“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7.A lot of my ministry this year has been connected to Candler School of Theology, where I am halfway through the three-year M.Div. program. I completed my second semester of contextual education working as a chaplain intern at Lee Arrendale State Prison in the spring semester. It was good and challenging work. A highlight for me was leading music at a Good Friday service with two of the women in prison.
I am doing my second year of contextual education in Atlanta Friends Meeting. I spend eight hours a week focusing on five areas of ministry: administration, liturgy (worship and preaching), mission and outreach, pastoral calling and congregational care, and teaching. These categories do not always fit exactly in the context of an unprogrammed Friends meeting, but I have been able to find ways to engage with the meeting in each area. For example, I am on the Ministry and Worship committee, I started a monthly meeting for worship at Candler, and I facilitated a panel on sexuality and Quaker identity. I have also enjoyed providing pastoral care for some of the youngest Friends in the meeting.
At school, I am serving as the chaplain of Sacred Worth (Candler’s student group for LGBTQ students and allies). As chaplain, I am on the executive board and I hold office hours and have a confidential email. I enjoy meeting with people and helping to build this community within Candler. In the fall semester, I was a discussion leader for Early Church History, which felt like another opportunity to provide pastoral care for seminary students.
As the only Quaker at Candler I find myself representing Friends often. In the past year, I have taken a number of classes that have helped me discern my direction in ministry and have given me tools for the work ahead, including Nonprofit Leadership and Management, Sexuality in the Bible, and Discernment for a Sustained Life of Ministry. I especially enjoyed my Preaching in a Secular Age class this past fall, where I was able to give a message out of open worship in the manner of Friends, working with an elder.
I also had the opportunity to travel quite a bit this year. In February, I spent a long weekend in Philadelphia observing a Friends Journal board meeting. While I was there, I got to spend time with several Friends and Jon W interviewed me for the QuakerSpeak project (I was featured in the QuakerSpeak video “Quakers and Women in Ministry” and a Friends Journal video on my recording process). In April, I gave the Friday night message for Friends World Committee for Consultation’s Living Waters Consultation in High Point, NC. It was a joy to work with Deborah S as my elder and I felt very supported and welcomed by Friends there.
I spent the summer living with my parents in Anchorage, working at a law firm. It was great to be able to spend time with my family there, especially my nieces and nephew and grandparents. In June, I visited Washington and Oregon for a few weeks, and was able to see many f/Friends and family. At the end of the trip, I went to the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference, where I led a workshop on prayer. Later in the summer, I visited Friends in Fairbanks and worshiped with Chena Ridge Friends Meeting. I also worshiped with Anchorage Friends Meeting. On my way back to Atlanta in August, I visited family in Oakland. In October, I visited Friends in Nashville and attended North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Interim Body Meeting. Although it was wonderful to see friends and family in all of these places, I was aware that, no matter where I go, I will be far from people I love.
I published an article in the March issue of Friends Journal called “Sending Forth: The Importance of Financial Support in Ministry.” I have also continued posting on my blog, though most of my writing this year has been for class assignments.
My self-care this year has been good. I see a spiritual director and a therapist regularly, and I have an anchoring committee through Atlanta Friends Meeting that is currently serving as my site supervisors for contextual education. Over spring break, I went on a silent retreat at Green Bough House of Prayer. One of my favorite things this year has been monthly gatherings for Atlanta Beer and Hymns (recently featured on Fox News!). I have continued spiritual practices of prayer, reading the Bible, and exercise, and added drawing and coloring mandalas.
Looking ahead, I am planning to lead the Atlanta Friends Meeting Gathered Meeting Retreat in March. I also hope to spend the summer in Greensboro, NC, as an intern with First Friends Meeting. I am aware that I have been moving a lot and I am often on the edges of various groups, and I am feeling ready to find a place to settle for a while after I finish school. I am grateful to Friends at Freedom Friends Church and Atlanta Friends Meeting for your support for my ministry, as well as the support and prayers I receive from so many others.