February 10, 2010

More reflections on ministry, leadings, and gifts

In recent weeks, I've been given more opportunities to reflect on the nature of spiritual gifts, ministry, and leadings. Other bloggers and I have written on these subjects before, but these additional reflections, borne of recent and revisited conversations, seem to want a bit of air, too.

Claiming versus having stewardship of a ministry, leading, or gift

I shared with Friends how I have been wrestling with whether or not I am acting out of ego or out of a true leading, as I sit with the vision of a Quaker resource center in my part of the U.S.

I had been talking with a Friend about this question at the rise of worship one First Day a few weeks ago. That Friend's response was "You have to CLAIM it; it's yours!"

My response was something like, "Well, that sounds like it's coming from a socialized white-American-male view of things." (I felt I could speak plainly to this particular socialized white American male Friend.)

Something about the energy of "claiming a leading as mine" didn't fit for me, I countered, and the Friend wisely suggested I look again at Lloyd Lee Wilson's book, Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order.

The next day, I did in fact pull out good ol' LLW:

    ...the gifted individual has become steward of a spiritual gift which God has given to the faith community for a particular task or occasion, and must learn how to be a good steward of that gift. The community in turn needs to learn how to encourage and nurture its gifted members... (p. 92)
    ...the task of claiming our giftedness has more to do with the individual's willingness to accept the gift being named as something for which (s)he is intended to be the steward... [Until] I claim, or accept that gift, it is bound up and incapable of being fully developed or exercised... We are stewards, not owners of our spiritual gifts, and to be a steward... of a spiritual gift is [to be] the servant of God who has bestowed the gift... [One] must exchange a portion of one's apparent independence for intentional servanthood. (p. 101)
Reading these two sections helps me understand that claiming a gift or a leading without the humility to use it in service to God is vastly different from accepting stewardship of that gift or leading.

I feel better for having wrestled about the line between the two, and for having that understanding affirmed by how Lloyd Lee has articulated it.

The Great River and a tether

In a committee meeting the day after the conversation I had with the "socialized white American male Friend," I was reminded of how living in the Spirit is often compared to being in the stream or in a river: There is a current, and we can either swim against it--tiring ourselves--or we can swim with it. Or we can float along and perhaps be tussled onto the banks.

This reminder strongly reflected some writing I had done the previous week.

The committee explored the River metaphor more fully, and I became aware of the helpfulness of being tethered. I sat with that felt-sense, of what it had been like for me to have been "tethered" to the monthly meeting over a three year period as I explored the concern I had, about how we convey our faith as Friends and what sustains us in our Quakerism.

I understood that night that having a committee of care-and-accountability, particularly under the care of a worshiping community, is in fact that sort of tether.* I went to bed feeling very full and enriched, both by the topics we had explored and by the spiritual hospitality that Friends provided me that night.


P.S. Friends General Conference calls these sorts of committees anchor committees.


Mary Ellen said...

I like that term - "anchor committees." I've found L.L. Wilson very helpful in understanding what role a Nominating Committee can play in nurturing gifts of a Meeting - but the task doesn't come with clear instructions. Dream boldly, Liz, and stay tethered too.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks, Mary Ellen. I wish more Friends and their meetings understood and appreciated these sorts of committees.

I'm saddened when I hear that a Friend with a clear call or with a difficult concern to carry has been criticized or judged, rather than provided with a committee.

The Friends and the meetings that seem to thrive also seem to make good and proper use of such infrastructure.