November 14, 2007

Epistle from FGC consultation on gospel ministry

Below is the epistle that arose out of the FGC consultation on emerging gifts of gospel ministry, held 9-11 November 2007. I hope to write of my experience there, though my heart remains tender and full from the consultation.

Many of the activities, conversations, and events are still settling with me, and many go beyond words, at least for the time-being. Still, perhaps this epistle will shed even a dim light on the experience, pointing readers in a general direction of how things went...

Though there were other bloggers there, I felt no nudge or call to convene us formally. Neither do I feel clear now to identify those bloggers (who I recognized, at least) who also attended. I want to be careful to allow the space for each of us to digest and sift through what we were given and what we experienced.

But watch the blogs: I'm guessing some posts will be emerging shortly.

Also, it's worth noting here:

Since the epistle specifically addresses yearly and monthly meetings, I tested the appropriateness of posting this epistle here with two Friends who helped plan the consultation. None of us felt a stop, and it was for me a valuable exercise in practicing this sort of discernment, when the lines between being part of the Quaker blogosphere and and being part of this small, spiritually intimate group experience are blurred.


Eleventh Month 11, 2007
We are to use our gifts in accordance to the amount of faith that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith we have; if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; if it is to encourage others, we should do so.
Romans 12: 6-7

Dear Friends,

We send loving greetings to you our monthly and yearly meetings, from the Gilmary Retreat Center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We have gathered at the invitation of the Friends General Conference Youth Ministries & Traveling Ministries Committees for a consultation of Friends with emerging gifts of gospel ministry. We have been richly blessed by God during our time together and we write to thank you, our meetings, for lifting up our names as Friends with emerging gifts of gospel ministry, and helping provide us with spiritual and other support so we could be a part of this. We also want to share some of what we have learned and the joys we have experienced in our time together.

As a group of 56 younger and older adults (and to our great delight one five-month-old) from 18 different yearly meetings, we have shared in worship, small groups, one-to-one conversations, and meals. Eight Friends, seasoned in gospel ministry, served as resource people during the consultation. They shared of their journeys in the ministry, including the challenges they have faced and how their meetings, and in some instances, support/accountability committees, have helped them be faithful in the Work of the Spirit.

We have felt blessed to have Opportunities to meet face to face with each other. Although we are in varying places in our spiritual journeys as ministers and elders, and come from small and large, rural and urban meetings and worship groups, we have found we all labor together in a common Work of Divine Love.

We have heard Gospel ministry described as that which brings us closer to God, and we have been reminded that the Good News we are invited to share has not changed from the time of early Friends: the kingdom of God is still at hand, Christ still comes to teach his people himself, and we are still a people waiting to be gathered. We have also been reminded that all spiritual gifts, including those we might be stewarding, are gifts of and for the Body – our meetings, yearly meetings, and this aching world.

We have found we share a Love for God, the Religious Society of Friends, and our dear meetings, and a call to help others come closer to that Love. We have learned we also share a common hunger for accountability, affirmation, and support from our meetings. We have talked about the need for recognizing and naming gifts of the Spirit; the work of nominating and ministry & counsel committees; and clearness committees and anchor/accountability/oversight committees. We have considered ways we can give each other support and have touched the Bedrock of support.

As we have sought together to discern answers to various queries, we have often found that the words of early Friends, the Hebrew scriptures, the teachings of Jesus, and the letters of the apostles give us counsel, comfort and clearness. We have tenderly ministered to each other and come under the weight of the Work we are called to do. We understand that we have been invited to be faithful witness of God’s Love to the world. It can seem overwhelming, but we are clear that we must begin by being convicted by Truth in our own hearts and lives, and by being willing to let God change us. Then we, as Friends, will have a mighty witness in a world desperate to know God’s liberating Love. Breath by breath, step by step, with God’s help we can bear witness to the power of Truth and Life and Love.

We closed our time together in worship, renewed of Spirit and more clear about the Work we have been called to take up together. We hope Way opens for our paths to continue to cross, and we hold each other and you, our beloved meetings, in the tender Love of Christ.

With love and on behalf of the Friends gathered here this weekend,

Beckey Phipps, clerk
The Traveling Ministries Committee of Friends General Conference

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

1. The clerk of the Youth Ministries Committee was not in attendance, otherwise perhaps she too would have signed the epistle.
2. There were at least 12-15 high school and young adult Friends.
3. There were a handful of Friends from Conservative meetings and at least one Friend with connections to FUM. Other Friends were from dually affiliated yearly meetings (i.e. Baltimore, New England, and Southeastern Yearly Meetings) and FGC affiliated yearly meetings.
4. Resource people were Elisabeth Dearborn, Brian Drayton, Jan Hoffman, Mary Lord, Connie McPeak Green, Bob Schmitt, Deborah Shaw, and Lloyd Lee Wilson.
5. I hope to post separately a list of various queries that were shared with us.

Related posts:
Reflections from Callid, on the FGC Quaker Youth webpage
Initial reflections from Mark, of Ear of the Soul
Holy obedience and more reflections from Mark, Ear of the Soul
Three additional reflections I've had
Queries from the consultation
In a guest piece, One Friend's replies to the queries


Rebecca Sullivan said...

thanks you Liz for posting this. I would not have posted it but I do agree that it is something good to have online for others to read.

I am hoping to post next week while I am home for thanksgiving.

Good to see you

Poetryman said...

Consecrating a Holy vessel for my eternal consciousness.
A renewed body and a refreshed mind.

Be thankful. Blessings unto you and yours.

Of Angel hugs and of love and laughter

and of happily ever after.

Of kind words and healing balms.

Of buzzing bees in the tall, green grasses.

Liz Opp said...

Poetryman -

Thanks for offering your gift here... It's nice to be able to think "of buzzing bees in the tall, green grasses" as the weather turns cold and snow covers my backyard, several inches deep...