Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Ministry-Life Balancing Act

Reading Robin's post the other day got me thinking about the struggles I have had with recognising and finding ways to follow my own ministry.

It took me a long time to feel that my interest in spiritual autobiography could be seen as a kind of ministry. It was only when I moved from an academic and personal view of the subject to the development of a workshop that aimed to tell others about the form and tradition of this kind of writing and to encourage them to attempt to write their own that the thought that what I was doing was ministry entered my head.

I was 'released' to follow this ministry more intensively by a combination of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust awarding me a fellowship and my employer promising that I would have a job to return to after a year. At the time, having gone through the experience of being made redundant twice, I would not have been brave enough to proceed without that safety net.

Afterwards I went back to work but also continued giving workshops and wrote an account of the fellowship. This brought me into writing and publishing both of which I now see as part of the same ministry. I know that I have been led along the path I have taken and sometimes I have been gently but firmly pushed into taking the next step. Looking back I realise that it is always when I have turned outwards, shared my experience and the experience and words of Quaker foremothers and forefathers with others, that what I have done has become ministry.

Along the way I have sometimes taken false steps. There was a time when I really wanted to find a job in the Quaker world. I thought that this would free me from having to balance my Quaker calling with other paid work. Failure and rejection were hard lessons but in time I learned from them. I remained independent and gained much from the work that did come my way. All the time I know that my Inward Teacher has been providing me with lessons that I needed to learn and has been patient with my slowness to understand.

Many years ago in meeting I was given three phrases which I understood were messages for me and not to be shared at that time. I wrote them down and they have travelled with me as lessons and encouragement in my ministry and my life. They are - 'Count your blessings' , 'A way will open' and 'My time is not your time'.

I understand more about what my ministry is and how I should express it as time goes on. Now that I have retired from paid work my view of it is slowly changing again. I am trying to be open to new possibilities but I am also continuing to write and publish, if only infrequently, here and elsewhere. God knows where I will be led next but I am still waiting to find out.


Heather said...

I wrote about my ministry this last week, too! Seems like a lot of us are realising things at the same time....

Robin M. said...

Thank you for both for sharing your stories. It is helpful to me.