Thursday, May 31, 2012

Deep Worship

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me."  Psalm 42:7.
I have had several conversations recently with Friends who are longing for deep worship.  In my experience, deep worship is a rare and powerful thing, impossible to fake. It is a gift from God, which can be nurtured by Friends who live deeply in the Spirit, but is not something you can manufacture.

Many Friends say that they want deep worship, but we are not always good at saying what that means.  For me, it is a corporate experience of the presence of the living God―a time of worship that is so drenched in the Spirit that everyone can feel it and we are all changed by the experience.  

I have most often experienced deep worship in silence, but unprogrammed Friends do not have the monopoly on it.  Sometimes the singing, prayer, and prepared messages in semi-programmed or programmed meetings for worship bring all of our hearts together so that we can better listen to the voice of God out of the silence.

Expecting to have deep worship every week at meeting may lead to disappointment, but we can always hope for it.  Here are a few of the things I have learned that can encourage deeper worship:
  • Keeping a daily spiritual practice.  There are many spiritual practices and it is important to find the right one for you―one that you can do on a regular basis.  Spiritual practices keep the embers of worship alive throughout the week.
  • Worshiping regularly with others who are seeking the same depth of worship.  In the School of the Spirit residencies, we spent an hour each morning in worship together.  On the first day, the worship was good, but could be a little superficial.  By the fourth or fifth day, the worship was deep and rich.
  • Coming to worship with the expectation that you will hear from God.  In our meetings, God speaks through us, directly and through the vocal ministry of other Friends.  We must prepare for that possibility each time we gather together and know that we may be changed by it.

When have you experienced deep worship?  What have you learned about how to encourage and prepare for it?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Recording Accounting

[I am in the process for being recorded as a minister at Freedom Friends Church.  There are several steps in this process and the most recent one was for me to meet with the Ministry and Oversight Committee to talk about my call to ministry and for all of us to consider a list of queries.  We met yesterday.  In preparation for that meeting, I wrote the following report, documenting the ministry I have been doing over the past few years.]

When people ask me to describe my ministry, I usually say that I have one message:
 Turn toward God, in whatever language you use for God.
 I have found that I have a lot of room to do ministry that is in line with that message.

My spiritual gifts: prayer, faith, writing, prophecy, and knowledge

I began attending Freedom Friends Church in November 2004 and have been a member of the meeting since October 2005.  I served as assistant clerk in 2010 and have been presiding clerk since January 2011.  I was a sojourning member of University Friends Meeting from November 2008 to July 2010.  During my time at University Friends Meeting, I served on the Steering Committee for University Friends Meeting’s Year of Discernment as well as various clearness committees and an ongoing care committee.

I have been a Public Friend since April 2008, the time when I became co-clerk of the planning committee for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference and when I began my blog (the two occurred within a few weeks of each other).  I began traveling in the ministry within a few months and continued to do so regularly for three years.  For travel in the ministry and travel to gatherings, I have carried three traveling minutes and one minute of service from Freedom Friends Church, and two letters of introduction and one traveling minute from North Pacific Yearly Meeting.

In 2009-11, I participated in and graduated from the School of the Spirit Ministry's program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer (eighth class).  During that time, I attended eight residencies in Durham, NC and completed two research projects: one on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry and one on the spiritual nurture of women who are recorded ministers.  I was a member of the panel on Being Other in Community (my focus was on the other as a prophetic role) in September 2010, and led semi-programmed worship in the style of Freedom Friends Church in November 2010.  I also wrote a final reflection paper, which included a statement of faith and a statement of my spiritual gifts.  As part of the program, I met with a spiritual care committee once a month.

Traveling Ministry
  • Visited Capitol Hill Friends in Washington, DC for worship, meals, and opportunities to meet individually with Friends (5/11)
  • Visited meetings and churches in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to share with Friends about the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference and lead educational programs about working across the branches of Friends (6/08 – 4/10)
  • Visited Northwest Yearly Meeting annual session in 2009 and 2010 as the North Pacific Yearly Meeting visitor
  • Served as an elder for Friends leading workshops and giving messages at Pendle Hill, Multnomah Monthly Meeting, and the School of the Spirit (5/10 – 4/11)

  • Led a thread group at the FWCC World Conference of Friends called “Convergent Friends: worship and conversation” (4/12)
  • Co-led a workshop at Northwest Yearly Meeting annual session with Wess D about Convergent Friends and the language we use to talk about the divine (7/10)
  • Co-led a workshop at North Pacific Yearly Meeting annual session with Dorsey G and David W on University Friend Meeting’s Year of Discernment (7/09)

