Monday, September 15, 2014

Recording Resources

A few weeks ago, a Friend wrote me asking if I knew of any resources about the Quaker process for recording ministers.  He said he was new to this, and it had been hard to find resources online.  I compiled a list of resources for him, and thought it might be useful for others as well.

My home meeting, Freedom Friends Church, has a page of resources on recorded ministry.

Here is a YouTube video of me talking about my recording process with Friends Journal:


I also posted quite a bit about the process of being recorded on my blog under the Recording label, as well as sharing stories from other women who have been recorded as ministers.

Steven Davidson wrote about some of the objections to recording in an article called Recording Gifts of Ministry in New York Yearly Meeting's Spark.  (See also Resources on Ministry.)

I highly recommend Brian Drayton's book On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry.  The whole book is excellent, but he talks specifically about his experience of being a recorded minister and reporting back to his meeting in Appendix 1 and 2.

Are there other resources you would recommend, Friends?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Middle

"How is it with you in your call?"
The question came from a woman I had just met at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference.  It took me by surprise, but after I thought for a moment, I said that there had been a lot of energy at the conference around beginning the journey, and that is not where I am.  I feel like I am on the path, but just plodding along.

The call to ministry is exciting and sexy.  Trying to live a life of ongoing faithfulness is not.

I have been a public Friend for six years now.  Not long compared to some, but long enough to get past the initial excitement of the call.  Sometimes ministry is exciting, sometimes it is horrible, and sometimes it is just a slog.

I have found that, once Friends are on board with the idea of ministry, there is a lot more focus on getting started than on the tools we need for a sustained life of ministry.  I hope that those of us who are doing this work can find ways to encourage each other in the middle and along the way.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Quaker Fame

"You might say they are going through fame puberty—the awkward stage." Nick Paumgarten
For the past year, I have been going to Quaker events and hiding.  I wrote about this a little after the FGC Gathering last year (where I actually started carrying around a disguise).  I said then that I was having a hard time with my rising level of "Quaker celebrity." It is something that is still a struggle for me.

Few things will throw me off center at a Quaker event faster than when someone knows who I am and I have no idea who they are.  A Friend will introduce me in conversation and the other person's face will light up.  I feel dread because I know they have read something I have written, or heard me speak, or heard about me some other way.  I never know what to do, and any response on my part feels awkward and ungracious.

I read the quote above in the New Yorker a few days ago and it spoke to my condition.  I feel like I have been going through an extended fame puberty.  Fortunately, I have been able to speak about this with some trusted elders over the past few months, and they have given me some good advice:

1.  I need to find ways to acknowledge that God is working through me when I do ministry.  It is especially awkward for me when people compliment me on a message I have given, because I feel strongly that those messages come from God.  At heart, my ministry is to help people experience the presence of God.  When they experience God through me, it can be a powerful and attractive experience.  It is important for me to be clear that I am the conduit, not the source.

2.  If I keep doing this work, this will keep happening.  I think part of the reason that I respond so poorly is because I act like every time I am recognized, it is the first time or totally unexpected.  I need to stop acting that way and start putting together a toolkit for how to respond when this happens.

3.  I need to find a Quaker space that is restorative for me.  A couple people have encouraged me to find somewhere that I can go not as a minister, but to worship and rest.  This may involve sending a message to the organizers in advance about my needs and how I want to participate.

All of this is complicated by the fact that Friends pretend like we don't have celebrities.  It is very hard to claim a level of fame when Quakers want to believe that we are all equal in every way.  But I think it is important to do so for me to be able to grow out of this "fame puberty," and I am going to claim this:

I am a minor celebrity in a small denomination.

How did it make you feel to read that?  Was it funny?  Did it seem like not a big deal?  Or did it make you want to reassure me that, really, I'm not that famous?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Epistle

Epistle of the 2014
Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference
June 11-15, 2014
Menucha Retreat Center, Corbett, Oregon
Greeting to Friends Everywhere:
We are 77 women who have come together from North Pacific Yearly Meeting, Northwest Yearly Meeting, Freedom Friends Church, and meetings further afield. Our theme this year was “Wilt Thou Go on My Journey?” To prepare for the conference, each woman wrote a short reflection paper on the conference theme and quotes from Luke 9:2-4, Isaiah 6:9, and from two women who traveled in the Quaker ministry: Nancy Hawkins and Caroline Stephen. We read each other’s papers and discussed them within our home groups: small groups of women who met throughout the conference to share with each other their stories with confidentiality, great trust, and vulnerability.
We met to worship together in unprogrammed worship, plenary sessions, workshops, community activities, worship for business, and semi-programmed worship. Each day we explored a different aspect or topic related to spiritual journeys: Welcoming, Clearness of Calling, Doubt and Fear on the Journey, Deepening Faith, and Journeying Together.
Through workshops, including workshops on writing, songs, movement, and prayer, we explored ways to reflect on, express, and share our journeys with each other, moving past our fears about being judged based on our differences. We felt great trust in this group and were able to shed our reluctance to expose our fears and joys to each other. We celebrated what we found in common and explored what was new to us.
We used forms of worship that were new to most of us from both programmed and unprogrammed meetings, including chanting and worshipful movement. We found these forms to be powerful ways to move into worship together. Spirit-led, spontaneous acapella singing enriched our worship and community.
During a powerful gathered meeting, we supported those who were trembling, weeping, and quaking and encouraged them to speak. We talked with each other about our roots as Quakers and about how our traditions have splintered so that none of us has a complete experience. We heard from the Lord a call to help bring those pieces back together that can help us create a new mosaic that honors the many facets of our different traditions.
We committed to organize this conference again in two years’ time and to invite more women from the evangelical traditions.
We asked ourselves what we would bring with us from this conference. We were invited to take the things we had heard and experienced and allow them to change us and through us, change our communities and to bridge the divides between different yearly meetings.
Regards,
All of us gathered at the 2014 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Workshop: On Prayer

[The workshop I am leading on prayer at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference.]

