Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what is truly about–quite apart from what I would like it to be about–or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions….That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. – Parker Palmer
This week I’ve been especially aware of a rising need in myself to pay attention to what is in front of me, and how it defines what I sense as “ministry”. I used to travel among Friends extensively, called to gospel ministry of visiting and sharing in the Spirit together. Especially in this season of new work for NEYM, I’ve found a whole new world of skills and gifts to consider.
I’ve struggled this year with a deep split as I see it – the difference between “gifts” and “skills”. While both can certainly be used for greater good – one set seems particular to “ministry” while one just seems to be mere “stuff I’m good at”. Sometimes those skills that seem to come so easily to me are the very avenue into greater faithful service to our community.
In my work at planning events for our Yearly Meeting, I rarely get to “go to” worship with others. I always seem to be racing around on a golf cart at sessions, or carrying toilet paper into restrooms. There are food concerns and parking issues and oh so many chairs. Everywhere, the chairs.
Those moments though give me unique opportunities to connect with others. Sitting at a registration table at committee day, Friends will often stop by to say hello and share news of their meeting and faithful work. I never travel alone on my golf cart at sessions – and there is always a quick moment to offer a prayer, to share some helpful advice, or accept a gift of coffee or a hug. This past summer the one time my schedule was free enough to attend worship was during midweek – and a torrential downpour kept me from that space. It also “trapped” me in a dormitory basement with Friends who’d traveled in ministry, for deep and helpful conversation which led to further encouragement for me.
How do we encourage those moments? I don’t think we have to create them – they are there at every turn. Those times when God’s grace seeps through and delivers us despite our best efforts at doing it “right”. Being prepared, and being in a state of continual openness to new possibilities seems the hope for me now. As a come to the edge of new shapes of ministry, and new ways of “traveling” among Friends, I hope to continue to be able to see that fresh newness of Life that is around us always.