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Quaker Discernment and the Power of the Resurrection

Bruce MurphyI 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

Lessons Learned about Group Discernment

by Lorraine Watson
Pastor, North Seattle Friends Church

One Way signIam drawn to group discernment as the Quaker way of finding way forward as a congregation. I firmly believe that we can discern the mind of God as we are gathered in community. I wrote a SEEDS article in April 2010 about discernment. (See https://www.goodnewsassoc.org/seeds-pdf/seeds10-04.pdf.) But doing group discernment is a learning process and through personal experience I’ve learned several lessons about discernment since then.

First, the gathered community is key to discerning God’s Leading. As a child I remember learning that Quakers don’t vote because the majority might be wrong. God can speak through even one dissenting voice so it behooves us to listen to everyone that is part of the community. Individually we hear imperfectly, but as we come together in community with a commitment to hear God’s Leading, we put our pieces together and continue to listen. What is God doing with this? How can these seemingly disconnected pieces fit together? Continue reading

Nancy McCormick, a Minister of Peace

THE GOOD NEWS ASSOCIATES’ COMMUNITY CELEBRATES NANCY McCORMICK, one of our former Associates, being inducted to the Outstanding Women of Clinton County, Ohio.  During her time with Good News she was liberated to have a Ministry of Presence in the normal affairs of her community.  She is a great example that ministry doesn’t have to “go somewhere else” to make transformational changes of the Kingdom.  It is visible and powerful exactly where we are—and it is joy that the Clinton County community recognizes the gift God has given them.  Her book, God Is All Around, is a funny, inspiring reflection of God’s love and presence permeating all of regular life.  Copies of the book and CD are still available by contacting janwood@goodnewsassoc.org.

Nancy McCormick, a Minister of Peace

Courtesy of the Wilmington, Ohio News Journal

Nancy 2016Throughout Clinton County residents of all ages and from all walks of life have benefited from the selfless outreach of this gentle, soft-spoken woman, her influence extends far beyond this county — to many parts of the United States, to Cuba, to Belize, and to Africa.

Nancy Dunaway McCormick, an inductee of the Outstanding Women of Clinton County, Ohio, Class of 2016, is a talented musician, artist, teacher, and minister who continues to use her special gifts of listening and involvement to help others discover their own gifts, and to offer the encouragement that helps them be the best they can be.

Most of all, she embodies the best of the Quaker spirit — a friend to all and a minister of peace. Continue reading

So what is she doing up a ladder?

Margaret on ladder

Margaret Fraser is serving as Interim Pastoral Minister of West Richmond Friends Meeting, in Indiana. She reports on the first couple of weeks:

I t has been intense. On my first Sunday I gave the message on John 1: 1-19 and was welcomed with a pitch-in / potluck meal and cake. I have visited people, have attended several committee meetings, been to worship at Richmond Friends School and have made contact with the local ministerial association. I also want to participate in events at Bethany Seminary and Earlham School of Religion, so that people there get to know me, and to be able to invite them to meeting. Yesterday I was up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the hospital to sit with someone who had emergency surgery. In the evening I worked on my second message, based on John 2: 1-11. This sounds pretty typical for a pastoral minister – though not many are welcomed with two cakes, one decorated with the meeting’s mission statement.

So what is she doing up a ladder? There is nothing in the job description of an intentional interim minister that says she should be up a stepladder ripping wallpaper off the office walls, but the thing about having an interim pastor is that there is always the unexpected. I didn’t plan to do this; it was almost as if the wallpaper, up for at least 23 years and peeling at the edges, was asking to be removed. And as if the walls were asking to breathe and be beautiful. They will be, once they are painted Lemon Grass and Eider White. Some people who have come to the office have looked a little shocked to see black bags of stripped-off paper and bare plaster. Others, some of whom have stopped by to help, can see beyond that, to the beautiful space and comfortable chairs that will materialize, and the place of hospitality that will emerge. Continue reading

The Transformer — Not Child’s Play

by Christine Hall

Transformer toy M aybe you’ve seen those mechanical toys that change shape from robots to planes or cars with the shifting of a few pieces? What I’ve seen in participants in the Way of the Spirit program is transformation that’s deep and lasting, no plastic hinges required. What is it like to be transformed in faith? I offer a few reflections and the words of a Way of the Spirit program alumnus to answer that big question.

As founder and director of Way of the Spirit, I’ve celebrated many participant transformations. I’ve learned anew that God’s kind of transformation is not a once-for-all-time thing. It may begin with a bang of commitment or build slowly from within. But it’s never done. In Way of the Spirit, we are privileged to walk together in faith over two years, through six retreats, private online sharing, and monthly group calls. Our transformations are hopeful and life-giving. We gain freedom, trust, and responsiveness to the Spirit. For sturdy transformation through big transitions and challenges, we all benefit from the support of a praying support circle like Way of the Spirit. Continue reading

Non-Traditional and Entrepreneurial Ministries by Jay Marshall

Barley 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.

Continue reading

Footprints in the Visitors’ Book:

Continuity and Change

by Margaret Fraser

Richhill guest bookIn 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.

Continue reading

Giving Mark a Well-Deserved Break

Mark 2007Mark 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

You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next!

Staying Faithful and Focused in a Click-Bait* Culture

by Mark Oppenlander

MEMO-Good-NewsIn 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

Stopped in the Tracks

iciclesBy 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