This week I had the privilege of gathering with clergy of many faiths for a seminar entitled “Reading for Preaching”. You can read more about Neal and the book that inspired his talk here.
It was what we might call a day of “great Openings”. I’ve been wrestling lately with a significant, renewed sense of call – traveling among Friends, specifically in New England, and all the confusion and Joy that comes with that. That sense of purpose has been with me for a long time. It seemed to grow dormant as I joined a new meeting, went through a job and perhaps career change, and was called into a time of deep rest and repatterning. Yet, I still heard the faint call without a name.
Today it does have a name. In this seminar, while introducing myself to those not familiar with the Quaker faith and practice, I found myself speaking of a call to travel in Gospel Ministry. It was the first time I’d used that term in this way, in a context that seemed deeply helpful and informative to others and myself. Here is a working definition, as I’ve come to understand it – “Gospel ministry is service whose goal is to encourage, support, push, or invite people to seek and respond to the guidance, teaching, and activity of that Light and Life at work in all, right now. It is not merely speaking words in meetings for worship, but, under a sense of obedience to the motions of the Spirit, using words, deeds, or silent striving to help others (and ourselves) forward to the more abundant life that Jesus sought for his disciples, his friends.” —On Living With a Concern for Gospel Ministry, Brian Drayton
The Reverend Laura Everett shared a sermon with us that spoke directly to me as part of this time together. She talked about her growing up the child of newspaper folks, writers on local beats that knew that to get a story, even in a seemingly mundane situation, you had to sit next to “the most interesting person in the room”. Sometimes this might not be the expected, “exciting” location. Sometimes it may be where God sends us – to be faithful to the story when we are not yet able to see it. How many times have I been sent to that place, that seat of Holy interaction and faith?
As she shared, I vividly remembered so many Friends and times of visits. Peter at Smithfield quietly asking me “So how does it feel to be a warrior for the Lord?” Chris’ granddaughter playing a broken version of “Amazing Grace” that started over three times on her recorder, while the congregation of Smith’s Neck joyfully followed her every note in support and fellowship. Joanne from South Shore Preparative telling me a story of trust and faithfulness and finding a new home when they had no where to turn. North Fairfield painting a sign that reflects their journey as Quakers, even when they do not know how they will plow the driveway. Friends rejoicing, and grieving, together in beloved community. Sharing their stories of faithfulness and opening their meetinghouses and hearts to me, a stranger to them – but a fellow companion in this journey of listening and Love. They embody the most interesting stories. It is my great gift to be able to hold them, to carry them forward to others, to have them written on my heart.
Who will I find myself sitting beside in the next meetinghouse? I pray I am able to pay attention, to heed that call, to carry that Work and hear in beloved community what we are given. I will bring this new shape of work to my support committee – and sit with them to help me hear what might happen next.