Monday, 2 March 2009

Being useful

When I was in my teens, I was involved with very evangelical Christian groups, where much was made of finding one's ministry - 'Have you found your ministry yet? Do you think x could be your ministry? Have you prayed for your ministry to be revealed to you?'

I was never quite sure what my ministry was, unless it was being able to perform all the words and actions of the Butterfly Song off by heart, and that seemed unlikely. It was just the most Christian thing I could do. All around me were preachers, prophets, people who could cast out demons, people with a mission to the homeless, people who ministered to alcoholics and drug addicts - and there was I, my only useful talent (as I thought) waving my hands around and ruffling my hair.

As I got older and grew further away from that area of the church, I began to see that 'having a ministry' was no simple, one-time deal. I met people who had maybe worked with the homeless for years, and then got deeply involved with, say, a choir or a theatre group (not mutually exclusive activities, of course, but I hope you see my point). Or maybe they'd been a lay preacher, then packed it all in to go and do voluntary work overseas. Perhaps it wasn't a case of finding my ministry, but listening, and doing what I was told.

Now that I am a Quaker, I can't remember anyone ever asking me what my ministry is. We seem more interested in bringing out people's many abilities and gifts than shoe-horning them into one special area.

I have always had a way with words, and blogging has become my most frequent practice of my writing skills. After reading my blogs, other members wondered if I would be a good Editor for the newsletter. I was worried about taking it on at first, in case it over-taxed me, but I spread out the work as much as I can over the month, and I know no one is going to complain if it's a couple of days late. So far, though, I have got it out on time, three months in a row.

The first two months were four pages long, but this month is ten pages, a real bumper issue. People seem to like my style, and are keen to submit items. I love doing it, I can use my skills, and I get thanks for doing a good job. I don't care what my ministry is now, I just enjoy being useful - and I still love singing the Butterfly Song...


Jan Lyn said...

Wonderful, Heather. I recall the Butterfly song as well and can definately identify with this post. I find myself really looking forward to Mondays at your blog now also!

RichardM said...

I have never been on the inside of any such evangelical group that you mention and I find myself wondering what it's like. It sounds reasonable and even quite good at least on the surface. Isn't it a good thing to have get help from the community in discerning what God wants the individual to do? But a hint of how this might go wrong arises from your description of it. You call it "shoehorning" people into narrow roles, and I think I see what's amiss. What seems to be going on is that the leaders of these groups have ideas about what God "should" want people to be doing and then they try to impose what are in fact their own ideas on impressionable youth instead of really waiting and listening for what God will tell them.

I'm glad that the Quaker style of discerning and cultivating the individual gifts of people is working for you. I have great faith in it. People sometimes mock Quakers because our process tends to be slow but over time you learn that you can't push the river.

Heather said...

Yes, Richard, you hit the nail on the head - in my experience people were put into pigeonholes, and if you didn't conform, in every way, you were greatly looked down upon.

I think the Quaker way os much more productive!

Robin M. said...

I don't know the words to the Butterfly Song - can you share them??

Heather said...

Sure, Robin - you can find them here:
where there is also an audio clip for the music. It's a great song :)