RantWoman promises eventually to get to some thoughts and queries fairly specific to one ministry and whether it and its current care arrangements are working for the focus person, the support committee, and, individually and collectively for Meeting. RantWoman is going to get there by a slightly round-about route. RantWoman is pointedly not identifying the ministry in order to keep the conversation generalizeable and to leave space off-blog for ongoing discernment and other work.
RantWoman needs to be clear: RantWoman is speaking for herself! RantWoman had occasion for one set of inquiries because of an activity outside Meeting. RantWoman came into another role related to the general question of ministries midstream with additional bumpy circumstances involving the clerk of the support committee and general mentoring issues. RantWoman is seasoning some questions about lines among roles including individual Meeting member and person with other responsibilities. RantWoman has a sense of need for shared discernment and has only limited sense of which of several threads most need attention and from which groups from the community. The mere fact that some or another issue wanders across RantWoman's mind may or may not mean anything about what comes out in shared discernment.
RantWoman is also meditating about expectations of released Friends and other waves of community life. For instance, RantWoman has detected a number of crosscurrents related to the differing capacities of different Friends in her Meeting to listen and to hear about different matters, and to who gets heard. RantWoman is pretty sensitive to a feeling of being told from more than one direction to shut up and to some indications that some or another point might not get heard in certain conversations.
RantWoman is also colliding with certain realities about remnants of good Quaker process and may even get to important openings if she just rides the points on her mind. Sigh! The internet also creates whole new vistas for interaction and blurring of lines. Perhaps not all of these challenges have to be addressed instantly, but it might be fair to identify and call out issues.
RantWoman supposes one point of being a released Friend is that one is liberated of obligation to interact with some of these matters or to make selected inquiries if some or another topic seems to be lapping at the work of a ministry. RantWoman also thinks that the mere fact that a matter involves challenging matters of listening and being heard may or may not mean something is not working for a community. In some cases the point of the matter is that either party may really need to hear the challenging issues but the question of how to do this under current geography and time conditions arises.
Digression vaguely topical: RantWoman was reading of the problem of many young Friends not feeling at home in any Meeting. RantWoman remembers her twenties. RantWoman was not yet a Quaker but was connected with Quakers involved in some other activities. RantWoman remembers needing and being greatly steadied by good elders when she found them and sometimes when they inserted themselves into matters of RantWoman's life. RantWoman is thinking about this as part of the picture of supporting young adults or even slightly older but mobile or intransition who may be called to ministry but not living near the Meeting where they grew up or hold membership. RantWoman wonders whether the narrative below might seem topical for young Friends and Meetings considering such connections.
RantWoman is also thinking of history and current practice around ministries far away from her current Meeting.
RantWoman's meeting was originally an outreach project of a Friends Church which in turn began life as a mission of Indiana Yearly Meeting. RantWoman is comparatively unschooled in the history and family tree of west coast Friends but RantWoman imagines that 100 years ago contact with the home Meeting was a lot more challenged than now. RantWoman expects that the mission was alive in the community's mind through letters and reports and occasional visitors but that there were considerably fewer ways for interactions to mushroom than, for instance, all the peculiarities of internet conversations.
RantWoman has been thinking about historical examples of RantWoman's Meeting supporting ministries at a distance. RantWoman's Meeting has provided support and oversight for many worship groups and preparatory Meetings under its care. The only other longstanding ministry in RantWoman's memory carried out at a distance from Seattle was a project working with street kids in Nicaragua in the 1990's. RantWoman remembers support of this project involved some connection to Peace and Social Concerns and frequent appearances of pamphlets and handicrafts at the crafts sale. RantWoman also remembers the project required tending to some questions related to the technicalities of how Meeting accepted funds but by the time RantWoman entered the picture this ministry was on its way to independent nonprofit status.
RantWoman has been thinking about all this history with an eye toward a current ministry of her Meeting, one where the person with the ministry lives a great distance away and a lot of the most visible work occurs through the internet, and at various gatherings.
RantWoman is aware that an annual report is overdue. No one to RantWoman's ear is particularly clamoring for the report, but RantWoman is aware of a number of issues and also of a concern she would like to have space for in conversation. Conveying the concern to the support committee has been done and may intersect well with another thread of support committee work. However, RantWoman has a sense of need for shared discernment either of a specific proposal that would incidentally address RantWoman's concern or in the absence of a proposal specifically about RantWoman's concern.
