Ministry and Nurture
Friends meet in a simple, unadorned physical space where people come together to connect with Spirit and each other. We have no minister, no deacons, and no office staff. What gets done outside of the hour of silent worship each Sunday is done by volunteers, often in the form of committees. One important committee in the life of our Meeting is Ministry & Nurture, but what exactly does it do?
Since the late 1980s when Memphis Friends Meeting officially became a part of SAYMA (Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting), M&N has evolved and grown. We look to SAYMA’s Faith and Practice, which says M&N is “responsible for the quality of Meeting for Worship, for the religious development of members and attendees, and for the pastoral counseling of members and attendees.”
How does M&N actually apply this description to our Meeting? “Quality of worship” sounds abstract, but since “all who attend Meeting for Worship share the responsibility for settling into silence and drawing together in expectant waiting and prayer” (SAYMA, Faith and Practice), we are all actually involved in creating an environment which nurtures worship. At M&N we step back and ask if this quality is being upheld. Sometimes we consider our physical space. For example, because worship begins when the first Friend sits down, they need a quiet space to settle into; M&N recommended moving Meetings for Learning into the library to allow a quieter transition. We also paid attention when two Friends recommended incorporating the Quaker tradition of asking Friends to share Joys and Concerns at the end of worship. Having a designated time each week time to express gratitude or ask to be held in the Light has deeply nurtured our community.
Since we don’t have a pastor, Friends have to handle our own religious development. M&N connects the various outlets we have in place and keeps a finger on the pulse of the Meeting. Often times we’ll be discussing a topic when a Friend will recommend that we schedule a Meeting for Learning and/or a newsletter article about it. We also work with the Events and Education Committee to think about retreats, workshops, spiritual nurture groups, Quaker 101 series, and other learning opportunities. M&N has a Spiritual Nurture Fund to help Friends with travel and expenses for retreats at places like Pendle Hill or SAYMA.
Because in Quakerism we are all ministers, we share the responsibility of pastoral care and we minister to each other all the time outside the realm of M&N. Friends organize to bring food when someone is ill. We help each other move or build handicap ramps. We reach out after the rise of meeting and check in with one another. We minister to one another when we don’t even realize we’re doing it! M&N is a structured outlet where Friends can request help from financial assistance to a clearness committee in the face of big life decisions.
Each month M&N meets to reflect on the tender care of our Meeting. Friends, if you have a personal or spiritual concern or a financial need, know that M&N is here. If you have a concern about the quality of worship, please share it with us. Finally, ask yourself: do your gifts and leadings resonate with the work of M&N? If so, I hope that you might consider someday serving on this committee.