March 2, 2020 § 1 Comment
One of the fundamentals of Quaker spirituality is the faith and practice of Quaker ministry—watching, waiting, listening for when we may be called into some service on God’s behalf, and answering that call with faithfulness. One of the most important roles of the Quaker meeting is to nurture this faith and practice in our members, to help members who have some prompting of the spirit with discernment—is this a true leading or not?—and to support the minister when we are clear that they have in fact been called.
Every ministry faces obstacles. Every minister has moments of doubt, confusion, worry, and/or frustration in the face of outward obstacles and inward vagaries. So it’s really important that a meeting have a faithful culture of eldership, embodied in corporate systems of discernment and support, in the hands of earnest and caring Friends. The benefits are many:
- Supports the ministry. Structures and processes in the meeting for the eldership of ministry answer that of God in the minister, they protect and further the work, and they serve the motion of love in the world which the minister serves. They serve the the work of the Spirit in the world.
- Supports the life of the meeting. These structures and processes integrate the minister and the ministry into the life of the meeting, bring the meeting into the work, and deepen the spiritual life of the meeting as a whole.
- Supports the elders. These structures and processes also deeply enrich the spiritual lives of those who care for the minister and her or his work. I have served on a couple of support groups for Friends who carry a ministry, and I want to testify to how important and rewarding this service is. I’m serving on one now, and literally every time our little group meets, we feel the Spirit moving within us and among us in love; it’s been one gathered meeting after another.
The spiritual nurture of Quaker ministry is a profound blessing all the way around.
So, some queries:
- What do you and your meeting do to share the faith, practice, and history of Quaker ministry, so that members really understand this aspect of Quaker spirituality, know how to approach the meeting when they feel they might have a leading or ministry, and feel confident that they will receive the support they need?
- Do you sponsor religious education programs on Quaker ministry, for both adults and children?
- Do you have members who know this tradition well enough to teach it or who are willing to study it and then teach it when they feel ready?
- Do you have members who are following some leading or carrying some ministry already, who could share their experience with the rest of the meeting and/or who might need your support?
- Does your meeting have a committee that is prepared to provide corporate discernment and to support of leadings and ministries, with Friends experienced in this kind of eldership, or Friends eager to learn by studying and doing? This need not be a dedicated committee with this charge only, but if it is your ministry and worship committee, or some other committee with a broader charge, is the eldership of ministry on its agenda and receiving proper attention?
- Do you have readily available resources that can guide these elders and inform your ministers in the faith and practice of Quaker ministry?
- Does your meeting library have some essential materials on Quaker ministry?
- Has your worship and ministry committee gathered the many resources available online into your institutional memory somehow, especially if you don’t have a meeting library or it’s not complete?
In my next post, I plan to offer these kinds of resources to make this part of the meeting’s job easier.