What is Ministry and Counsel?

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Faith & Practice Revision Committee

Happy New Year!

Yes, for your Faith and Practice Revision Committee, the beginning of October is the start of the new year. This is the moment, every year (or nearly so), at which we send a draft text to all of the meetings in New England and invite your discernment. This year, we’re excited to send you our longest and most complex chapter yet—on Ministry and Counsel (M&C).

Every meeting clerk should already have received the draft chapter on M&C by email from the Yearly Meeting office, together with a cover letter explaining the feedback we need from meetings. Every Friend is invited to download and read the chapter and participate in the discernment process. You can find it here.

The most useful feedback comes when a meeting wrestles together with a text, and sends us the fruits of their shared discernment. We urge every meeting to undertake this work over the next six months. In addition, individuals are welcome to send us their personal reflections on the text, and we will weigh every comment we’ve received in our revision process.

So, what’s in this ambitious chapter? We’ve tried to give a clear spiritual grounding and useful instructions for all of the facets of the work of ministry and counsel in the monthly meeting, while recognizing that in NEYM there are a wide variety of ways we structure this work: a single M&C Committee that does it all? Two or more committees that each take up aspects of the work? A committee of the whole? Each meeting can find the structure that works best for their situation, while using the draft chapter to reflect on the overall breadth and depth of ministry and counsel’s responsibilities.

The material in this chapter has many points of contact with other sections of our Faith and Practice. For example, this chapter speaks specifically of M&C’s role vis-á-vis membership and marriage, while pointing to the chapters on those topics for more complete discussions of all aspects. This chapter also guides M&C in the discernment of, and care for, gifts of ministry as they arise in the meeting, while noting that a much more comprehensive exploration of the topic of Gifts and Leadings will be forthcoming in a separate chapter. Some of the material you saw previously in the chapter on Pastoral Care has been moved to this new M&C chapter, and we may yet do some further rearranging.

Now we need your engagement. We are trying to write a Faith and Practice that reflects the Yearly Meeting as it is today, in a way that leaves space for spiritual renewal and fresh spiritual insight. Does this draft create space for you and your meeting to find the way forward together on difficult issues, to nurture the Spirit, and to build community? Do you have a story of your meeting’s experience to share with us? Is there an additional extract you’d like to recommend because it has been helpful to your meeting? The more we hear from you, the more our new book of Faith and Practice will reflect the living faith and practice of New England Friends.

If you have any questions about the draft M&C chapter, or about any other aspect of the Faith and Practice Revision Committee’s work, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our clerk, Phebe McCosker, at [email protected].