by Brian Drayton
Friends who have been seen to have this burden and gift laid on them must take care that their life is (in increasing degree) so ordered as to carry this responsibility seriously. It should make a high claim on one’s life. We cannot prescribe the details, but we can describe the overall pattern that we encourage ministers to bear in mind as a guide and inspiration. Since ministers are called, as way opens, to articulate and nourish the spiritual life among us with the instrument of language, they must see as their prime duty to grow in the depth of their practice of Friends’ way of life—living experimentally with the Spirit on a daily basis. The minister’s life should make room for consistent practice of prayer and scriptural study. A minister need not be a scholar, but should strive for a comprehensive and balanced familiarity with the main outlines of Friends history and traditions, as well as of current meeting life. A long-term acquaintance with the writings of the early Friends, and of some of the journals of ministers in all periods of Friends history, has often been found to be of help.
The minister’s life must include time for reflection, so that the exercise of the gift is appropriate. The minister must learn discernment about when to speak and when not to, when to accept invitations to teach or lead, and when to open this opportunity to another. This gift is a gift of service which we hope will appear widely among us, and part of the minister’s calling is to pray and seek for its appearance in others.
The minister should not see this work as taking place in isolation. It is properly contextualized in the demands of daily work and family life, and of the work and life of the meeting. Further, the minister should find opportunities, both unexpected and regular, to worship with and talk with others in the ministry, not necessarily about the ministry itself, but out of each other’s life, and the fellowship of carrying a shared concern on behalf of the meeting’s life. Ministers are reminded that the use of words is to bring others to the end of words, and that the goal always is to gather Friends or any other group into a deeper sense of the Presence of God among us, and into a realistic, dedicated, and joyful response to that Presence in the moment, and over time…
Brian Drayton is a member of Souhegan Preparative Meeting, located in Milford, New Hampshire. He is an active contributor to this website.