On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry (review)

Author(s): 
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On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry
by Bryan Drayton
reviewed by Susan Loucks


Quakers assert that everyone can have direct access to the Divine and that anyone can step up to or away from ministry at any time.  Brian Drayton’s On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry (revised and updated) is relevant for anyone who wants to embody that power in their lives more fully. One clear intention of this book is to provide guidance to individuals with particular gifts that Quaker meetings might be rusty in recognizing and supporting.

The author (who has lived most of his life with a recognized calling to Quaker ministry) names ministries that are familiar to Friends, but not often cultivated. We all know about vocal ministry, but liberal meetings rarely nurture Friends who are particularly gifted in vocal ministry or encourage anyone to serve in that way. For those who fear that would look too much like paid clergy, Drayton offers plenty of compelling alternative views. For example, an identified vocal minister might just be somebody who knows what a group or individual needs to hear, or it might even be someone who knows how to hold back and encourage a deeper expression of God through everyone. Drayton also shares examples of ways to nurture such gifts. For example, when people with similar gifts across different meetings are given chances to encourage each other, it can stimulate greater fruitfulness and faithfulness.

This book also describes and gives advice for ministries that are uncommon among liberal Friends today but deserve attention, including endorsed ministers (e.g., hospital chaplains), Friends who are frequently called to make public presentations or facilitate public meetings, recorded ministers, and the nearly forgotten Quaker practice of “opportunities,” in which Friends are led to visit and initiate worship with each other in small groups or families, creating openness for God to be at work.

The author is thoroughly steeped in Quaker history and precedent, and walks a bit of a tightrope in simultaneously encouraging ongoing revelation and respecting forms from past centuries. There is so much in our history that we’ve forgotten or ignored which still can speak to us – I laughed out loud at several of his selected passages – and it would also be interesting to read about emergent Spirit-filled forms.

Drayton is clear that the goal of our Quaker practice is dynamism and responsiveness to Spirit. To recognize a ministry does not mean to support someone who is simply good at something; it is first and foremost about supporting faithfulness.

One section of this book describes a number of practices we can use to cultivate our own faithfulness, our own capacity to hear and answer – including prayer, relationship with scripture, and identifying feedback within our own work and exercise. This section is so widely relevant that it almost should stand alone; however, it serves the book’s message that we all have capacity for ministry.

The emphasis on that point was what I loved most about this book. Drayton’s own experience tells him that ongoing Divine communication is real, current, and accessible, and that it transforms us. He asks us to learn to be teachable. He asks us to work hard at this and not settle for less, because it’s worth it. This is the faith I signed up for, and I was so grateful for this encouragement.  ~~~

Susan Loucks is a member of Pittsburgh Friends Meeting who lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

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