Friends Organizations


Grants and Scholarships
  • Susan Bax Fund, Friends World Committee for Consultation: $620 grant to visit North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) annual sessions (2012); $975 grant to visit churches and meetings in the Pacific Northwest to share about the Quaker Women’s Theology Conference (2008)
  • Philadelphia Yearly Meeting International Outreach Granting Group: $300 grant toward the FWCC World Conference of Friends (2012)
  • Individual donations for travel to the FWCC World Conference of Friends: $1,140 and 90,000 frequent flyer miles
  • Youth Opportunity Fund, North Pacific Yearly Meeting: two $500 grants toward tuition for the School of the Spirit (2009 and 2010)
  • Lyman Fund: $2,000 grant toward tuition for the School of the Spirit (2009)
  • Sandra Cronk Memorial Scholarship Fund: $3,000 scholarship toward tuition for the School of the Spirit (2009)
  • Margaret Fell Fund, FGC Traveling Ministries Program: $3,800 grant to release me for Gospel Ministry for the summer (2010)

Spiritual Practices
  • Designated time in the morning for prayer (9/08 – present), read the Bible at night before bed
  • Meet with a spiritual director once a month (8/11 – present)
  • Met with a spiritual care committee quarterly, then once a month (7/08 – 7/11)
  • Exercise with intention: running, walking, yoga

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?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


We have had some lovely warm weather in Salem this past week, and it feels like summer around here already.  Summer is a busy time for Friends, between all the gatherings, conferences, and yearly meetings, and because I work full time, each summer I have to discern what I am feeling led to do.  As usual, my summer is booked, and I am looking forward to it!

Young women speaking at the 2010 women's conference
First is the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, which will be taking place June 13-17 in Menucha, OR.  This will be the ninth women's conference and the theme is “Living in the Life and Power: Inviting, Contemplating, and Enacting Grace.”  I will be leading a plenary with Darla S, pastor of Rivers Way Community, on "Inviting Grace."  Darla and I met this morning for breakfast and I am really excited about the direction we are planning to go with the plenary.  I am also grateful to have Ann S (next to me on the far right in the picture) as my elder as I deliver this message.  After the conference, I plan to submit my plenary talk as an article for a future issue of Western Friend.

On the fourth of July, my friend Kirsten K and I are planning to run in the Sauvie Island Flat Half-Marathon.  This race has become a tradition for us; although I missed it last year, I think this will be the fourth time we have run it together.  As the name suggests, the course is very flat, and the setting is beautiful.  Best of all, there is strawberry shortcake at the end.  I haven't been running as much as usual lately, and I am hoping this will motivate me to get into better shape!

Me and Mark W in "The Call"
A few weeks later, I will be heading across the country for North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) annual sessions.  Because my School of the Spirit residencies took place in North Carolina, I made many friends in NCYM-C.  I am thrilled to be able to visit them and looking forward to performing again in a play that my friend Charley B wrote about a young woman who experiences a call to traveling ministry.

Then, in August, I will be taking a long weekend to visit my family in Anchorage.  I am especially looking forward to seeing my nephew―I hear he has grown a lot since December!

Add in a couple weddings, some long walks, and a lot of time reading in my neighbors' hammock, and I think it should be a pretty good summer!

The irises currently blooming by my front door

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another Way (LGBT)

"And, having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they went home another way."  Matthew 2:12.
The World Conference of Friends took place at Kabarak University, which is a 4-5 hour bus ride from Nairobi.  On the bus ride there, I admit that was tired and over-stimulated, so I put my headphones on and slept for most of the trip.  Fortunately, the person sitting next to me woke me up to see some of the sights, including the Rift Valley and a chapel built by Italians during the second world war.

On the way back to Nairobi after the conference, the driver went a different way, and we got to see several things we had not passed by on the drive in, including a tea plantation and various parts of Nairobi.

Since getting home from the conference, I have spent a lot of time walking.  I don't have the energy to run as much as usual, so I have been walking in the evenings in addition to on my lunch break.  Salem is gorgeous this time of year―everything is in bloom.  I keep meaning to take my camera along with me.

One evening when I was walking in my neighborhood, I felt a nudge to take a different path than I usually do.  I am a creature of habit and tend to stick to the same routes, but I felt like God was telling me to go a slightly different way.  

But then I saw that I would have to pass by a bunch of teenage girls if I took the other path, so I ignored the nudge and continued on my way.  The nudge stayed with me though, so on my way back, I gave in and went on the other path.  Then I saw it: a beautiful, flowering purple tree―one of my favorites―that would have been directly visible from the other path.

