Friday, May 28, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 3

Supporting and Encouraging Leadings
“In the early days of Friends, it seemed as though ministers sprang up from the earth like watered crops.  Now it seems as if this gift is the rare tree emerging from a crevice in the rock.  We marvel at its tenacity, but it does not occur to us to apply fertilizer.”  Margery Post Abbott & Peggy Senger Parsons, Walk Worthy of Your Calling: Quakers and the Traveling Ministry
For many of the Friends I talked to, they began traveling in the ministry before they knew what to call what they were doing.  Several Friends spoke of individuals who had acted as mentors for them.  It was helpful for them to have other recognize, support, and encourage their leadings.  Young Friends who feel called to travel in the ministry may have a difficult time asking for support, or knowing what kinds of support they need.  Several ministers said how grateful they were to others who suggested forms of support and helped them find the support they needed.

Many meetings and churches have experience with providing clearness committees for Friends who are getting married or need support in discernment.  When a young Friend expresses a leading to travel in ministry, a clearness committee is a good place for the meeting to start helping the Friend discern how she is being called.  If it becomes clear that the Friend is called into ongoing service or ministry, the meeting should provide an ongoing support and accountability committee for the minister.

A support and accountability committee functions in some ways like a clearness committee.  Friends meet and worship together, the minister shares how she sees the Spirit at work, and the committee may ask clarifying questions or mirror back to the Friend things that seem important or ways in which the Spirit seems to be moving.  A support and accountability committee differs from a clearness committee in that it is ongoing, instead of meeting just once, and it’s purpose is to provide support for the minister that is specific to his or her ministry.  Support might include being in contact with the minister while she is traveling by phone or email, praying for the minister, helping the minister find an elder or traveling companion, and acting as a liaison between the minister and the rest of the meeting.  It is important for the committee to allow the minister to use spiritual language that is comfortable and meaningful for her.

I have had wonderful experiences with my own support committee.  It started out, as many of them do, as a clearness committee.  I was feeling led to ministry in various ways and having a hard time seeing how they all related, so I asked my meeting for a clearness committee.  After we met, the committee suggested that we meet again in a few months.  We have continued to meet for two years.  When I began the School of the Spirit program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer, my committee became more formal and began to meet once a month.  I am grateful for a place to worship with Friends and I feel supported and challenged by them each time we get together.  They have been able to watch me grow and change in how I approach ministry and can ask me whether I am being faithful.

Because I am sojourning with University Friends Meeting and plan to return to Freedom Friends Church, I actually have two support committees, one in Washington and one in Oregon.  Before each meeting, I write a page or two about my condition and send it to both groups.  I meet with the committee in Washington, and someone takes notes during the meeting.  The notes go out to both committees.  After I move to Oregon this summer, I will continue to follow this practice, but meet with my committee in Oregon.

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

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