This is a talk I gave at Minneapolis Friends Meeting on Sept. 25, 2011. This written version is fleshed out from the sketchy notes that I spoke from, so it’s not a word-for-word record of what I said that day, but it’s close enough.
I first walked through the doors to the meetinghouse 21 years ago in the spring of 1990. I didn’t know much about Quakerism at the time, but I was looking for a spiritual practice. I knew that Quakers were opposed to war, and that appealed to me. Right away I felt I could be myself here – I wouldn’t have to pretend to believe things I wasn’t sure about.
I attended sporadically for the first couple of years. I became more involved when I was invited to be on the nursery committee, since my son was nursery age at the time. Committee work gave me a chance to get to know people in the Meeting and form relationships. When my son reached kindergarten age I became a First Day School teacher, teaching young kids on Sunday mornings. Having to prepare lessons and activities came with some stress and anxiety, but once I was in the classroom I always really enjoyed the time I spent with the kids.
In 2002 I was invited to join the Stewardship committee. I remember Eleanor Harris, who was clerk of the committee at the time, telling me she could see that I was a person who was “not afraid of money.” A year later when Eleanor went off the committee, I was asked to take her place as clerk. It was a good fit. It felt good to be trusted with the responsibility of tracking and reporting on the Meeting’s finances, and I felt appreciation from the Meeting.
As clerk of Stewardship, it was important for me to be at the monthly meetings for business. I had avoided business meetings previously because they seemed slow and tedious. But experiencing our meetings for business month after month it began to seep in how remarkable our decision making process is. With no voting and no single person having ultimate authority to exert their will, it is profoundly different from the way decisions are usually made in our world. It seems to me that our business process is one of the most important things Quakerism has to offer. It has changed how I act in the world, in any group or organization I’m involved with.
In 2009 was invited to be on the Ministry and Counsel committee. It seemed like a stretch. The responsibilities of that committee are not as clear-cut as those of Stewardship – but I talked with people on M&C and decided to accept even though I wasn’t sure what I might have to contribute. A year later, I was asked to become clerk of Ministry & Counsel. Again, it was a stretch. I had to think about it for a while, but again I accepted.
Being on M&C, especially as clerk, put me into a position as one of the people responsible for overseeing the well-being of our Meeting as a whole. During my time in that role I faced the challenges of dealing with some difficult interpersonal conflicts within the Meeting. Yes, peace-loving Quakers, being human, sometimes come into conflict with one another.
In April 2011, our Director of Ministry, Pat Jones, asked me to take over many of her responsibilities during her 4-month sabbatical. By this time I guess I was ready for anything. I said yes right away. I’m very glad I did. It gave me a chance to connect with people in a way I never would have otherwise.
Over the years I’ve consistently found that the more deeply I go into service in the Meeting, the greater the rewards are.
I’m really glad I walked through those doors 21 years ago, and found this community.