New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Connecticut Valley Quarter Gathers to Consider Support of Ministry

May 31, 2017

While Friends in CVQM have been clear in their support of travel under concern and travel in the ministry, they have long been apprehensive about the nature, recognition and nurture of ministry in general. Brian Drayton of Weare Meeting is currently traveling under concern and with a minute from his meeting to create opportunities within each quarterly meeting, for ministering Friends to gather for mutual support and instruction. Jerry Sazama and Benigno Sanchez-Eppler, seeing that these two lines of interest were closely related, undertook to organize a gathering. 

Eighteen Friends came together at Northampton Friends Meeting for a day of reflection and accompaniment on May 13th. These Friends listened, shared and listened again as we talked about what has helped us find and sustain our service. We spoke about our yearning to walk with each other in the naming, the preparation and the faithfulness to those called to different ministries. We vowed to gather again and to invite the rest of the Quarter to join us. 

Benigno Sanchez-Eppler wrote afterwards, “In some Quaker traditions the recognition, training and growth of the ministers can be a very intentional process. Throughout the birth and development of the Quaker radical rejection of forms, orders, and hierarchies, particularly among early Friends, the movement depended on the close knit growth and accountability of Friends who took on the brunt of the ministry as they kept each other company in the long haul and in the short bursts of obedient work. In Liberal meetings like ours in Connecticut Valley Quarterly Meeting we are often fortunate to find as many ministers as we need to hold the work and to organize the loving we all want to make available as a community; but we don’t think together very much about the plowing, planting, weeding and harvesting of the variety of ministering that we sorely need. In my experience, I have never needed ordination or anointment; but recognition, equipping and the support I have received. It has been invaluable, particularly in the many times when the community saw something it needed from my service, that quite frankly would not have occurred to me.”

Brian Drayton added, “Being intentional about our faithfulness, and our support and awareness of each other who have some share in the work of service, and up building, will strengthen us all.  And I especially encourage Friends to seek, pray, and work to encourage those who serve to strengthen our Society, in encouragement, counsel, teaching, and building our sense of connection as one body, remembering always that the foundation and the greatest part of any ministry is listening — to the living inward Witness, or its reflection and activity in others, in Scripture, in our history, in nature.”

Ministry is essential to being Quaker. We are called by our experience of Presence, with the support of and for each other, to be faithful as we walk our ministry. Some words from the poet Antonio Machado in our opening worship rose out of the condition of those present:

Traveler, there are no roads.
Everyone who moves walks
like Jesus, on the sea.

We were very grateful those seas are infinite and that we were able to spend some time being carried together, held and heard in Gods endless mercy and love.