By Mary Waddington
When considering the role of Care Committee members in nurturing the gifts of members, I am reminded of my work with Margery Larrabee. After attending several of Margery’s Friends General Conference (FGC) gathering workshops on Spirit-Led Eldering, I was pleasantly surprised when she invited me to become her spiritual friend.
I had taken other FGC workshops with Margery during which we’d begun to share our spiritual journeys. The deep spiritual intimacy that developed between Margery and I became a wonderful source of inspiration, growth and wonder in my life.
After a short while, I started accompanying Margery as an elder in her ministry on Spirit-Led Eldering to Friends. That experience deepened our connection to the point where we would sometimes trade roles, with me becoming the minister and Margery the elder.
Before working with Margery, I had served FGC’s Traveling Ministries as an accompanying Elder for Nancy Middleton as she traveled in the ministry to other yearly meetings. I was aware of the deep listening involved in being an elder and I understood the reciprocal elder – minister relationship.
But, Margery had a special gift. Not only did she listen deeply, she could draw people out and help them to meaningfully amplify what they’d said. I associate this skill with Margery’s social work background.
Margery had an ease in getting groups to talk to each other about significant and important topics. She also showed a profound appreciation for whatever was offered. Her acknowledgement of my own offerings, my gifts, was to make me want to go higher, to strive for new heights of understanding and insight.
Part of Margery’s idea for our switching roles between minister and elder was to help affirm the work that we were both doing. It not only helped us to process our different experiences, I found it to be a wonderful way to create accountability. In effect, we were ministering to each in that overlap area between the giver of the gift (the minister) and the receiver (the elder.)
I found this to be especially rich and fruitful. Accountability – to our gifts and to each other – arises naturally when there is a blossoming of love in spiritual friendship. It is a 100% giving of ourselves to the other that creates trust, not only in each other but in the Spirit. And, this trust helps us to believe in our own capabilities and to act.
Members of Care and Oversight Committees need to offer to Friends the gift of being known. This happens through knowing each other’s spiritual journeys. Once this happens, being known as a seeker, most people are willing to engage in the life of the meeting. Margery believed that meeting’s need to constantly find ways to help members explore their gifts. It is not something that is done once.
Margery developed a number of small group exercises for discernment of gifts and believed that the spirit-led eldering process was essential to helping people make the connection between their gifts and their service to the meeting.
This process, Margery called “being called by the Spirit”. Her influence in the lives of the people she nurtured was discernable to those around her. It helped them to develop a gentle and loving manner, a Spirit-Led Eldering approach that truly affirmed and nurtured the gifts of others.
Mary Waddington is a member of Salem Monthly Meeting.