Saturday, May 29, 2010

Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends

Eighth PNW Quaker Women’s Theology Conference
16 - 20 June 2010
Seabeck Conference Center
Seabeck, Washington

I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith (the leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), [a faith] that first lived permanently in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, [dwells] in you also.
That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands with those of the elders at your ordination].
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:5-7 (Amplified Bible)

"Many Friends today are crying out for spiritual mentors, for ministers and elders who are lovingly steeped in our tradition. Some Friends hunger for a deeper relationship with God, for a connection with a divine power that heals and empowers. We long for wise and loving role models and examples." From: Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, p. 27, Pendle Hill Publications.

"As meetings became settled, elders performed a variety of functions, according to their gifts and leadings. . . . [A]ll gifts and ministries were for building up the spiritual life of the meeting and the Society: directing and re-directing people to the Spirit of God, to the Inward Christ, the Light, the Inward Teacher, the Guide, the one true Priest and Shepherd. It was clearly understood that any member of the meeting might be called to some part of this service, but that some were specifically led by the Spirit at any given time." From: Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality Vol. II, 1999.

THEME: Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends

I have never had a mentor.
I have had many of the opposite; people who tried to discourage me from paths that I felt were true to my inner guide.

As a pre-teen, when I talked of going to college, my mother tried to dissuade me saying, "you'll be like your aunt Betty and get married after two years". My aunt Betty was my father's younger sister, the only girl and the only one of his family of five siblings to get the opportunity and she didn't finish. I guess it seemed logical to them to project that onto me. My reply was always "I'll never get married", which was promptly also dismissed as the naiveté of the young.

I subsequently succumbed to societal pressures as it was difficult to resist in the 1940's and 50's with no support, but I always knew that marriage to a man was not my métier, my vocation or path in life.

Another area in which I was discouraged from following my inner guide was religion. I was raised mostly in the United Presbyterian church, although we did not attend regularly. My father worked many weekends and my mother did not drive. I also felt, even as a very young child that it was not the path to the Divine for me as I felt there was too much hell fire and damnation and very little grace, although I could not articulate this at the time. In my early twenties, I was drawn to Roman Catholicism and "converted" to that religion. When my mother found out, there was a big confrontation and attempts to get me to change my mind. It wasn't until my early forties that I discovered that I was a Quaker. By then, I was away from those who would discourage me in my path to the encounter with the Divine.

But when it comes to spirituality, books can sometimes provide the catalyst or guidance that will help you go deeper in your relationship with God. In a sense, my mentors may have been the writers of books.

In the end, the only mentor that I truly had was my inner mentor who saw me through all of the above and more.


There is some confusion among a few Friends in our meeting about who is an elder. Being an unprogrammed meeting means that there is no permanent body of “Elders”, but the duties of nurture and discipline which constitute eldering are shared among the Oversight and Worship and Ministry committees. There is a member of meeting whom some Friends experience as being “mean” and a Friend who left meeting partly because of them told me that they felt there was no recourse as this Friend was an elder. I replied that this person was not an elder and that being old does not qualify a Friend as an elder. It is also difficult to recognize elders when the positions rotate every few years on the committees.
I may be wrong, but my sense is that if asked, very few could readily identify who are the current elders in our meeting.
It seems to me that the lack of either mentoring or spiritual direction negatively affects the development of elders. I have served on both of these committees in the past and have now been asked to serve on the Ministry and Oversight committee of North Pacific Yearly Meeting beginning in 2011. I can only hope that with God's help I will be able to adequately serve.


Several friends lately that have left meeting have told me of their finding new communities in Humanists and Unitarians and have tried to get me to try these out. I have no interest and the only response that I can think of is that they are not Quaker. The Quaker form of worship, expectant waiting for a connection with the Divine, for me, cannot be surpassed by any other practice. Add to that the testimonies, and the practice of waiting for Divine guidance in meeting for worship for business and these are the things that I could not leave behind.