To All Friends Everywhere:
A gathering of Quaker Women in Public Ministry met from October 21 to 23, 2016 at Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, Massachusetts, with the intention to listen for our gathered condition. The Unconference Model shaped our time together and created a space that invited all voices to lift up emergent work, share experience of calls to ministry, and recognize how local meetings and churches have held and supported that work. The joy of companionship and the challenges often faced were woven together and leavened by voices lifted in song and prayer.
We stood in the Presence and in our present condition. We reached back to our Quaker foremothers in ministry, to the mothers who bore us into the world, and forward to the children who will come after us. Our hearts were filled with the hope to leave a legacy of a vital Quaker movement: bold prophetic voices, faithful lives, community transformation, and environmental stewardship.
We were mindful of the centrality of ministry in Quakerism’s dynamic of Spirit renewing and restoring all people and communities and the natural world. It is our tradition as Friends, and our collective experience, that God gives gifts of ministry through individuals and elders for the group of Friends, and those ministries in turn do God’s work in the world. Despite a tradition rich with practices like Travel Minutes and Clearness, Support and Anchor Committees to bring these ministries first to flower and then to fruit, Friends’ understanding of these processes seem to have in some places fallen into atrophy and disuse. Quaker women in public ministry seldom reported adequate holding and supporting of ministries. This was often the cause of anguish and pain. We call ourselves to inform and educate Friends about nurturing ministries.
The gathered group included forty-five participants from ten yearly meetings; we also invited into our collective conscious the women who were not with us in body: the mentors, mothers, and sisters who have gone ahead, and those unable to attend. We seek to connect across generational bounds, inviting collaboration and flexibility in partnerships to rise from many models of mentorship. We hold a deep longing to step away from discriminatory practices that take any form, rejecting structures which silence us and gathering in sisterhood to reach for possibilities, helping each other move from fear to faith. From our shared condition and the differences in our experiences rise the needs of women in ministry today. The need for self-care, spiritual, emotional and financial support, and healing work. The need to support parents and caretakers who are called into ministry work and travel. The need to seek new ways to share information about the availability of resources for supporting ministry. Friends for whom ministry is their primary vocation, and others who are bi-vocational, bring skills and practices from our work in the world to ministries. Even as we share new tools for reaching and supporting one another, we must also reach into our toolbox of Quaker process; a “Quaker Practice of Email,” grounded in queries and community, was lifted up as an example. We want to actively seek creative areas of overlap, where we can share and learn new ways of doing and being, and be released from falsely constructed barriers.
We were reminded of these Truths: the world needs the voices and witness of Friends; the Divine is never in a hurry; there is a sufficiency of grace. We call for new forms to recognize, hold, and nurture public ministry, but innovation alone won’t meet the needs; we must be grounded in faith, aligned with the Divine and seeking balance so that we do not outrun our Guide. We invite Friends everywhere to hold what we have named, and work together to find new ways to support ministry and eldership for all Friends. We are called to transform the pain of the world into the labor pains of possibility. We boldly call each other sisters, and we minister to the world from a place of Love.