Douglas Steere said that “To pray is to pay attention to the deepest thing that we know.”  In this workshop, we will explore different kinds of prayer, including body prayer, a breathing prayer, and an interactive stations of the Lord’s Prayer.  Everyone is welcome.

Led by Ashley W – Originally from Alaska, studying at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, and a recorded minister of Freedom Friends Church in Salem, OR.  I call a lot of places home.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Quakers and Women in Ministry (Video)

In February, I had the opportunity to go to Philadelphia to observe the Friends Journal board meeting for a school project.  While I was there, Jon Watts interviewed me for Friends Journal's new QuakerSpeak project.  We talked about a lot of things, including my recording process, vocal ministry, my home meeting, Freedom Friends Church, and women in ministry.

I feel honored to be featured in this week's QuakerSpeak video about Quakers and women in ministry, along with Marcelle Martin, Carole Spencer, and others.  This video does a great job of explaining Friends' history of women in ministry, as well as talking about some of the ongoing challenges for women in ministry.


I am very excited about the QuakerSpeak project, and I look forward to the ways that QuakerSpeak will share information about Friends today in its weekly videos.  Good work, Friends!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seeking the Living Water

[The message I gave out of open worship at the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas consultation in High Point, NC.


At Freedom Friends Church, we always begin with gratitude.  I am grateful to be here with all of you this evening.  I am grateful for safe travels and warm welcomes.  I am grateful for Deborah S, who is eldering for me, and for all of the Friends who are holding me in prayer.  I am grateful for all of you, for the joy and hope and love you bring to this gathering.  I am grateful that God is not finished with us yet.


In Jeremiah 2:13, the prophet Jeremiah speaks the word of the Lord, saying, “My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and they have dug their own cisterns, cisterns that cannot hold water.”

As I was preparing this message, two images from the natural world came to me.  The first is of dead trees filled with salt in Alaska.

I was born and raised in Alaska, and so was my mother, and so were her parents.  That place is deep in my bones.  There are certain colors and smells and images that I associate with it, and when I see them or smell them, I know that I am home.

One of the most haunting images of my childhood was of these dead trees.  They are a result of the 1964 earthquake.  That earthquake was 9.2 and lasted for four minutes.  My grandparents and my mother thought that it was the end of the world.  They ran outside as their house fell off its foundation.  The destruction was incredible.

In one part of Alaska, the ground sank below sea level, and the trees’ root systems filled with salt water.  Decades later, you could drive by and see these ghost trees, standing exactly as they stood during the earthquake.  It is a haunting image and one that seemed like it would last forever.

This was a natural reaction to a natural disaster.  The water that killed those trees had been living water, but it was no longer life-giving for those trees. 

Sometimes when we encounter God, it feels a little like that: overwhelming.

There is a story in the Bible where Jesus takes three of his disciples up onto a mountain to pray, and while they are there, they have an encounter with the living God.  As Jesus was praying, his face was transformed and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening.  (Luke 9:29)

This story is like another story in the Bible, where Moses also went up a mountain to encounter God.  After he did, his face also glowed.  His face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.  (Exodus 34:29)

But the first time Moses went down from the mountain, he found that the people had built a golden calf and were worshiping it.  (Exodus 32:5-6)

The question that people always ask is, How could the Israelites do that?  They had just had an incredible encounter with the living God; God had just rescued them from slavery in Egypt and performed miracle after miracle.  But I think it is not in spite of that encounter with God that the Israelites built the golden calf, but because of it.

A phrase you often hear Quaker ministers say to each other is, “Watch what you fill up on.”  When we encounter the living God, that experience changes us, inside and out, and others can see it.  We feel different and we look and sound different. 

Afterward, there is a strong impulse to recreate the experience, to fill the hole that was so recently filled by the presence of God.

And, in the story of Jesus on the mountain, this is what Peter wanted to do.  He saw Jesus’ radiant face and the two men with him and said, “Master, it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters―one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  The Bible says that he did not know what he was saying.  (Luke 9:33) 

But Peter knew that he had encountered the living God.  He wanted to mark the experience and hold on to it by making a tabernacle, but the spirit of God had moved on.

I began with Jeremiah 2:13, a passage that has been important to me.  But when I was in North Carolina a couple years ago, a Friend from Ohio Yearly Meeting reminded me of another passage about water.  Proverbs 5:15 instructs us to “drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.”

The context of this verse is faithfulness to one’s spouse, but I think it works for the Religious Society as Friends as well.  We are all here because we have found something, we have encountered the living God, we have found the living water here among Friends.  Where have we found it?  Where have we abandoned it?  Where do we find it now?

Even if we have abandoned the living water or we have set up monuments to the past, there is always hope.  Even those ghost trees that haunted my childhood won’t last forever.  When I was a teenager, an artist began to make salt and pepper shakers out of the trees. 

The second image from the natural world that came to me is of a place that I used to pass by in Salem, Oregon when I would take walks on my lunch break.  It was a place that had been a concrete driveway, but the concrete had been taken away and there was grass growing where it had been.  After a while, you couldn’t even see where the concrete had been, it was just grass.

Concrete seems permanent.  It is heavy and it seems like it will last forever, but it doesn’t.  It is possible for grass to grow where there was once concrete.

Transformation is always possible.