Women in Ministry: Jean-Marie Barch

Jean-Marie Barch, clerk of FGC’s Committee for Nurturing Ministries and member of Executive Committee, describes how the Quaker way has made a difference in her life, and why she is a (very!) active participant in the FGC community.

How has Quaker faith and practice (or the Quaker way) informed your life?

When I was in second or third grade, I remember coming home one afternoon from school very upset because one of my friends had been mean to me. I regaled my mother with all the terrible things about Laurie (who the day before had been one of my best friends, of course) and how awful she was. My mother listened patiently and when I was done and she had comforted me and calmed me down, she asked that I go to school the next day and look carefully for something good about Laurie to come home and share with her. I was horrified! Clearly she had not understood that there could not possibly be anything good about Laurie. But my mother was calm, and persistent. I promised that I would do as she asked.

The next afternoon, proud of myself for being quite clever, I came home and proudly announced to my mother that “Laurie has beautiful red hair!” (which was quite true, by the way). My mother smiled and thanked me for telling her something good about how Laurie looked. She challenged me to come home the next day and tell me something good about who Laurie WAS.

The message stuck. In that very simple moment, my mother was giving me a message that has stayed with me all my life: it was not what was on the outside that mattered, it was looking carefully at what was on the inside that was important. That was foundational in my Quaker faith and upbringing—seeking the essence, the core, that of God (or the good) in everyone, even in times of distress and upset. Knowing that the good is there and reaching for it allows me to connect with that of “the good” in the person. This is what I understand [George] Fox meant when he spoke of “…answering that of God in everyone.” And, although I am far from always successful, this has been a guiding principle for my life.

Image credits: Committee for Nurturing Ministries, Marta Rusek, & Vanessa Julye

How/why do you participate in the FGC community?

Perhaps the most important reason I participate in the FGC Community is that it has given me many opportunities to use the gifts and return some small portion of the grace I have been given, and to grow in my connection to Spirit through connection with others. I believe that FGC seeks to bring the blessed community to fruition more fully, and it is important to me to contribute to that. I believe that our principles and practices, if clearly articulated and used, can provide people a path to live more fully in that blessed community where we are all more whole.

I currently serve as clerk of the Committee for Nurturing Ministries and as a member of the Committee for Discernment, Planning, and Priorities and Executive Committee. In those roles, I have the chance to support and participate in events for Friends of Color, to help support the High School and AYF [Adult Young Friend] Programs at the Gathering, to encourage production of materials for the Spiritual Deepening program, to advocate for educational and sharing opportunities for seasoned and rising clerks, and much more. I have previously served as co-clerk of the Youth Ministries Committee and Clerk of the Committee for Ministry on Racism. I also served on Nominating Committee. I have had the privilege of serving as Friend in Residence for the High School Program at the Gathering for a number of years—and my husband Frank and I served as co-clerks of the 2005 Gathering Committee.

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