It often takes something big, scary, or life-threatening to make us choose to go a different way, but I believe that sometimes God wants us to change just to show us something beautiful.

About 15 months ago, I (fairly quietly) came out as bisexual.  Responses were supportive, skeptical, and chagrined (or some combination).  I am grateful for the people who supported me; it hurt when people I loved told me that I had strayed from God's path.  The skepticism was understandable: I had always identified as straight, sometimes quite adamantly.

[SIDE NOTE: In my defense, when I wrote way back in 2008 that I was "as straight as humanly possible," that was intended as an inside joke for my friend Andrea, because it is something she used to say about me in college.  I knew that she would read the post and she knew that I was attracted to women.  I had no idea at that point that my blog would last so long or that it would reach such a wide audience!]

Since coming out, I have (also fairly quietly) been on a lot of dates with both women and men, which has been pretty fun.  I am still single, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I still have things to learn from being single than my orientation.  I am loved by many and I have lots of relationships that are important to me.  I know that I would not have the same energy to put into those relationships if I were focused on a primary partner.

As I mentioned in my report, there was some controversy at the World Conference when the the epistle by Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns was taken down.  The first time I heard about it was when it was raised in early worship.  My immediate impulse was to leave the room, because I didn't want to deal with other people's emotions around the topic, but I knew that walking out could be misconstrued.  Instead, I sat down on the floor for the rest of worship, trying to stay grounded.

Although the issues came up throughout the day, Friends mostly addressed them in their home groups, which I missed.  But that night, as I was waiting in line for dinner, a Friend asked me if I had a good Bible verse to respond to the passages saying that homosexuality is a sin.

When people ask me this question, my immediate response is no:  Proof-texting doesn't work.  For anyone.  Pulling out another Bible verse to respond to attacks is never going to change anyone's position.

After giving it a little more thought, I said that I only had one verse:
"By their fruits you will know them."  Matthew 7:20.
This is not original to me, but I am not sure where I got it (possibly Liz O?).  The point is that it is only by waiting to see what kind of fruit these relationships bear that we will know whether they are good or not.  The Bible also tells us that
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law."  Galatians 5:22-23.
It takes a while, but relationships do bear fruit.  And we can be changed by them; I know this experientially.
  • It is because I had friends in high school who were out as gay and lesbian that I came to believe that their love was not a sin.
  • It is because I have worshiped and worked with transgender people that I understand a little better the struggles that they face.
  • It is because I had brave examples of how to live faithfully as a bisexual that I was able to be honest about my own sexuality.
But this is not a one-way street.
  • It is also because I have relationships with people who honestly believe that homosexuality is a sin that I know those people are doing their best to live Godly lives.
We can change.  I have seen it.  It takes relationships and love and time.  

And then, suddenly, you see people who formerly voted for an exclusive definition of marriage at Williams-Sonoma, buying something off the registry for their friend's daughter's lesbian wedding.  Not because they have changed what they believe, but because they love their friend and her daughter, and they want to celebrate with them.

Maintaining a position is easy; relationships are hard.  But that is the work.  And I have faith that we can all go home another way.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

FWCC World Conference Report

Report on the FWCC World Conference of Friends
April 17-25, 2012, Kabarak University, Kenya
Being Salt and Light: Friends living the Kingdom of God in a broken world

“You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Matthew 5:14.
Pastor Judith bringing the message
 I arrived in Kenya on April 12 and spent my first five days there on a pre-conference tour of Nairobi with Friends from several countries.  As part of the tour, we visited a number of Friends churches in Nairobi Yearly Meeting.  The Kenyan Friends we met were overwhelmingly kind, welcoming, and hospitable.  A highlight for me was meeting Pastor Judith and visiting her meeting, Nairobi West Friends Church.  After their energetic, programmed worship, Pastor Judith invited me into her home, and the Friends there would not let us leave until after we had enjoyed soda and peanuts.  Another highlight was seeing the animals (and getting stuck in the mud) in Nairobi National Park.  The members of my tour bonded by singing songs about salt and light in English and Swahili as we waited for the park ranger to come pull us out of the mud with his tractor.  I am grateful for the patience and grace of George O (Nairobi YM), our tour guide, and our driver, Joseph.  On the last night before we left for the conference, most of the people on my tour met for worship, which ended up being some of the sweetest worship I experienced while I was traveling.

