I love this graphic that I choose to represent Community Ministry, it is a photo from a ferry boat in Quebec, Canada that says that in the case of an emergency, gather your family and friends together. Whether or not in an emergency, I believe that the coming together of community is a sacred and essential part of life. Community Ministry is the facilitation of opportunity for people to be together in community; to know one another deeply; and to be part of each others lives.
My call to ministry has emerged in different ways over my lifetimes though at its core has always been rooted in community. Now, with clinical and educational experiences in community ministry, I feel prepared to live into this call in a new way. As I contemplate the various aspects and activities that make up community ministry, I have discovered how I have been participating in this ministry already in many ways and there are ripe opportunities for me to offer my gifts in the future.
Community Opportunities for Service & Witness
There are many people in the Friends' community who organize community opportunities for Service & Witness. In New England there is a faithful and dedicated group of people working on climate change issues and there are annual protests for peace on Good Friday in Boston. As I develop as a Quaker minister, I find that responding to concerns and openings by organizing (and assisting in the organization of) such opportunities is part of my work; be it in small and simple ways.
Trained as a hospital chaplain and a spiritual caregiver, my gifts in pastoral care have been well stewarded. Though how these gifts are used and what they look like during a lifetime of ministry is still unfolding. Theses days, this means simply replying to those in my community who request conversation, accompaniment, and care. I hope to create a life that allows time for others in this way--not for money, not for compensation, but simply for love. To see another, to listen, and to care are the most simple acts of pastoral care that I can offer.
As I begin to articulate my own calling in to a life of Quaker ministry, I find that 1) the Quaker legacy of mentoring is sadly waning and 2) more and more young adult Friends are asking me questions. While I feel that in this way we are mentoring each other, I do believe there is an emergence of Quaker Ministers happening. There are people I seek out as mentors who are older though, and for many of these people, they carry the pain and grief of not being recognized as Quaker Ministers due to community suspicion of the recording process and authority in general. That being said, I do not believe that these pains and burdens should be passed on like one generations trauma can be passed on to other. "Teach Me!" I want to shout. "Dream with me what you always wanted." And then, like the womanist mantra proclaims, we may “lift each other was we climb” to the fulfillment of our fullest selves.
Community Opportunities for Sharing and Study
"Theology on Tap" otherwise known as Top Shelf Theology or Pub Theology has been an instrumental way that congregations of all kinds of faith traditions have brought community together outside of worship. Whether they be coffee shop book groups or walking clubs that talk about the Bible, there is a craving among the faithful of this current day and age to do theology publicly. In 2015, as part of the Quaker Studies Program, I organized three "Theology on Tap" sessions where Friends gathered in local bars and talked about topics ranging from how we experience God in in our lives, the nature of God, and how God works through us in the world. I believe that this simple public living of our faith and its questions is part of my work as a Quaker minister. I am exploring how to continue to help organize these kinds of events in the future.
Community Opportunities for Worship
Many years ago, I co-led a worship at Friends General Conference's Gathering for a group of middle school aged children on the topic of Worship. Each day my co-leader and I would talk about different kinds of worship and then led the group through an experience of that worship. We walked the labyrinth; we worshiped near a busy intersection; we worshiped in the woods; we worshiped in silence; we worshiped through writing and art; and we worshiped through song, dance and play. It was at these annual Gatherings and later while working at Pendle Hill Study and Retreat Center that I experienced and facilitated all different kinds of worship. Friends have a rich history of Healing Worship, Extended Worship, Mid-week Worship, Sunday Worship, Programmed Worship and Unprogrammed waiting worship. There are ways we bring our creativity into spaces of worship and ways we allow the creative revelation of the Divine to flow through and among us. A piece of my ministry is to create opportunities for these different kinds of worship. I don't know how this will manifest itself yet, but I wait in expectancy.
To be able to host people at our house for dinner or for the night is both a privileged and a gift. I have wanted most of my life to be able to host people; my mother's talent for such instilled on me at an early age. My travels through the Middle East and East Africa taught me how radical hospitality is part of my faith and part of my spiritual experience. Alas, I have lived in more than one living arrangements that have made hosting people extremely difficult and even let people down that I have wanted to host. Gracefully though, I have been blessed with a partner who also values and loves hosting as well as a space and means to do so. Ben and I have hosted various F/friends from around the world in our little apartment in Somerville as well as a number of Fellowship and Newcomer dinners. It is a joy and a ministry that I pray continues for a long time to come.
Local Community Committee Work
It is commonly said and often joked about that to feel part of a Quaker meeting you have to be on a committee. I am in the midst of discerning what that might look like as my family transitions from Beacon Hill Friends Meeting in Boston, to Hanover Friends Meeting in Hanover, New Hampshire.