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2018 Annual Report
It is with great joy, tenderness and love that Ministry and Counsel has undertaken its service to Friends and meetings this year. We have endeavored in our work to focus on what has life, and to always bear in mind that we are accountable to local meetings as we work to “foster spiritual growth, strengthen the religious life of Friends and Friends meetings, and serve as a resource on religious education, worship and ministry.” All of our minutes are available on the Yearly Meeting website, and all are welcome to attend our meetings.
While our meetings are a time to gather for worship and mutual discernment, much of the work of Ministry and Counsel is done outside of our committee meetings, as we visit local meetings, respond to pastoral care needs that are brought to us, and hold Friends and meetings in prayer. Last year we approved a new process for responding to pastoral care needs, and since implementing the “on-call” team of Friends, we have successfully responded more effectively to the most urgent needs that have come to us, while also focusing on building capacity in local meetings. Cornelia Parkes (Cambridge, MA) led a workshop for Friends doing the work of pastoral care in their local context, which provided Friends with a chance to experience rejuvenation and to leave with increased skills for their work at home.
This year has been full of opportunities for conversation and engagement around ministry. In September we met jointly with Permanent Board to clarify our respective responsibilities with regards to Friends who are traveling in the ministry, endorsed by the Yearly Meeting. Members of Ministry and Counsel were deeply involved with the Nurturing Worship, Faith, and Faithfulness program, and as clerk of Ministry and Counsel I helped to plan the joint New York and New England Yearly Meeting weekend-long gathering for those called to pastoral ministry, and consulted with the clerks of the Legacy Gift Committee as they planned their annual workshop, which this year focused on “Supporting Ministers and Ministry.”
In February, we were grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the work being done on inclusion of young adult Friends from Nia Thomas (Northampton, MA), our Young Friends and Young Adult Friends Coordinator; and Hilary Burgin (Beacon Hill, MA) our Young Adult Engagement Coordinator, and to think about what we see in own meetings, and about the implications of these findings for the growth and thriving of the Religious Society of Friends. This work, like the work of addressing white supremacy, is at its core about starting to recognize and change patterns of behavior that prevent us from living into the Kingdom that God has in mind for us. This work will surely continue in the coming years, as we take more risks and try new ways of being and seeing that can lead us to the promised land.
Our Ministry and Counsel meetings this year have been characterized by growing trust and Love as we have engaged with one another in ways that have been at times uncomfortable—from prayer and conversation about the spiritual disease of white supremacy, to engaging in art and singing as part of our work together. We have been accepting the challenge of experimentation and are feeling the Fruits of the Spirit. May it be so for all of us!
With hope and humility,
—Honor Woodrow, clerk