Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Report on the School of the Spirit

[This is a report that I sent to the Lyman Fund and the NPYM Youth Opportunity Fund, two Quaker groups that gave me grants to attend the School of the Spirit's program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer.]

Two years ago, I began the School of the Spirit’s program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer.  I had no idea what to expect.  As I often do, I jumped in with both feet, and I am so glad that I did.  Doing this program is one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

My Spiritual Nurturer class met for eight residencies at the Avila Retreat Center in Durham, North Carolina.  I had never been to North Carolina before the first residency, and I found it lovely and foreign.  The climate, plants, and wildlife are very different from those in the Pacific Northwest.  I enjoyed the warm weather in the fall and spring, was surprised by the snow at one residency, and saw fireflies for the first time. 

When I told others that I was going to school, their first thought was often of reading and writing.  There was a lot of that, but the heart of the program for me was my class.  We shared deeply, and truly became a blessed community over the course of our two years together.  I am especially grateful for my small “koinonia” group―nine women who laughed and cried together as we shared our stories, our spiritual journeys, and a lot of really good chocolate.  Traveling to the residencies provided opportunities for me to get to know my classmates better, by staying with them in their homes and spending hours in conversation on the road.

The days at the residencies followed a contemplative rhythm:  the mornings began with individual spiritual practices before breakfast, then an hour of corporate worship, followed by class, Bible readings at lunch, free time, and time for our small groups.  Our worship as a community was deep and rich, with themes developing over the course of the residencies.  The core teachers accompanied us through challenging themes, and visiting teachers and ministers encouraged us to stretch and learn.  At each residency, a person of presence held us all in prayer.

The past two years have been a time of growth and transition for me.  In addition to doing the program, I felt called to travel in the ministry as a minister and an elder, I served as co-clerk for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference, and I followed a leading to move from Seattle, Washington to Salem, Oregon to become clerk of my meeting, Freedom Friends Church

One of the program requirements was to meet with a care committee once a month.  I actually had two care committees, one in Washington and one in Oregon.  The women who served on these committees did so much more than support me as I went through the School of the Spirit program―they provided care and accountability for my ministry in all its forms.  I am so thankful for them.

A theme throughout the program for me was finding my voice.  I have struggled with my call to ministry, and this program gave me opportunities to practice in a safe and supportive environment.  During the fifth residency, I had the chance to speak on a panel about “the other as a prophetic role,” and in the sixth residency, I was able to share how my church does semi-programmed worship.  Both of those experiences were wonderful.

The research projects allowed me to explore ministry in a broader sense, and how I relate to the Religious Society of Friends as a young person and a woman.  In my first paper, I interviewed 15 Young Adult Friends about their experiences traveling in the ministry, and wrote about ways in which meetings can provide spiritual support for those who are experiencing that call.  In my second paper, I shared stories of seven women from different branches of Friends who have been recorded as ministers.  I felt encouraged by my conversations with Friends in working on both of these projects, and I was glad to be able to share their stories with others.

The School of the Spirit program has been incredible and life changing for me.  I feel so blessed by the people I met through this program, and I know that I will continue to learn from this experience.  I am so grateful to the Youth Opportunity Fund and the Lyman Fund for giving me grants making it possible for me to be a part of the class.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  1. Thank you for this report. I know some Friends involved with this School, and am grateful to see evidence of their vision continuing to flourish.

  2. Nice to hear from you, Johan.

    Thanks, Liz!


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