Monday, September 24, 2012

Clearness Committee Report

After my last post about the cost of traveling ministry, a number of people commented about spiritual support.  I wanted to provide an example of the kind of spiritual support I have received from my meeting, so I asked the members of the clearness committee who met with me before and after my trip to North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) if I could share the report they sent to FWCC Section of the Americas.  They said that I could.  I am grateful for the support and encouragement these Friends gave me and for the ways they have held me accountable.

September 7, 2012

To: FWCC c/o Friend  Ray T

Dear Friends,


It is a joy to be able to report back to you regarding Ashley W, her clearness process, her travel, and the rippling effect of her ministry and work.

Ashley is currently presiding clerk of
Freedom Friends Church in Salem, Oregon. She undertook a clearness process to discern a leading to participate in NCYM-Conservative. We sat with Ashley and in listening found the Spirit encouraging of this travel and that she was released to do it with joy.

Ashley reported back to Freedom Friends and to the clearness committee about her experience. Both reports brought new light to the Friends who heard about Ashley’s experiences at NCYM-C. Freedom Friends is considered convergent in many ways, and it encourages our hearts to find that a YEARLY MEETING could also be convergent and diverse in many ways. We learned about some of the tensions that NCYM-C holds in order to be faithful to their Lights.

Ashley’s clearness committee began a discussion about describing the “tools” that Ashley has in her “ministry toolbox”. We will continue this process, with Ashley, and with Freedom Friends. Here are some of the things that the committee said about Ashley’s tools:

“A quiet, yet powerful voice/leader. A conduit for connection between different branches of Quakerism. A mirror that reflects the connections/ similarities. A positive presence for FFC in the wider Quaker world.”  --Judy M.

“Ashley has an amazing ability to bring lightness and gravitas in turns both in and out of meeting for worship. Her knowledge of when to offer each of these gifts is definitely part of her toolbox. Ashley is a great communicator. Just like she is the elbow, I think it would be fair to say she is also a measuring tape and some spackle. She is skilled at assessment, taking the measure of a situation. And she seems to be able to fit herself in the cracks and help repair what should be a solid wall.  When I think of Ashley I think of laughter. Fully appropriate, in-place, holy laughter. When I think of Ashley I think of honesty. Even when it sucks to be honest. When I think of Ashley I think of grounding. The way she seeks to be fully grounded and present is a gift.”  --Susan B.

Here are my perceptions of Ashley’s toolbox for ministry. Ashley is a sensitive and brilliant person.  She is quiet, reserved, and very observant. She has been learning through the years to befriend her sensitivity. Sometimes she experiences powerful feelings that are her own, sometimes they are from the Spirit, and sometimes they are from individuals in her presence. She has been learning discernment and whether to act on the feelings/nudges, or to sit with them. As Ashley has learned, she has also modeled to our meeting. Ashley is serious about her faith and her process. I am inspired by her faith, and her process. Even so, her clearness committee invited her to “lighten up” and have fun at NCYM-C and to rest as she needed. We perceive that she did so, and did also have fun. This too is modeled to our meeting and the wider world of Quakers and people of faith.

At the end of August, I was asked to speak on a panel regarding convergent Quakers held by Western Friend at Corvallis Friends Meeting in Oregon. I asked Ashley to join me as my elder which worked well, as
she had wanted to attend also. When we arrived and the convener was speaking with me, I was led to encourage him to ask Ashley to be on the panel as well. He did so, and Ashley also sat on the panel and shared about diversity among NCYM-C Friends. Ashley was poised, well-spoken and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to share, even on such short notice. Ashley took the opportunity and was gracious and joyful in her sharing. She had no way of knowing she would be asked to share, and while it may have taxed her stamina for the weekend, she fully engaged in the opportunity and was well-received.

Ashley continues (as we all do) to learn about her stamina and how best to care for herself. She has learned to be flexible and roll with the unexpected. She is an encouragement and a model for our meeting, and for me. Thank you for your support for Ashley. I believe the things she has learned and is learning from the NCYM-C experience will continue to bear fruit for many months and years to come.


Alivia B, Pastor, Freedom Friends Church

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