Yesterday, I had tea with a fFriend, during which we had a brief conversation about gifts and "our measure of Light." What I didn't mention at the time was that I have been hungry to understand how it is that Friends name gifts for one another, and how Friends help bring these gifts forward. If anyone can make this implicit process more explicit, I'd be grateful.
I've been keeping my eyes and ears open about this question, too. I've run into a few Friends who will openly say, "You have a gift for this-or-that." Even I myself have mentioned to another, "I believe, So-and-So, that you have a gift in doing such-and-such." But it feels insufficient, and I am only now realizing that it may have something to do with being desirous to have those gifts named and affirmed by a faith community, corporately. Not in the sense of being recorded, but in the sense that when a specific talent or gift is needed, the community has a collective Light Bulb atop their heads that says, "Of course! Let's call on Friend Bessie for that!"
I hope you get my meaning.
It's like the difference between your parent or partner saying, "You're so good at that," as compared to when a group of people who know you less well invite you to do something, "because you're so good at that." The first one we doubt because we interpret it as coming from a sense of duty or loveship. The second one we may trust more because it comes seemingly unbidden, at least sometimes.
(I'll mention here that I will be talking with one of my blog elders a bit about some comments he made about how he is experiencing my spiritual gifts. This particular elder has a gift for naming other people's gifts, which is cool to witness. Yet our worship group remains uncertain what to do, once gifts have been named and affirmed....)
How is it that we as Friends name one another's gifts?
How might we nurture someone's gifts that she or he is not aware of?
What if a Friend believes her or his gifts lie in one area, but Nominating Committee--or another Friend--asks the person to serve in another capacity?
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Later, after returning home from having tea, I decided to look up "gifts" in the index of Britain Yearly Meeting's Faith & Practice. Here is some of what I found:
...Where Friends know and trust one another the gifts we all have can be used more fully in obedience to the Inward Light...
The great aim of a Christian community is to enable its members to know what their gift is and then to enable them to exercise it to the glory of God. This may sometimes involve a prolonged and perhaps painful exercise before some members come to accept that the gift they have to offer is not the one they thought. (New life from old roots, 1965).
Are there not different states, different degrees, different growths, different places? ...Therefore, watch every one to feel and know his own place and service in the body, and to be sensible of the gifts, places, and services of others, that the Lord may be honored in all, and every one owned and honored in the Lord, and no otherwise. (Isaac Penington 1667)
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:4-7)It is a responsibility of a Christian community to enable its members to discover what their gifts are and to develop and exercise them to the glory of God.
Thanks for holding these questions with me, as well as sharing any thoughts and experiences you have had, either with helping Friends live more fully into their gifts, or having been helped by Friends to live more fully into your own.
[UPDATE: April 10, 2005. Some comments below refer to Elizabeth O'Connor, and other bloggers have posted about her writings and ministry, such as Alice.]