Tuesday, August 10, 2010


As I have traveled to various Quaker gatherings this summer, a lot of people have asked me what I do.  Or the people who know me ask, "What are you doing other than this?"  My answer is an unusual one in Quaker circles: I have been financially released for ministry this summer.  So this is what I am doing.

Back in April, it became increasingly clear that I had to quit my job.  I had been working off and on for months, and I thought that my current stint at work would end on its own.  But my boss kept adding on to it and asking me to stay a little longer.  For a while I said yes, then I knew I had to stop.  It was scary because I didn't have a lot of money, but it felt right.

Around the same time, I sent an email to Noah M and mentioned that there were several gatherings I wanted to attend over the summer, but I wasn't sure if I could afford them.  Noah asked if I had heard about the Margaret Fell Fund.  I had not.  The Margaret Fell Fund is a grant administered by Friends General Conference's Traveling Ministries Program, which provides "grants to monthly meetings in need of financial support for releasing their members for travel in the gospel ministry among Friends."  The grant covers the minister's living expenses while she is traveling in the ministry.

At the end of April, I quit my job, worked with my meeting to apply for the grant, and started traveling.  Near the end of May, I learned that my application was approved, and I was financially released for ministry for three months.

I was so relieved.  I had already planned my travels and had a clear sense of where I needed to go, so that didn't change, but now I could focus on what God was calling me to do without having to worry so much about money.  

Over the summer, I went to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Montana, and Oregon to worship with Friends.  While I was attending yearly meetings, I could focus on just being there, instead of worrying about "going back to work on Monday."  The fact that others took my ministry seriously enough to support it financially made me take it more seriously too.

My summer had a very different rhythm than my usual working life.  Between times of intense fellowship, I had weeks to decompress and focus on self-care.  I spent a lot of time listening: to God, to others, and to myself.  

I had to figure out what a life of ministry looked like on a day-to-day basis.  Frequently, it involved waking up, going for a run, having breakfast, spending time in prayer, and catching up on emails and phone calls.  I planned events and workshops, spent time reading and writing (though not as much as I expected!), and took a lot of naps.  Some days my life of ministry included a visit to the farmer's market or a long walk with a friend.

Next week, I will be going back to full-time, paid legal work.  While part of me is sorry that my summer of ministry is ending, it feels right to be going back to that kind of work now.  I am so grateful to the Traveling Ministries Program for the opportunity to focus on ministry for the past few months, and I know that when I do go back to paid employment, I will try to be more intentional about bringing the rhythm of prayer and listening to my daily life in that work as well.


  1. Boy, am I jealous. But good for you! You sound as though you are the better for this experience and it help me so the next time I'm at a breaking point I will seek some time away from my duties rather than feeling as though quitting is the answer.

  2. From Joe S:

    Dear Ashley, I tried to comment on the blog but it wouldn't let me. We are grateful for you presence at NPYM and for FGC for releasing you. Hard for me to believe that FGC would release one for gospel ministry, perhaps words left from an earlier time, but you were a gospel presence to us, and a light. Thank you.

  3. Pat - I'm sorry to make you jealous! It was hard to quit my job at a time when so many people are involuntarily out of work (as I have been at times). I agree, the time away was good for me and I hope I am the better for it.

    Joe - It was wonderful to see you at NPYM and thank you for your encouragement. I hope you will get a chance to visit NWYM sometime and share your light with more Friends in the Pacific Northwest.

  4. It's great that you had the courage to do that! I'm glad everything worked out so well. See you next month!
    With love,

  5. Thanks, Mark! I'm looking forward to seeing you next month too.

    With love,

  6. Ashley,

    I'm so glad you turned to Noah for a bit of well-timed guidance! And to Joe S. and other readers, there are a lot of misconceptions about what Friends General Conference does or doesn't do, so I'm glad Ashley can testify to one of FGC's newer programs. I've mentioned to some of the staff at FGC that they could do a better job at sharing with the wider world of Quakers the sorts of activities that occur that are not front-and-center on the website, including supporting Friends who travel in the ministry, providing support to yearly meeting clerks through small biannual workshops, etc.

    Ashley, I hope one day our paths will cross, perhaps at a yearly meeting other than our own!

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  7. Liz - Nice to see you here, as always. I think I might go to North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative next year. Want to meet up there?


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