year now. I have been able to keep in touch with some, but not all. It depends a lot on how much they use email and social media. I see Charley most often, because she lives closest, but run into others occasionally. It was so good to see so many people at NCYM-C!

MARY LINDA:   It seemed like Old Home Week to me, for sure! I was happy to meet you and some other people who mean so much to Mark. What do you wish you'd done differently in regards to SotS?

ASHLEY:   That one is hard to answer. It felt like most things happened the way they were supposed to.  It did take me a while to realize that I needed a recovery day after the residencies, both because of the travel and because the residencies were pretty intense. If I could talk to myself before I started the program, I would probably say, "Don't worry so much, it's going to be great!"

MARY LINDA:  Knowing you from a distance for years via the Quaker blog-o-sphere, I only see what you've been led to share but you strike me as someone who was already deeply spiritually directed and faithful. How did your relationship with God change through and after SotS? What did you learn about God and yourself?

ASHLEY:   In some ways, the spiritual practices in SotS felt like a natural extension of what I was already doing. And I had already been traveling in the ministry for over a year before starting the program, so the travel felt a little like more of the same.

I'd say one of the biggest things for me was a sense of how expansive God's love is, for me and for others. Before starting the program, I was honestly worried that I didn't have room in my heart for all of these new people. Of course, I did, and for so many more that I met through SotS, directly and indirectly.

I think being a part of the class/community softened me. There were several times over the course of those two years where I would see someone do something thoughtless, and then turn around and be a clear channel for God's love. I came to see how everyone is a mixed bag---myself included---and God loves us all anyway.

I also learned how much support I need for ministry. That was hard for me because I like to think of myself as independent and self-sufficient, but I really need a lot of support. My care committees, my k-group, my class, and the two meetings I was a part of were all anchors for my ministry over those two years.


  1. Ashley, thank you for sharing your dialogue with Mary Linda. I miss you!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Catherine. I miss you too!


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