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.
Continuity and Change
by Margaret Fraser
In April, on the final Sunday of the Good News Associates pilgrimage to Ireland, our group attended meeting for worship at Richhill, County Armagh, Northern Ireland.
After worship I signed the visitors’ book in the entrance hall, then flipped through the entries to look for names of past visitors whom I might know. Surprisingly, I met myself, and my elder daughter, from a visit fifteen years earlier. On 20 August 2000 we had written our names in the book, and our addresses at the time – mine in Wallingford, Pennsylvania and Laura in Cambridge, U.K.
Those entries reflected our changing lives – in microcosm. Fifteen years ago, when Laura and I had visited Richhill, I was serving as Dean of Pendle Hill, and had a couple more years to serve in that role before I moved on to Friends World Committee for Consultation. Laura had returned from a year in East Africa as a volunteer teacher with Mennonite Central Committee, and was continuing to volunteer – this time living in a group home in England and providing support for adults with mental health and developmental needs.
Mark Oppenlander is a multi-talented and versatile individual , whom I consider to be a special friend. His recent SEEDS article reflected on seventeen years of involvement with Good News Associates (GNA), starting with the discussion at Jan Wood’s dining room table about the shape this ministry would take. Mark reviewed his various roles with GNA during those years, including Secretary, Treasurer, and President of the Board (not all at once). He made it clear that he is still a strong supporter of GNA and would continue to follow its work closely. Since he is the son-in-law of the GNA Director, Jan Wood, it won’t be hard for him to stay in touch.
During the last ten years of Mark’s volunteer work with GNA (his “day job” is at Seattle Pacific University), he has been the first and only editor of SEEDS, a monthly publication posted on the GNA web site (Goodnewsassoc.org). In his article, Mark spoke about taking a break from GNA work and made it clear that he also wanted a break from editing SEEDS. Linked to the board decision accepting Mark’s request was its action inviting me to be the next editor of SEEDS. More about that in a minute. Continue reading
Staying Faithful and Focused in a Click-Bait* Culture
by Mark Oppenlander
In August of 1998, Jan Wood invited me to be on the inaugural Board for Good News Associates. At the time, I worked for a mid-sized non-profit arts organization and had some experience with how non-profits were structured. My job also afforded me daily access to people who had actually done the work of founding a 501(c)(3) organization. Along with John Braun and Maxine Stansell, we sat down at Jan’s dining room table and created the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws that would launch GNA.
Over the years, I have played a few different roles. I have been the Secretary of the GNA Board, writing meeting minutes for our annual gatherings. I have been the Treasurer of the Board, helping to reconcile the finances and signing off on the IRS 990 tax forms. For the past decade, I have edited and distributed the SEEDS articles which our Associates, Board members and Affiliates have written. And for the last several years, I have been the Board President. Recently, I made the decision to step down from the GNA Board. I felt a nudge to clear space in my life for other—as yet to be defined—things. Continue reading
By Margaret Fraser
On November 12, I sorted through my red 22-inch carry-on wheelie bag for the final time. I was off to Ohio to co-facilitate a session of Quaker Quest, and from there to Ireland, for a project for which I volunteer. In addition to checking on the suitcase and the passport, there was just one more task that day — to go for a second mammogram. I had no concern about it — I had been called back before, and I knew that suspicious areas sometimes showed up that would not be present on the second x-ray.
The day turned out differently. Instead of walking out, I was moved along a different track: a meeting with an oncology nurse, and then one with a radiologist who pointed to a screen and said that it looked like cancer to him. The biopsy was scheduled for December 1, on the tiny window of a day between arriving back from Ireland and flying to Oregon.
The Oregon plans included being on retreat with the other Good News Associates, and spending time with my younger daughter and other close friends. The phone call came during the Good News Associates’ retreat, probably the very best setting. The results were inconclusive. Two experts had given differing opinions, so a third expert had been called on. I remained calm, but I had a real sense of my life being in two chapters: before and after November 12. Continue reading
by Lon Fendall
My awareness of an alien taking up residence inside my body didn’t happen all at once, which was probably a good thing. No, I’m not talking about the plot of a science fiction story. This alien is the real thing. And coming to the point of accepting and dealing with the uninvited and completely unwelcome presence in my body was a gradual process and not at all as dramatic as a science fiction movie or novel.
The first hint of the alien’s presence was the troubled look on the face of the Physician Assistant who had treated me several times for a UTI (urinary tract infection). He wanted to know if the most recent antibiotic he had prescribed had helped get rid of the symptoms. “Not particularly, they’re still there,” I said, not realizing what this might mean. The PA went on to explain why he was troubled. “That antibiotic you have been taking is one of the strongest there is and if this were only an infection, the symptoms would be gone by now. We have to get you scheduled for some tests and you need to be seen by a urologist. This is beyond my capacity to treat.” Continue reading