Responding to Calls to Ministry

by Patricia McBee

In the early 1990’s Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting had several requests from members to “release” them or to take specific work “under the care” of the meeting. It became clear we had no consistent process for dealing with these requests and no clear way of discerning the meeting’s proper response.

In January of 1993 the meeting approved that the clerk convene a committee to review the meeting’s procedures for responding to individuals called to ministry. That group discovered there were several resources available about the clearness process for the individual but found few resources addressing how the meeting could discern its role. The group developed guidelines to address that question and the meeting approved their use in June of 1995.

Called “Responding to Calls to Ministry” the guidelines begin:

  • A central facet of our religious lives is discernment of what we are called to do with our lives. Every meeting for worship is an occasion for opening ourselves to the leading of the Spirit and seeking ways to follow the guidance that we receive. As we deepen our spiritual lives we discover a path in the outward life to conform to our spiritual journeys: perhaps we recognize the work we have been doing as our calling or we may find ourselves led to new and different ways of living. Ideally the meeting nurtures this process by providing a setting in which to seek God’s guidance and by holding us in the Light as we seek to live as we are led.
  • Occasionally, a person may seek a clearness committee from the meeting to help her or him in making an important life decision: to marry or divorce, to bear a child, change jobs or career, return to school or leave school, to undertake a witness or to carry out a concern.
  • In some few cases there is a need or desire on the part of the member to have formal recognition or support from the meeting in pursuing a specific ministry or religious service. In these cases the meeting not only must assist the member in achieving clearness about his or her leading, but also must enter into a process of discerning the meeting’s appropriate role.

The guidelines continue with a section on discerning the needs of members called to ministry and a section on discerning the supportive response that the meeting can give. There is also a section on funding guidelines and a bibliography.

Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting has benefitted greatly from the use of these guidelines. Increased attention to calls to ministry has prompted members to be more attentive to the movement of the Spirit in their lives. Now the meeting feels ready to make this document available for the use of other meetings, reminding Friends that it was developed for the needs of a specific, large meeting and is still a work in process.

To obtain a copy, please write to Liz Yeats at FGC, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope with $.55 US postage (FGC will provide postage for those residing outside of the USA).

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