Archive for the ‘ministry’ Category

Last words

November 11, 2007

At JYF camp Pearl told me that the last words that her Grandmother could say (due to a stroke) were “I love you” and “thank you”.

I think that if you could only say two things, those are a pretty good choice.

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Walking in the light

October 13, 2007

The theme of JYF camp this year was ‘Walking in the light’. We did a lot of activities focused around understanding our Quaker values in the modern world of technology, fashion and media. We didn’t do very much that was explicitly focused on matters of the spirit. I did make a big effort to make sure we had Meeting for Worship every day though (we did miss one).

I was never quite sure whether the JYFs got something out of Meeting, or were bored or annoyed by it. Because JYF (and YF) Meetings for Worship have much less spoken Ministry it can be harder sometimes to sense the feeling of the Meeting. Near the end of the camp we had Meeting for Worship outside. We sat on chairs on the grass, in the sun, with the warm wind blowing and the birds singing.

Later that day I found a poem on a couch, written anonymously, and left for people to read. It was as follows:

I walk in late.
The worship has started without me.
I get looks from people.
I can feel the thoughts.

My mind begins to wander among my
memories, picking up conversations, thoughts
jokes, relationships, people who I didn’t
know existed or had forgotten.

I remeet with my past.
I feel as if I’m walking along
a road, with neon lights (similar
to last night’s throwies…)
and I’m trying to pick the best one.

Ironic, because when you think of
someone during M4W, it’s called
‘holding someone in the light’!

If you choose to keep your
eyes open, you see the people
The couples, the bored ones,
The ones that stay silent
and sit perfectly still.

If you close your eyes,
you see you.
You take a trip
inside yourself and however
cheesy that sounds it’s
true.

We are all so different
But I see now why
We are the same.

Reading this brought tears to my eyes. It validated all the effort I had put into creating a time for worship during the camp, it made it all seem worthwhile.

I later learned that it was Pearl who had written this. She read it in the concert on the last night. I publish it here with her permission, and thank her deeply for making me feel that the spiritual aspects of the camp were appreciated. It meant a lot to me.

Being ourselves, together

June 25, 2006

At Meeting today the first ministry was about roots of trees intertwining, and that being a metaphor for the way we connect with each other in a Quaker community.

This prompted a further response in me to Leith's WGYF report, which I read again yesterday as it'd just been published in the NZ Friends Newsletter. In it she spoke of being so challenged by beliefs so very different to her own, and yet being able to try love, and being accepted by those whose beliefs were at times contradictory to hers.

She wrote that Grace from (Australian YM) had summed up her experience by saying:

"I came here with my heart and mind prepared to meet all of you, and most importantly, to be myself and also to encourage all of you to be yourselves . . . through my time here, there have been some times when I’ve been sitting in this room and I’ve been so uncomfortable. And for these times I give thanks, because it’s in these times that many of you feel most at home. The most important thing that I’ve learned and embraced is that we’re all so different from each other. And yet this is the only place in my life where I feel I truly fit. So, if I can be me and fit here, and you can all be you and fit here, then that’s just totally amazing!"

I heard a few years ago of a theory of human needs, which said that we have a number of needs which are in tension with each other. We have, the theory states a need for significance, and a need for connectedness. We need to be individuals, to be ourselves, to be distinct from others, and to be noticed and appreciated for what we uniquely provide. We also need to be connected to others, to be love, and accepted as a part of a greater whole. If we become too significant (like a celebrity) we risk not being able to genuinely connect with anyone, and if we become too connected we risk losing our identity.

Many faith communities it seems to me ask a high price for the connectedness that comes from belonging to them. They ask people to subscribe to a particular doctrine, or set of beliefs, to behave a particular way. Other communities, like New Age ones for example allow people to be however they please, but appear to have little true spirituality which connects people together. In Quakers we seem somehow to have gotten the best of both worlds. In this community I feel like I can be fully and uniquely me. I can have my beliefs, my faith, my spirit develop at the pace I need it to, and to express itself in the way that is right for me. And at the same time, I can be connected to a wider community that will accept me just exactly as I am. Here I can be connected, and interdependent, and loved without having to change how I am, or the way I act.

During Meeting this all came together for me. The first speaker was the mother of people I went through children's Meeting, JYF and YF with. My roots are here, and now finally I'm beginning to understand why I've come back. At that moment I realised I was ready to apply for Membership. I have been asking when this would come, and waiting until it did. Tonight I'm going to write a letter of application to our Clerk.

This sort of expresses how I feel: 

To stand in this forest we do not have to be pine trees,
To grow here we do not have to stand in rows,
Or rustle just so because all the other trees do,
We do not have to be a particular colour, or height,
And we do not have to grow tall and straight,
We can be whatever shape we need,
And choose our own way to grow into the light,
We can be covered with birds singing,
Or stand quietly in the silence of the night,
And yet we are all essential parts of this forest,
Loving and sheltering each other,
And together we can celebrate,
And stand shaking in the wind of the spirit.