The FWCC World Conference took place April 17-25, with nearly 850 Friends who gathered from meetings and churches in 51 countries.  I did quite a bit of ministry while I was at the World Conference, which fell loosely into three categories: leading the convergent Friends thread group, eldering, and giving messages in meeting for worsh

Convergent Friends thread group, day 3
The thread groups took place for an hour and a half during the afternoon of the first three full days of the conference.  There were about 30-40 people who attended my convergent Friends thread group each day.  On the first day, we spent most of the time on introductions, then had a short semi-programmed worship in the style of Freedom Friends.  On the second day, we had more conversation, listing dozens of words we use to describe the divine on the board and talking as a group and in partners about the language we use for God and our experiences of different kinds of Friends.  We closed with worship sharing about how we had seen God at work that day.  On the third day, we focused on prayer, including Wess D’s stations of the Lord’s Prayer activity, which was quite popular.  My hope for the thread group was that we would feel the presence of the living God among us, and I think that we did. 

For much of the conference, I felt clear about why I was there and what I was supposed to do.  As a result, I felt released from doing anything on the schedule that I did not feel directly led to do.  I have a tendency to do too much at this type of gathering, and that feeling of being released served me well and helped me to avoid some of the drama that others encountered at the conference.  For example, many of the Young Adult Friends (YAF) felt hurt by the fact that they could not reach unity on an epistle.  Although I did not feel led to attend the YAF meetings, I was later able to serve as an elder at a meeting for healing that some of the YAFs organized.  Similarly, I did not feel led to go to my home group after the first day, and instead took that time for rest and prayer.  Later in the conference, there was some controversy about the epistle by Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns being taken down, but it was primarily addressed in the home groups, so I did not have much to do with that.

Overall, I was surprised by the amount of eldering I did at the conference.  I did not go intending to elder, but opportunities arose while I was there, both formally―sitting on the facing bench during the worship organized by the Section of the Americas (English speaking), being invited to hold the meeting of the Section of the Americas in prayer, and in the YAF meeting for healing―and informally, in sitting with Friends in worship and in conversation.  As I have said in the past, I feel like I am about 75% minister and 25% elder, and the balance at the conference felt good to me.

I felt led to stand and give messages in meeting for worship several times over the course of the conference.  Although this felt easier than it sometimes has in the past, it is still a hard thing for me.  Some of the messages felt strong, prophetic, and challenging (for me as much as anyone else!), but I also was blessed with opportunities to give joy-filled messages.  I felt on the whole that I was faithful with what I was given, and this is still an area where I am growing.
Me and Lucy

Throughout my time in Kenya, I felt like God was teaching me a lesson about support, abundant support.  This was grounded in the support I received from f/Friends and family before I left and personified while I was there in Lucy F (North Pacific YM), who served as my elder.  Lucy appeared the first night I arrived, before we went on different pre-conference tours, and gave me a much-needed hug after 30 hours of travel.  In a conference of 850 people, I found Lucy just about any time I thought of her, which felt like a miracle.  Lucy was an ideal elder for me there: after serving on my support committee for two years, she knows how I am when I do ministry, and she could make me laugh.

 An experience I had in the dining hall at Kabarak provided a concrete illustration of the kind of spiritual support I received during the conference.  It is a pattern of mine that I have a hard time eating and getting enough sleep when I do spiritual work for any extended period of time, and the travel and malaria medication I was taking exacerbated those tendencies.  In addition, the dining hall was crowded, noisy, and the tables were in constant rotation, with up to a dozen introductions within a single meal.  There was plenty of food, but it was high in starch and meat, which is very different from what I usually eat.  The vegetarian options were better, but the line was always long and I felt guilty eating there because I had not registered as a vegetarian.  In general, I felt overwhelmed by the dining hall and I dreaded going to meals.

The dining hall
 One night, I went to the dining hall in a hurry.  I had something to do right after the meal, so I didn’t have time to wait in the vegetarian line.  When I got up to where the food was being served, I could not face eating the meat, so I asked the server to give me rice and just put some of the gravy from the meat on the rice.  He said, “Oh, do you want beans?” and quickly disappeared with my plate.  A minute later, he returned with beans on my rice!  I thanked him and continued down the line to pick up utensils.  Before I could get them, a Kenyan Friend I didn’t recognize said, “Oh, Ashley, you need utensils!” and put them on my plate.

In the same way, I felt like spiritual support appeared without me even having to ask.  An example of this support occurred on the afternoon after my last thread group session.  I gave the thread group everything I had, and I felt extremely tired and vulnerable when it was over.  As Lucy and I left the classroom where the thread group took place, we ran into Sharon F (Philadelphia YM).  Sharon said she had been thinking of me and asked where I was going.  I told her I was on my way to pastoral care with my elder.  She said, “good,” and continued on her way.  After Lucy and I debriefed at pastoral care for a while, it was clear that they needed to close the room.  I stepped outside to get some water and ran into my roommate, Alex Z (Southern Appalachian YM).  She said, “I was just thinking of you!” and asked how I was doing.  She then proceeded to escort me back to our dorm room and helped ground me for the work ahead.

