November 23, 2007

Queries from the FGC consultation

Surrounding us in the large conference room during the consultation on emerging gifts of gospel ministry were these queries:

What is the reception of gospel ministry in our monthly meeting?

How do we let our Light shine without our fire consuming those we are trying to warm?

Who elders the ministers? Who elders the elders?

How do we discern the ministry we are called to? How do we discern if we are still called?

How do we discern if we are called to travel in the ministry... or if we are to stay in our meeting?

If we are called to travel, how do we discern a companion? How do we affirm those who companion in the ministry?
A few other queries were added to this original list, but it is the queries from the original list that drew and held my attention for much of the weekend.


P.S. Links to related posts are listed at the bottom of this post which includes the epistle from the consultation.

November 18, 2007

Three reflections from FGC's consultation

I continue to digest and sift through what I experienced during the recent FGC consultation on gospel ministry.

Here are three items I wish to remember and have often reflected on:

1. Practicing gratitude rather than supplication. When we believe that we have been forsaken, when we believe that our meetings are not helping us and that Friends have turned away or otherwise reject the gospel ministry we have been called to, then is the time for us to offer prayers of thanksgiving to God, for God is already with us. God is already helping us and accompanying us. When we practice gratitude, we begin to see the things that are already in front of us, helping us in our struggles.

2. Turning the soil versus planting the seed. When we insist that our monthly and yearly meetings are not providing us with the care and accountability that we yearn for, we must ask ourselves if we are being humble, if we are keeping low. Do we think we can take a whole apple, place it in the ground, and expect it to bear good fruit so quickly? Perhaps instead, what is being required of those of us engaged in this service is that we take the rake or the pitchfork and simply turn the soil. Maybe remove a stone or two. It will fall to another, after we have moved on, to place the seed in the soil. Perhaps ours is the responsibility to help clear the brush, not blaze the trail...

3. Fulfilling wholeness needs rather than ego needs. At times we may mistakenly place our own ego needs in the Center, insisting that our needs be addressed before we can move forward in our service to the Life and the Light. This is dangerous. We must take care to restore God at the Center and then move once again into a low place so that we may be best be available for to be called upon.

We must be clear, though, that it is when we give attention to our ego needs--wanting our hurts to be relieved right now, wanting our gifts to be named prior to freely offering our gifts for the Service, wanting things to be different--that we fail to listen further for Instruction; we fail to be Obedient.

There are other needs, however--needs of wholeness--that help us understand who God calls us to be so that we might live into our measure of Light. These are needs such as time for reflection; time for self-care and spiritual nurture after we are spent; and time for renewal and praise after a time of dryness or struggle. These wholeness needs also help us move closer to God and free us to love one another more deeply, becoming more than who we already have understood ourselves to be.


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

November 5, 2007

FGC Central Committee 2007

This fall I traveled as a visitor to FGC's Central Committee sessions as the final step in testing if I am to lay down my service to Friends General Conference for the time being.

After six years of having been appointed as a yearly meeting representative to its Central Committee, and another 18 months or so of serving as clerk of the Workshops Subcommittee for the 2007 Gathering, I was unclear if I was called to further service or not.

The only way to find out was to travel to this year's sessions and see for myself.

The plenary business sessions were wonderfully grounded and in some instances felt covered. I felt like I belonged and had a place.

But when subcommittees dispersed for their own time and planning, I felt lost. I visited one committee for a short while and that's when I became clear that, as much as I personally wish to continue being engaged with this body, Way is not open for me to do so.

Nevertheless, I'll share here some of the more interesting items that were reported and that seem to have Life in them.

Youth Ministries Committee

The newest committee for FGC, the Youth Ministries Committee, has much going for it. For one thing, the number of young Friends who are serving on Central Committee has been increasing.

This year, there were perhaps as many as 20-25 high school and young adult Friends in attendance, some of whom have been serving on the committee for more than four or five years. (Thanks in part to Martin Kelley.)

And I want to put in a plug for the CD of the amazing plenary that was given by Friends Kody Hersh and Joanna Hoyt at the Gathering this summer. They received spiritual support and nurture from the very capable Zachary Moon, also a young adult Friend.

By their example, it's clear that young Friends are not "the future" of Quakerism. They are already a vibrant part of our current condition, and there is much to be hopeful for as a result.

Here are some remarks made by the clerk of the Youth Ministries Committee, Robin Greenler:
Young Friends who have a place at "the FGC table" will change FGC's worldview, and we [older Friends] will be made uncomfortable as a result.

Young Friends deserve to have a living faith, and many of these Friends are clear that the schisms in Quakerism are part of
another generation; not theirs. They hunger to know what it is that binds us together across the branches, not what it was that drove us apart.

Young Friends wish to look at where there is authentic Truth, where there is Power, including looking at Scripture. They also wish to look at where there is unity, including among Friends internationally.

There are other ways to look at the metaphor of "having a place at the table." What if we push the tables together? What if we table-hop? Is the work about providing a place at the table for these Friends, or is it about our connections to each other in God? Do we even need a table?

Report by the general secretary of FGC

I have always found Bruce Birchard's reports to be a good, qualitative summary of significant events that have impacted FGC and unprogrammed North American Friends over the past year. I'd rather link directly to a webpage that has his report but there doesn't seem to be one (yet).

