Insights into the Practice of Eldering in Ohio Yearly Meeting
A summary minute from a session of the Ohio Yearly Meeting for Ministry and Oversight, held 8/10/2011
There is a natural gravitation to elders by people who are in need of eldering, including some who do not know why they are troubled. An elder can be seen as a Friend who gives trustworthy advice about our life following Christ. Not availing oneself of an elder's counsel is like ignoring advice from a qualified teacher in one's work place.
We find that elders have wisdom and discernment given them by God. Elders can listen well to people who come for advice or for clarification of some spiritual situation they find troubling. They often listen to their own spiritual leadings and are able to share helpfully with others how we can listen and respond to God. Elders need to be tender and sensitive in the timing and strength of their counsel, that tender spiritual buds not be bruised.
Some ministers among us today have noted that they may become overconfident in their gift or have difficulty dividing their own concerns from the message that comes from God. Elders have assisted them in not straying from what God gives them. Likewise, elders help hold ministers accountable and responsive to the meeting. One minister remembers an elder telling her when she was much younger, "I can feel the Spirit in thy spoken ministry, but I cannot hear thee. Speak up." Today that minister's speaking is clearly audible throughout the room. In addition, an elder can be a conduit for a concern an individual member has, without requiring that Friend to go directly to the minister.
Many of us sense that there is a cross in doing the Lord's work, as well as a vibrant joy. We need to feel the weight of that cross, and we need one another to help bear it. It is important for meetings at every organizational level to become aware of budding spiritual gifts and to encourage their growth. Then our meetings will continue to have leadership with that subtle touch which reminds us of the true and fundamental leadership of our Lord, Christ Jesus.