Silent Ministry

June 18, 2006

Meeting today was silent for the first 45 minutes. For a couple of minutes someone had been coughing intermittently. One person got up and took them a glass of water from the table, and someone else got a cough lozenge from their bag and gave it to them.  These simple acts of care for each other said far more to me than spoken ministry could have.

Focus

May 28, 2006

So, after two good nights sleep, falling asleep in Meeting twice today, then a long afternoon nap I'm feeling 1000% better.

I've been thinking about this 'travelling in the Ministry' business. Having agreed to take on the role of YF communications/outreach I'd kind of imagined it'd mean setting up a few email lists, doing web site stuff and maintaining the national YF address list. Somehow it's actually worked out as seeing lots of Friends all over the country. Mostly this is because my work takes me to Wellington lots, and to other centres from time to time.

Over the last year or so I'd just kind of started staying with Quakers rather than work colleagues, as I found it much more restfull. Simply talking about totally different things than work in the evening made a difference to my energy, plus there's all the care and hugs that come with staying with Quakers.

While it's a lot, that's not really enough though to explain why I feel so enthuasiastic about this role. I want to contribute to JYF and YF so when my kids get there it's really strong. I want to help give to the life and depth of this community. I want it to grow. Sometimes this almost feels like it might risk being something like evangelism. Is that wrong? Is it unquakerly to want our faith to grow, to be strong, resilient, and healthy?

There's lots to make sense of in this role. If anyone has useful ideas or information about what's good to do in Quaker outreach I'd love to hear about it.

Pillar of light

May 14, 2006

On Tuesday morning a dear Friend in our Meeting died.  I got a call early in the morning to tell me the news, and burst into tears.  I was surprised by the intensity of my reaction.  I had become quite friendly with Richard over the last two years.  His ministry I always enjoyed, and I loved the dry sense of humor he used when requesting helpers for the tea roster.  We’d had some interesting chats about things biblical of which his knowledge was vast.  He was in his early 80s though, and it was his time to go.  Why then was I so affected?  Over the last few days I’ve been trying to make sense of this.  Some of it is perhaps a similarity to Mum’s death.  Richard had a deep compassion for people, very similar to Judith.  He approached death with a pragmatism, with no outward signs of fear or the need for pity or sympathy.  He was lively and active until right near the end, then went quickly, just like Mum did.

From his hospital bed Richard volunteered to help redraft the guidelines for financial assistance, which had become a somewhat contentious issue in the Meeting.  He had just recently been told that he hadn’t long to live, yet he still was committed to the needs of others.  I think it was this that hit me the most, rather than any similarities with Mum.  Richard always sat across from where I normally sit at Meeting.  When he stood to give ministry I always felt a sense of anticipation, what he said almost always spoke to me in some way.  He was tall and lean, white a shock of white hair.  I see him now as such a pillar of the Meeting, a voice of reason and compassion.  I guess I expected him to always be there.  And now he is gone, and I am sad. 

I don’t know how we will fill the gap that Richard left.  I don’t know who will work quietly behind the scenes with compassion and love, keeping us all together.  I don’t know who will now speak about the bible with such a deep spirit, and I don’t know who will recite poetry by heart.  I don’t know who will gently and dryly jibe us about the tea roster.

When a big tree falls in the forest, it leaves way for more light for the saplings below.  I hope the light that Richard has shared with us, the love he has given us will help us fill this gap.

Living faith

March 27, 2006

Yesterday I had the privilege of being at Wellington Meeting. I went to the bible study group first, which given the level of sharing, put me in a much calmer state of mind than I normally have at the start of Meeting.

One of the women ministering at Meeting for Worship spoke about the doll she had as a child, which had been handed down from generation to generation in her family. The doll's clothes had been built to last. She also talked of climbing a mesa in the desert in the USA, getting to the top, and wondering how she would get down. When she turned to descend she found handholds that had been carved out by Native Americans long ago. She asked what we were leaving for future generations.

This got me thinking about while being away from Quakers in my 20s, how the monthly newsletter had been my only link. This along with other writings like QF&P we leave behind us could perhaps be seen as handholds for future generations. Thinking about the bible study group though expanded this for me. The way in the group the conversation flowed between analysis of who may have actually written the words, what Jesus did or didn't say and our own experiences and interpretations of what these meant for us made me acutely aware of the value I place on the living experience of faith, over the written word (yes, I know I'm using the written word as a type right now…)

It feels to me that the handholds I value are those of a living faith. It was the experience of being in that living faith that brought me back to Quakers once my children were old enough. I wanted them to have that experience, to be immersed in a faith community rather than miss out on one, or even worse to just be lectured at about faith. It is this living faith that means so much to me. The words spoken in ministry, or written down in books are just guides. They're not to me essential, or a necessary step to faith. The direct connection with the spirit, that is what is important, that is what enlivens the words, gives them meaning, and enables me to be in this loving community.