—trying to uncover some of the good parts of the way Quakers used to do it and continue to do it….
Discernment (from Pat Loring, Listening Spirituality II)
Among Friends the power to make spiritual distinctions has focused less on good and evil than on the central importance of Divine Guidance in discerning God-given gifts, leadings, work and roles among us.
The ability to discern is also invited, cultivated and lived into by the disciplined practice of living close to the Divine (God, the Light) over time in prayer.
To discern whether something is an authentic charge from God was often as simple as answering the question, “Is there Life in it?” And usually after some time spent wrestling with God. This sense seems to be a gift that comes as a result of disciplined faithfulness (over time) in our relationship with God.
Two kinds of gifts:
- Graced natural abilities and talents
- Spiritual gifts or the fruits of them: faith, hope and love.
A discernment question: Does this action to which I have been called spring from, express, or increase the Love of God in the world?
If we are faithful to the guidance we are given, it is an ongoing process in which we may grow into more and more sensitivity to the “drawings of the mind,” “the promptings of Love and Truth in the heart,” “the nudges of the Spirit,” “the requirements of God” in our daily lives.
If we are faithful servants, we are bound to be called upon for some new, perhaps unexpected service that may be different from what we have been led to before.
Question: Do you seek the will of God in all things? Some things? Sometimes? What governs your desire? What happens when you do?
Do you feel any leading into building up the spiritual life of the Meeting? I so, how does it manifest itself in you? In any case it was thought that all gifts and ministries were for building up the spiritual life of the Meeting and the Society of Friends…
***From Marty Grundy: God bestows gifts on the Meeting community, and the community, when functioning well, discerns who is to be the steward of particular gifts at particular times. Often they recognize that such a possibility of stewardship is emerging in someone, and they call that person to recognize and claim that reality, and to live into service of the Meeting and world in this particular way. Such a process frees the individual from fear, hesitation and caution: they have others who will help take responsibility for the cultivation of a gift, and the ministry or service that flows from claiming it, living into it, and using it.
1. Naming: joint responsibility, but led by the community.
- Envy and jealousy
- False humility
- Not vanity or arrogance but courageous “obedient humility”
- Condition of needing to do a thorough self-examination in light of this new gift, to discover and make any changes needed in order to develop and experience the gift as it was intended to be (used).
- Receiving the fruit —from Lloyd Lee Wilson
Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order
Here is how the Bible talks about this process of responding to grace, and thus wanting deeper knowledge of the Divine, and eventually becoming clear as to what ministry one is called (Wisdom in this passage is Sophia, the woman Spirit that was before God, and celebrated in Christian scripture, with apologies for the very male metaphors):
Happy is the man who meditates on wisdom, and reasons with good sense,
Who studies her ways in his heart, and ponders her secrets.
He pursues her like a hunter, and lies in wait by her path;
He peeps in at her windows, and listens at her doors;
He lodges close to her house, and fixes his peg in her walls;
And pitches his tent at her side, and lodges in an excellent dwelling.
He sets his children in her shade and camps beneath her branches.
He is sheltered by her from the heat and in her glory makes his home.
—Ecclesiasticus 14: 20-27
We must choose to put ourselves in her path (wisdom), and to learn to listen to her nudges. This is what I think is the foundation of conversion. When it works right, we spend the time with our faith community and our experience begins to slowly polish the rough spots, and we are more easily able to turn in a new direction. The Latin root for conversion means “to turn around.” This implies a change of perspective, a new way of seeing and hearing, and even smelling. This has been happening to me, and it is a little scary. Who am I becoming? Will my old friends like the new me? Do I have any choice in the matter? —from Kathleen Norris Amazing Grace
Question: Having committed to a spiritual community and journey, do you find yourself standing on new ground? Describe how it is different…Do you see/smell things in a new way? How?
Ministry: we need to move from doing things by and for ourselves to doing things in and through God. Where your great joy (or passion) meets the world’s great need.
- Household, close friends, family—near and far.
- The community: neighborhood, school, city or village, country, nation, world
- The Monthly Mtg, Quarterly Mtg Yearly Mtg, or wider Quaker fellowship
- The workplace, paid or volunteer.
Discerning and Carrying out a call to ministry—Fran Taber—Themes:
- Awareness of seed germination time: this can take a long time.
- Interaction between personal and corporate discernment.
- Issues of apprenticeship—Samuel Bownas: “It takes some time to gain experience before someone can come to a true settlement of one’s gifts.”
- Learning to work in my given setting
- Recognizing and entering doors of opportunity
- Being Mentored
- Recognizing (claiming leadings, areas of work, ways of working)
- Working with others (ministers and elders)
- Finding one’s own work, and working more independently
- The Crisis: discovering a block and its removal; breaking up of the Old; radical turning (which had already begun); a leap of faith; involves a deeper preparation; God taking over: pushing one to places she was unable to go to or do
- Becoming aware of one’s own places of struggle, issues
- Ongoing discernment, development: oversight from community, and elders is crucial
Samuel Bownas’ Model—Stages in Preparation and Carrying out of a Call
- Sanctification of gifts: one word way to say “spiritual preparation that needs to happen before one is ready for any ministry. We are prepared…the tree must be good before the fruit is good.”
- Inspiration and its discernment:
- Opening, leading
- Characterized by humility, not arrogance—deeply trusting and depending on God
- Apparent to others
- Waiting for authority and power: timing, waiting for the right moment
- Infant state in ministry
- Patience needed from self and Meeting
- Mind your own gifts and not others. No need to compare.
- Beware of jealousy and envy
- Wait for Spirit: not overforward or backward, don’t let mistakes stand in the way
- Seek and be willing to take advice
- State of young adult in ministry
- Be open to instruction and admonitions
- All in life affects ministry
- Spiritual parent to others in similar ministries
Some Ways Prophesy Emerges Amongst Us:
By Bill Taber
- Being and radiating from the Living Stream.
- Going up to the Watchtower, and seeing ahead. Bringing the Kingdom of God into fruition here and now.
- Being moved to change lifestyle and occupation.
- Being moved to pray for or speak to specific people.
- Being moved to seek opportunities and to speak as led.
- Spirit-guided speaking or prayer in Meeting for Worship.
- Spirit-guided and grounded participation in business/committee meetings.
- Being called to set up or give classes, workshops, reteats, talks—or to accept invitations to do this.
- Prophetic witness and service in the world.
- Being called to speak to someone in authority.
- Being led to specific a research and/or writing project.
List of Gifts/Ministries often used in Gifts workshops:
nurturer of the Meeting
lover of nature
laborer with hands
promoter of unity
giver of opportunity
presence in silence
nurturer of the young
minister of being
spiritual nurturer, etc., etc., etc.
Those who go forth ministering to the wants and necessities of their fellow human beings, experience a rich return, their souls being as a watered garden. (Lucretia Mott, 1850)
“Love is…like a spring coming up out of the ground of our own depths. “I am gift.” All that I am is something that’s given, and given freely.” Thomas Merton
Gospel Ministry is service whose goal is to encourage, support, push, or invite people to seek and respond to the guidance, teaching and activity of that Light and Life at work in all, right now.” From Brian Drayton, On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry, Quaker Press 2006