Friends gathered in the auditorium for worship
It would be impossible to name all of the other people who supported me throughout the conference, but I would like to express my gratitude for a few more people in particular:
·    Kristin O-K (North Carolina YM Conservative), Carrie H (Northwest YM), and Joe S (North Pacific YM) for their prayers and help with the thread group
·    Emily S (North Carolina YM Conservative) and Charley and Lynn B (Alaska Friends Conference) for providing a hedge of protection around me the morning after my thread group was over
·    Colin S (Indiana YM) for lending me his cell phone so I could call my Mom on her birthday
·    Aimee M (Northern YM/Northwest YM) for sitting with me two times as I struggled with difficult ministry in meeting for worship and for her pastoral care
·    And all the people (some of whose names I don’t even know!) who prayed for me, sat with me, gave me hugs, encouraged me, and fed me

This report feels like a beginning to sharing my experiences at the World Conference.  In exchange for covering my conference registration fees, I plan to write two articles for Friends Journal: a shorter piece on my experiences visiting Friends in Nairobi Yearly Meeting and a longer piece on my experience of doing ministry at the World Conference.  In addition, I am sure I will have lots of other stories and experiences that arise over the coming days, weeks, and months.

I want to end by expressing my gratitude: to Freedom Friends Church for sending me with love and a traveling minute, to the PYM International Outreach Granting Group for its grant, and to all of my f/Friends and family, near and far, who sent prayers, financial support, and love, and who made this trip possible.  Thank you.

Ashley Wilcox

May 6, 2012

A view from my room at Milele Guest House

Friday, May 4, 2012


"Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all and hold on to what is good . . ."  I Thessalonians 5:19-21.
One of my spiritual gifts is prophecy. 

I have said that sentence so many times, I forget sometimes that it might sound strange to others.  Regardless, it is true.  I have had that gift affirmed by Friends many times, in earnest and teasingly (friends who know me well like to say things like, “And then Ashley said, in her prophetic way . . .” or “How did you know that I needed that?  You must be a prophet!”).

Of course, when I say it for the first time to someone new, that inevitably leads to a discussion of what prophecy means.  My personal definition of prophesying is:  Telling the truth, all the time.  Thomas Merton has a much fancier definition:
To prophesy is not to predict, but to seize upon reality in its moment of highest expectation and tension toward the new.  This tension is discovered not in hypnotic elation, but in the light of everyday experience.
(Borrowed from Jan Hoffman and Kenneth Sutton’s piece in Walk Worthy of Your Calling, p. 153.)

Merton's definition also works for me―I tend to see things both as they are and as they might be, which can be quite painful at times.  Perhaps a more palatable way to say it is that I am intuitive and empathetic, with a gift for speaking to the present moment.

One thing I have learned is that prophets are mirrors, not problem-solvers.  The prophet's job is to deliver the message; it is up to the people listening to decide what to do with it.  In practical terms, that means I usually don't have answers when people ask me, "What are you going to do to fix this problem you have named?"

I am not alone.

Far from it.  There are many others like me―what an older Friend recently referred to as my "litter."  Young adult Friends with strong, prophetic voices, doing powerful ministry in spite of the odds.

We recognize each other, sometimes without ever having met.  The forms of our ministry vary, but we see the same call in each other.  We stay in touch over long distances, through email and social media.  When there are opportunities for us to meet in person, either individually or in groups, the energy is amazing.  But those opportunities are often few and far between.

There is a high level of burnout in this group, for a variety of reasons.  The work is hard.  Although a few of us have found ways to support themselves through ministry, most have other jobs in addition to doing this work.  Some of us have spiritual support from our meetings, others do not.  We feel the pressure of representing our generation, that there is little room for error. 

And sometimes it feels like we are yelling but no one has ears to hear . . . or they listen only long enough to shut us down.

After burning out, some leave Friends altogether.  But others of us stay, because this is our home.

 I recently had the opportunity to gather with some of these ministers at the World Conference of Friends.  I have connected with others since returning home.  My interactions with these Friends were enlivening and challenging, and gave me fresh energy for the work ahead.  

I know that we can't stay at these gatherings forever, that our work is also to go back out in the world.  But it also feels wrong for us to go back to our individual struggles to make ends meet, each of us trying to figure out how to do this ministry on our own.

I am left with the question:  What would the Religious Society of Friends look like if this rising group of ministers had the support, nurture, and accountability to thrive?