Every Who down in WhovilleI had a rather obvious-in-hindsight thought the other day, while talking with a Friend about my experience at a recent Quaker event.
The tall and the small
Was singing without any presents at all!
He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming.
Somehow or other it came just the same.
And the Grinch with his Grinch feet, ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling:
"How could it be so?
It came without ribbons!
It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!"
--from How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Despite the fact that many meetings have stopped using the practice to name, record, or otherwise formally acknowledge Friends who have gifts of ministry and eldership, these gifts still exist among us.
The Spirit moves within our meetings, speaks to our condition, and calls forth from us those gifts that the body of the meeting needs. Such gifts might be to provide a nurturing presence to young children; to maintain accurate financial records; to be available to coordinate visits to Friends who are ill; or to have the temperament and time to work in the kitchen during a busy potluck.
None of these gifts get the flack or attention that gifts of ministry and eldership seem to get from meetings. Then again, many of these other gifts seem to go unacknowledged or are taken for granted, which could be seen as a different sort of flack--the flack of unintended neglect.
Yet the gifts of ministry and eldership, like the gifts of caring for our children and coordinating potlucks, still exist within our meetings--even if we as a body never name them or acknowledge them; even if there is no meeting of ministers and elders to be convened or if a meeting doesn't craft a letter of introduction for a Friend who travels beyond the meeting in service to the Spirit.
A number of Liberal Friends meetings and others have done away with recording of elders, ministers, and overseers. Yet Friends with vocal gifts, gifts of counsel, and gifts of expressing care for one another, coupled with the yearning to be obedient to how the God calls us, will strive to be faithful to the leadings of the Spirit, not to how meetings do or don't affirm one another.
And yes, all gifts are equal in terms of importance to bringing about the Kin(g)dom of God, but all gifts are not identical. So it is that each gift requires a different sort of support, a different sort of care and accountability, in order to ensure that the gifts are being put to right use.
Even without formal acknowledgment, the support of care-and-accountability committees*, or informal appreciation, all the gifts of First Day School teachers, pastoral caregivers, childcare providers, treasurers, elders, ministers, and cooks will still come into service to the meeting community and to the Living God:
We will come without ribbonsBlessings,
We will come without tags
We will come without packages, boxes or bags!
*FGC calls these committees anchor committees.