Joys of the Quaker Way—Leading Unfolds into Ministry
October 26, 2014 § 1 Comment
That first leading was to write a book of biblically based eco-theology, about which I knew almost nothing. So I launched into a study of Christian earth stewardship and I followed the trails of biblical references in those books, studying the passages they referred to on their own in Bible commentaries, and then following the trails that this study opened me to.
To kickstart the project, I wrangled the money to go to Pendle Hill for a term in the winter of 1991, and I loved it so much that I wrangled the money to stay for another term. At Pendle Hill, especially in the Quakerism classes I took with Bill Taber and conversations we had, I learned to pursue this leading and the written ministry it led to in the context of the faith and practice of Quaker ministry.
I had been writing already for some time. Even before I became a Quaker, my writing life and my spiritual life had been closely tied, though I was mostly writing fiction and poetry. Then, as a Friend, I wrote the first draft of New York Yearly Meeting’s new Faith and Practice section on earth stewardship and a bunch of other short essays. But I had not yet come to think of this writing in the context of the faith and practice of Quaker ministry in the focused way I found at Pendle Hill.
Now I had a clear direction and I had a framework for understanding what I was doing as part of an ancient tradition.
A few years later, just when I thought I was ready to start writing the book, I heard about and applied for Earlham School of Religion’s Patrick D. Henry Scholarship for Christian Writers. They accepted my proposal and I went to Earlham for a term to begin writing the book.
The scholarship included the tuition for their course on Writing as Ministry plus a residency in D. Elton Trueblood’s library there, a beautiful brick one-story cottage with a huge fireplace and windows all around, a wide ledge above bookcases on all the walls below the windows, and several huge library hall-sized oak tables. For the first time, I could lay all my books and my notes out where I could get at them.
It was heaven. It was pure joy. I spent two months in an ecstatic creative outpouring of material. Only the first term at Pendle Hill had been such a sustained immersion in joyful surrender to G*d’s wish for me.
Thus began in earnest my calling to a ministry of religious writing. Two decades now of Quaker and biblical writing, guided, when I am in the Life, by the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
My leading had unfolded into ministry. And it has been full of joy, a sustained undercurrent of fulfillment spiced with moments of near-ecstacy when an opening comes from the study, or the words are pouring out of me feeling pure and unbidden for minutes on end, or even days, as it was at Earlham and has been at times since.