by Jan Wood
God loves–and yearns for restoration–for our broken world. But God is a realist. God is not caught by surprise when people, relationships, cultures and nations turn their backs on their Divine Purpose and become misshapen. They become a sad shadow of what they could be. At best this estrangement from one’s purpose is a painful loss; at worst it becomes diabolically destructive.
Many of us are finding ourselves bewildered and disoriented in these present times. Things are becoming grotesquely misarranged. Basic building blocks of commonality are being destroyed with intentionality. Logic and facts are no longer the common currency of our working together. Compassion and goodness are considered weak and unnecessary. Truth is totally irrelevant. Might makes right. Creating fear is both a method and a joy. Wealth is the new form of godliness. Continue reading “Overcome Evil Jesus’ Way” »
by Marge Abbott
As I’ve been working on my latest book which considers the ways in which Friends experience and talk about prophetic ministry today, numerous Friends have shared their perspectives. Esther Mombo of Kenya and the late Moses Bigirimana of Burundi both attended the 2012 World Conference of Friends in Kenya where I had the opportunity to speak at length about the nature of prophetic ministry. Moses, unfortunately, died in a motorcycle crash a few months later. What follows is a taste of these two extended conversations.
To Be Humble Enough to Step Down
Esther Mombo, of Nairobi Yearly Meeting, has spoken often with a strong clear prophetic voice and was the main plenary speaker at the World Conference representing African Friends. When asked about the nature of prophetic ministry, she emphasized the importance of being willing to test a call to ministry or leadership on an ongoing basis. We each must be aware of when it is appropriate say, “no, it is not from God for me to do this.” She went on to expand on this: Continue reading “Thoughts on Humility from Africa” »
by Lon Fendall
The first time I heard this phrase was in a Good News Associates meeting recently. The GNA director, Jan Wood, used the phrase in response to my report about being involved with some projects in rural Haiti. Jan said something to the effect of, “Whatever you help with in Haiti, make sure it results in “assertive and visible goodness.” I said I agreed with that goal, but then later wondered if I even understood what the phrase meant in that context.
The next day while the GNA Associates were talking about something entirely different, Jan said we needed to be sure we as followers of Christ set our eyes on assertive and visible goodness. Again, that seemed like a good outcome, but I still wondered what Jan might have meant by it. So I asked her later if she had gotten the phrase from someone else or if she coined it herself. It was the latter, she said. She is a person who prays a lot and in the process hears a lot back from God, so I set about to think about the phrase as an important outcome of a proposed project in Southern Haiti. Continue reading “Assertive and Visible Goodness–in Rural Haiti” »
A few weeks ago, my seminary classmate Kenya asked if I would lead a workshop on prayer practices for the Episcopal Road Fellows, a group of young adults working for social justice in Atlanta. Kenya and I are excited about the workshop, which will involve prayers using the body and creativity, such as doodle prayer, coloring mandalas, walking a labyrinth, and a breathing prayer. I will also introduce the Quaker practice of holding people in the Light. My hope is that they will try out new practices they can incorporate into their daily life.
I am delighted to be working with the Episcopal Road Fellows, and Kenya and I have already started making plans for me to meet with them again in the new year for a workshop on Quaker discernment. This experience with working with a peer in the Episcopal church has underscored something I have found in my ministry with people in other religious communities: People in other denominations and faiths want to learn about Quaker spirituality and discernment practices.
When I preach in Methodist churches, I explain how Friends believe that God can talk to and through anyone. I invite the congregation to listen together for how God is speaking to us through scripture and the message, and I incorporate times of silence and queries. Recently, I have had conversations with Catholics comparing Quaker and Jesuit discernment, and I have found common ground with Buddhists, discussing the similarities and differences between our practices of sitting in silence.
These are people who may never set foot in a Quaker meetinghouse—who have deep spiritual practices of their own—and they want to learn about the unique spirituality that Friends have to offer. I feel the Life in our conversations, and I feel led by the Spirit to share what we have learned about listening to the Inner Voice in the Religious Society of Friends.
I know that there are many Friends who also want to share our peculiar faith and practice with others, and I invite you to partner with me as I do this work. I welcome your prayers and your support, especially your financial support as I find ways to bring these practices to other denominations and faiths.
If you feel so led, please donate to support my ministry on the Good News Associates donations page: http://goodnewsassoc.org/donate
Thank you for your support.
by Lon Fendall
A major part of my ministry is to support the Friends theological colleges in Kenya and Rwanda. I just returned from another visit to Friends Theological College (FTC) in Kaimosi, Kenya where I have been an academic consultant for them in their accreditation process. The process is not fun’ it is a lot of work, especially when it is the first time around. My work is to clarify what needs to be done and when those tasks need to be completed. Then I will help with the final editing.
During this last stay, I began thinking about the parallels between accreditation in colleges and universities and the accountability each of us needs to take seriously in our personal spiritual development. Although there are 30 standards established by the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA), I was drawn to the five under “administration.”