One of the recent developments is that FGC, with Bruce's help, has been among the group of Friends that has helped launch the Friends Mutual Health Group. This cooperative health insurance plan for Quaker employers, according to Bruce's report, currently includes 24 Quaker organizations, including FGC, FUM, yearly meetings, monthly meetings, Quaker retirement communities, and Quaker schools.

The impetus for setting up this health group was in response to escalating health care premiums and a desire to "balance affordable, high-quality health care with reasonable premiums." Not to mention, there's something to be said for self-determination and independence from a health care system that's gone haywire.

One of the largest sections of Bruce's remarks focused on his view of the state of the constituent meetings within FGC.

He expressed concern for the need for Friends to "go beyond being Sunday morning Quakers." Like some of us who blog about modern day Quakerism, Bruce spoke about the apparent lack of understanding of and lack of support for ministry carried out by Friends in our meetings.

He lifted up that there is a corporate role for meetings to undertake, including articulating how it is that God moves among us as a body (and I would add, how meetings provide care, nurture, and accountability to Friends who are pursuing leadings and who have come under the weight of a concern).

Bruce also pointed to what may be a growing lack of commitment among Friends to Quakerism; that the center of our life is no longer our house of worship and its communal activities. We are no longer carving out the time to come together as a spiritual family, and the lack of commitment, coupled with the lack of understanding, can be a real threat to the health of the Religious Society of Friends.

He closed this part of his remarks by reflecting on ways that FGC's work can impact these two concerns.

First, FGC can and will continue to recognize elements of our faith such as the role of elders in our meetings; supporting ministry that is undertaken by individuals and by committees or subgroups; and the discipline of the corporate body within our faith and practice.

Second, FGC must continue to conduct its outreach to isolated Friends, worship groups, meetings, and others with a sense of Divine Love and compassion for all, regardless of their degree of understanding and commitment.

And last, FGC must continue to discipline itself to keep Love at the center of its work and to offer a generosity of spirit in all that it does and hopes to do.

Other bits and pieces

Here are a couple of final tidbits I'll mention. One is that as a past member of Central Committee, and as a Friend whose Quakerism was significantly and positively impacted by serving on the committee, I have made inquiries about creating a mechanism for "Central Committee alumni."

For Friends who have served on Central Committee and who would like to have access to news about program activities and events, such a mechanism would help with that, especially while a large number of affiliated monthly and yearly meetings are not getting the word out effectively to their own members and attenders. I like to think of it along the lines of how colleges and universities maintain contact with their graduates...

Lastly, I really liked the queries that were prepared for worship sharing this year:
Consider the following quote from 1 Peter 4:8-10:

Above all keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.


How do I show hospitality of the Spirit in my meeting and in other places I serve?

How can I be a "good steward of God's varied grace?"

When asked to serve, do I discern where I can lovingly and freely employ my gifts?

How can we nurture good stewardship of gifts in our midst?

November 4, 2007

Looking at my social class privilege

To support my sweetie, and with encouragement from another fFriend, I'm posting my responses here to an exercise about looking at privilege.

Here's the relevant information for you to know:

1. This exercise is based on one developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University (see the "looking at privilege" post in the above paragraph, for additional links).

2. The exercise's developers hold the copyright and have given permission for it to be posted, with links, on the Quakers and Social Class blog. They ask that those of us who participate in this blog exercise acknowledge their copyright, which I'm doing here.

3. If you cut-and-paste this exercise on your own blog, please leave a comment on the relevant post, pointing readers to your own post.

4. Copy and paste the list below into your blog (or as a comment in the relevant post), remove my own personal comments, and bold the items that are true for you. My own replies are below.

The Exercise

NOTE: I have bolded so many of these items (27-1/2 out of 34) that I am indenting the ones I have experienced to make them more visually distinctive from those items I didn't experience. --Liz
Father went to college
Father finished college (and law school)
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor (father, uncle, cousin)
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home (I actually don't recall books except for children's books and my father's tax books)
Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 (art, tennis, swimming)
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively (???) (though these days, some wealthy characters in the media are portrayed as greedy)
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels (eh-hem: NOT hotels but a family-owned vacation house)
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them (No, but I used the hand-me-down family car for a year or two when I was an upperclassman at college. And the three kids shared a used car, purchased by my folks, once we were all old enough to drive.)
There was original art in your house when you were a child (a small Picasso, a small Calder print; plus much original art from my grandmother and family friends)
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College (Eh-hem: My parents and grandparents had invested in equities and savings bonds for me and my brothers, not mutual funds or IRAs)
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family
. . . . . . . . . . .

In going over this list, it strikes me that I could have bolded nearly all of the remaining items, meaning that my parents had the means to provide a television for me, a phone, a credit card. I think my parents--especially my mother--had a sense of appropriate boundaries around what young children, adolescents, and teens should or shouldn't have access to.

It's also clear to me that I have to work very hard to see past the privileges I myself grew up with and learn from people who experienced the world differently from how I did. For example, I had unknowingly internalized the message that a wealthy person can have a great deal of control in a relationship by controlling the flow of money. Eeew!

At the same time, I found myself drawn to television shows that had a message about caring for one another (e.g. Little House on the Prairie). As an innocent child, it appears I didn't aspire to be wealthy and control money: I aspired to be a person with a kind heart and a gentle, moral lifestyle.