Sunday, July 5, 2009

On ministry

Last night I went to a party at the home of a woman I grew up with, in a small religious community in Glenview. I was feeling a bit nervous about going, as there would be people there whom I hadn't seen in many years.

And so as I drove to her house, I found myself talking out loud about myself, to see what I would say if anyone asked me how I was doing, and why I had moved.

And I imagined someone asking me, Are you interested in rejoining the Church? Even though I can't actually imagine anyone there asking me such a direct question.

And the answer I gave, aloud in the car, was that it would be hard for me to belong to a church in which a woman can't be a minister.

In reply, I imagined the person asking, Does that mean you would like to be a minister? And my answer would be, I think I already am.

The work I do with people is often a kind of ministry: I help a person see how God has been acting in their lives, and see the good that God is bringing out of their suffering, and see the meaning of that suffering. I sometimes quote words or ideas that for me are sacred, in a way not unlike a minister quoting scripture. So, yes, I am a minister.

There is a rare and wonderful experience that happens sometimes in Meeting, when someone speaks aloud a message that seems to be meant for you.

This morning in Meeting, we'd been sitting in silence no more than 5 minutes when a woman named Laura stood and read aloud the following quote from Faith and Practice published by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a book which is as close to a written creed as Quakers ever get.

"It is unfortunate that much formal training in ministry does not even recognize that . . . inward preparation exists. In our world of degrees, exams, and training programs, it is easy to forget that ministry is not primarily a task; it is a way of being in the world. It is living in relationship with God and being a witness to God. Ministry is being able to listen to the Word of God and thereby have a word of life to share with others. Fundamentally, we do not do ministry. We are ministers." -- Sandra Cronk, 1991 (page 106)

This passage spoke to me so strongly that I started crying. I haven't been sure whether or not to call myself, or think of myself, as a Quaker. But I find it deeply moving to hear words like these that express a belief that I share and which means so much to me.


Sharanjit said...

I've recently been attending Meetings here in Sydney. It's been a while - the last time I attended regularly was at university in Cambridge many years back. And it was still as wonderful as back then. I'll be going back again, as I have a strong hope I'm re-finding a spiritual home for me. How synchronous that you have a connection with Quakers too - I never knew!

Alyce Barry said...

Likewise - I didn't know you went to Meetings either!