Imagine that we were being evaluated by a group of visiting angels and their only question was, “Are you meeting each of these five standards?” Continue reading “Our Personal Accreditation Standards” »
by Christine Betz Hall and Becky Wood
Becky Wood & June Thomasson
W hat Else is God Doing Among Us? —Chris
Not the people whose words flow easily and often in worship. Not the teachers who open hearts to new ideas and ways of living faithfully. Not the prophets who beckon us forward into scary places, and offer hopeful promise of God’s inbreaking newness. There are invisible ministers among us.
Nurturing Spirit-led service over months and years in the Way of the Spirit program, I’ve noticed that folks with quieter and more hidden leadings in ministry are at a disadvantage. The wider Western culture values the folks up front, the bold leaders and cutting edge social critics. Our communities of faith could miss the chance to celebrate what else God is doing among us. And faithful people moved toward secret prayer for others or spontaneous spiritual accompaniment may discount or dismiss how the Life and Power of the Holy is working through them.
Doing Something — Becky
This kind of ministry is like the body’s capillaries. Nobody talks about capillaries. But as a RN, I’m pretty aware of them. No one talks about capillaries succeeding or failing. They are the generally unspoken, invisible place of exchange in the body. It is a permeable place, small enough for tiny cooperations and transfers to take place. This is my image for the everyday goodnesses–the hidden ministries– the decisions that create space for the Holy to maneuver. Continue reading “Invisible Ministry: Spiritual Accompaniment in Two Voices” »
A year ago I had the opportunity to see for myself the difference a Quaker witness can make in the West Bank of Palestine. My going itself was a surprise. Over the years as Di and I had opportunities to visit the “Holy Land,” I had been reluctant. Most official tours even when led by qualified guides did not seem designed to address the pain in the region. I feared being frustrated more than being inspired by visiting historical Biblical sites without serious reference to their contemporary relevance. I was, however, very interested in the Middle East and soon after we came to Newberg became a member of our Quaker Middle East Committee. Still I had little interest in visiting our ministry there. Besides I had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer with surgery scheduled in a few weeks. Continue reading “Holy Ground, Holy Relationships” »
A year ago, it never occurred to me to go back to work—in the sense of being employed. I was happily retired after more than forty working years. I was free to set my own hours, to follow leadings, and to volunteer. I always felt free to stop doing those things at any time, because I was, well—free. But then I got The Call. Oh, my.
I had heard that, in seminary, you should never say” I’ll never be a pastor.” Because that is when God smiles, and before you know it… Well, I had said it, but that was more than 20 years ago, as I watched classmates prepare for Sunday Morning. But I ‘knew’ that whatever my religious service was going to be, pastoral ministry was not it.
And here I am, six months into my service as an interim pastor. I started off thinking that, with God’s help, I could do it. But now, when people ask me how it’s going, I say “I love it!” Continue reading “Surprised by the Joy of Interim Pastoral Work” »
by Jan Wood
In the community of faith of my childhood, it was very clear that once a person committed his/her life to Christ she needed to be about the business of ministry. And since I made the decision to follow Jesus at the age of four, I’ve had a lot of time to observe stages of ministry in my own life.
Journey from fear to anticipation
The first model I saw and tried to imitate was the necessity of winning everyone for Christ. It necessitated that I tell folks about Jesus and encourage them to make a decision–right there and then. So by junior high school I was living a daily life of fear of what inappropriate conversation I would have to create that day to fulfill this great commandment. In my earnest youthful spirit, the ideas of what God was calling me to do got increasingly bizarre. While the church praised my zealousness, I am deeply grateful for God’s good sense that showed me this was not the way to be God’s person in the world. Continue reading “Ministry as Answering” »
I was raised in a devout but non-Quaker Christian home and served for 33 years in Reformed Christian colleges and churches before retiring in Newberg, Oregon. What initially drew my wife and me to Newberg was the peace testimony of Quakers, having become a conscientious objector while serving as an Intelligence Officer in Viet Nam. I soon learned there was much more to the Quaker tradition, including a distinctive discernment process.
For years “discernment”—knowing what is the true or the right thing to do or believe —deeply frustrated George Fox. When the resurrected Jesus spoke to him, guidance came, followed by confidence and courage. From these 17th century roots has come an approach to decision-making both simple and profound, as well as controversial. And most importantly, it was never meant to be kept as an exclusive Quaker practice.
During our first years in Newberg I was able to attend two Quaker Discernment institutes. In each one week session there were folks from a variety of denominations and parts of the country. Somehow word had spread that there was something uniquely effective about how Quakers decide things. I came with some uncertainty. I had heard Quakers often held “clearness committees” to decide whether a particular couple should get married or make some other major decision. As a chronically analytical person sometimes paralyzed by decision making, I was intrigued. Continue reading “Quaker Discernment and the Power of the Resurrection” »