RantWoman is aware that everyone connected with the ministry, the focus person, her wife, and all the members of the support committee have over the last year experienced significant medical and life issues and sometimes more than one apiece and RantWoman is humble simply to hold them in the Light on that score.
RantWoman has at one gathering heard several Friends independently with no prompting speak of the topic of the ministry as very important to their own experiences of and language for talking about the divine.
RantWoman likes the ministry much better since she has gotten to read the topical blog. The ministry in question is one of those Quaker-hypen conversations. RantWoman especially likes that the blog frequently includes links to the hyphen part and topics of interest to Quakers such as nonviolence and prison ministry. RantWoman herself has had little time to visit the links but likes the feeling that she would have a place to start if more need or interest from someone else arose.
RantWoman likes that this ministry overlaps with experiences of an earlier phase of RantWoman's life and that dialogue feels to RantWoman more feasible through this ministry than with many people connected with the previous experiences. RantWoman is not sure whether this feeling of accessibility relates only to the gifts of the person with the ministry, to testing through Quaker process or to the passing of time in RantWoman's thinking but RantWoman quite appreciates it.
RantWoman likes the sense the ministry's blog offers of being connected to other Quakers through both geography and mention of specific gatherings. RantWoman's Yearly Meeting for instance maintains connections to but not affiliation with FGC, RantWoman thinks for good reason actually even though she values the presence and connections fostered by this ministry and other activities.
RantWoman also finds one thread about cross-meeting accessibility both interesting and useful in its own right and helpful in stiffening RantWoman's spine about asking systematically for what she needs of a different accessibility issue. RantWoman has used queries from the blog and forwarded blog items to others in her Meeting.
RantWoman had one exchange with the focus person about something from her Meeting's support letter. The ministry was approved well after RantWoman had been making standing requests to have ALL materials to be approved in Business Meeting emailed to her in advance for accessibility reasons. RantWoman had a standing request but it was a request. RantWoman is not sure this is a document that would be routinely distributed anyway and RantWoman remembers having a question about the point she eventually inquired of; RantWoman is not sure why she did not ask when the letter first came up in Business Meeting.
If RantWoman had interacted with the document she read on the web she would certainly have asked the question she had in Business Meeting. The question relates as much to a personal twitch of RantWoman's as to anything about the ministry. RantWoman was more than satisfied by the response and half wonders whether the details might make interesting reading for others. RantWoman supposes she could also have inquired of the support committee instead of the focus person. RantWoman further supposes that if a person with a ministry were expected to field questions from every member of her Meeting, the focus person might never get anything else done; RantWoman thinks someone can speak up if that is an issue here and RantWoman is adding the accessibility issue to her already copious stores of points pointing to need to keep on keeping on about her concerns!
RantWoman has had conversations about the ministry incidental to other discussions with two members of the support committee. One member raised an issue that RantWoman would actually predict based on geography, education, and family background. The issue came up in passing in a context where RantWoman was not being asked her opinion. RantWoman supposes she could follow up and inquire whether that Friend wants RantWoman's opinion. At this point though RantWoman is inclined just to see what comes out of the next phase of process and perhaps to listen and attend to evidence of the issue being a problem.
A second Friend spoke of a matter RantWoman assumes the support committee might be tending to. To RantWoman's ear, based on reading blog entries, the ministry's thinking and practices are well within the bounds of discussions occuring across Meetings across Friends traditions about the topic. RantWoman has no opinion about whether anything from this area is or should be slated to appear in the report which is due though it might be interesting to hear whether and if so how the support committee has interacted with the concern that came up in conversation with RantWoman.
RantWoman does not think it's exactly reasonable for random members of Meeting to suggest "homework" for the ministry, but RantWoman is thinking about how the ministry's blog marks different times of the year and is kind of curious about the evolution of historical and modern Quaker practice around cycles of the year. How is the Quaker part of practice different from or intertwined with how this is organized? realized for the hyphen part?
But this is all RantWoman's opinion. RantWoman supposes one sort of logical option would be to back up and just focus on what is needed to frame the "is it still working?" phase of Meeting's discussion of something it has already approved. RantWoman is pretty sure Meeting is not even going to register all the points on RantWoman's mind and RantWoman thinks some of the points are more for the focus person than the rest of Meeting anyway, at least for the time being. Others of the points are for RantWoman to work, not for the focus person of this ministry. Stay tuned on that score....