March 30, 2005

Naming of gifts

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?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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.]


Kenneth said...

Liz, have you read any of Elizabeth O'Connor's books about the [former] Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. (I think that's right on both the author and church names, but I'm not sure.) Their whole church membership model was built on mission and gifts.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for writing, Kenneth. I had not heard of Elizabeth O'Connor or her writing. A quick search of the internet brought this summary of her life, mentioned in nearly the same breath and on the same website as John Woolman and Thomas Merton, I might add. And a look on a bookselling website that shall remain nameless turns up quite a few titles by her.

After deciding which books to order for my ever-growing personal library, I'll put an order in through QuakerBooks, which is always happy to take my book orders!

Liz Opp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Liz Opp said...

I removed the previous comment because of an inaccuracy I had posted. So, here's an update. QuakerBooks of FGC suggest ordering Elizabeth O'Connor's books directly from Faith At Work, which lists a few of her books.

Joe G. said...

I checked out the Faith @ Work site. I poked around their magazine section and yet a great article. Thanks for the headsup from both Kenneth and Liz! Appreciated!

Larry said...

Liz (and Ken): I can tell you as much as you would like to know about The Church of the Saviour and Elizabeth O'Connor.

On second thought I might do better to put it in my blog--especially the C of S.

Betty O, as we called her put the church on the map in the early 50's, I think with an article in the Readers' Digest. Then she became the 'writer in residence' and wrote a succession of books that we read one by one.

1. Call to Commitment, the first probably has a good bit about gifts.

Gordon Cosby, the minister, preached a sermon entitled The Calling Forth of the Gifts of the Charisma, after which it was generally understood that the life of the church ensues from the gifts (and call) of the members.

2. Our Many Selves, a great self help book.

3. Search for Silence. It was from Betty O that I got my introduction to silence. Since then silence in the closet has always meant more to me than corporate silence.

There were many others, but those first three may have been the most definitive.

Hope she comes to mean as much to you as she did to me.


Liz Opp said...

Kenneth, thanks for starting off this great round of comments! Might you share how you came across Elizabeth O'Connor's work?

Beppe, if it weren't for Kenneth, I never would have gone searching for more information on the 'net... and you wouldn't have found your way to yet another great article. Yay!

And Larry! Well, I just checked your blog, and sure enough, you've written a piece about your involvement in the Church of the Savior. Thanks so much for sharing this first-hand experience with us.

Mitchell Santine Gould said...

You wrote:

"I have been hungry to understand how it is that Friends name gifts for one another, and how Friends help bring these gifts forward."

What a nice quest to be on. I wish I could share in it. Alas, I'm still trying to understand how Friends block gifts from one another (usually inadvertantly???), and prevent these gifts from going forward."

Anonymous said...

Hi Liz,

I first heard about Elizabeth O'Connor just after I started attending Friends meeting (1986). Philadelphia Yearly Meeting had a Gifts Working Group, and "Betty O" was high on their list of resources.


Anonymous said...

Liz -
There is some discussion of this in "Community Stewardship of Our Spiritual Gifts" in the Gospel Order essays. My sense is that the process described there is applicable to all sorts of spiritual gifts, and needs to be made explicit in the community for its gifts to become fully developed and exercised...


Liz Opp said...

Thanks, llw, for the reminder of the chapter on spiritual gifts. Even though I pull out that book several times a year for one reason or another, it took me a moment to understand what you meant by "the Gospel Order essays." smile

Your referral comes at an important time for me... It was especially helpful for me to reread the description of the practice of "bearing the burden," if there is a Friend who does not unite with the sense of the meeting.