Before accepting the role of dean of Earlham School of Religion (ESR), I served as a Friends pastor for fifteen years. Someone once asked me if I ever regretted leaving the ministry. I responded that I never once thought that I had. The form may have changed, but the call endures. That comment lingers with me as a reminder that a narrow view of ministry persists in the minds of some.
There are a multitude of ways to serve God in this world. One of the delights of position as dean at a Quaker seminary is the opportunity to explore new possibilities when traditional categories are clearly not sufficient. Ours is a very inclusive definition of ministry and I hope this welcoming spirit will continue as new students join us. Anything to which God calls an individual and for which the Spirit equips the individual should aptly be described as one’s ministry. When such leadings are followed, the path frequently leads to non-traditional, or even entrepreneurial, forms of ministries. It is a wonderful strategy by which God’s work permeates the neighborhood, far wider than traditional meeting or church ministries are prone to reach. And, in an era when the so called NONES, DONES, and others seek meaningful engagement and spiritual fulfillment in unusual places, we should expect and even hope this trend continues. For ESR graduates, it happens with some frequency.