Nurturing Others' Spiritual Gifts
The term eldering or eldership
refers to a variety of Quaker practices designed to identify, nurture, and
support the spiritual gifts of others within the faith community. In
Conservative YMs today eldership is a formally recognized spiritual gift and
elders are appointed, usually for life by the monthly meeting. In FGC YMs
if these gifts are recognized at all they are considered gifts carried out by a
variety of meeting members in various ways including Worship & Ministry
Committee, clearness committees, and support or anchoring committees for those
carrying out various forms of ministry.
Eldership involves the following gifts:
women & men in the meeting with a gift of ministry
& supporting the development of ministers' gifts
ministers accountable for faithful exercise of their gifts
supporting & upholding deeply gathered silent communion with God &
faithful Spirit-led vocal ministry during meeting for worship
prayerful support & spiritual companionship to ministers during travel
under religious concern & other forms of religious leadership such as
leading retreats or giving talks
Helping individual meeting members discern God's intentions for them via
clearness committees & support committees.
It is worth noting that
eldership today is not usually
conceived as encompassing the exercise of discipline over meeting members'
lives in general (as in the visit of the meeting elders in the film Friendly
Persuasion to investigate the rumor that the family had a musical
instrument in the home.)
An introduction to
a Spiritual Gift is based on a talk on
the subject given by Ken & Katherine Jacobsen at the first Quaker Spring in
and Integrity is a 1992 article by Jan
Hoffman, originally published in The Friendly Woman on the
meaning of eldership and how it facilitates individual faithfulness.
A Plea for
Strong Eldership by Seth Hinshaw,
clerk of Ohio YM.
Some simple tables
The Work of the Elder on
discernment, spiritual nurturing & encouraging faithfulness. Consists
of two tables describing eldership on a variety of dimensions.
Differences between Ministers & Elders is another table compiled by Susan Smith.
with Ministers summarizes the critical
support that elders provide to those exercising the gift of ministry.
Here is a handout that Jan Hoffman developed in May 2009 on the many important roles that those exercising gifts of eldership play within the meeting community:
Historical Note about Elders in the Society of Friends by Brian Drayton of New England YM.
Eldering & Spiritual Nurturing is
a collection of historical excerpts on this subject.
An Epistle to
Friends Coming Forth in the Ministry
by Charles Marshall, published in his Life in 1840.
discipline excerpts & minutes on eldership
from Wilburite Disciplines on Elders The first is from the NEYM (Wilburite) 1930 Discipline and the 2nd
from Ohio YM's discipline. Includes 3 reflection questions on the passages.
Draft section on eldership from
the NEYM discipline currently being written
into the Practice of Eldership is the
summary minute of a meeting of Ohio Yearly Meeting of Ministry & Oversight
held in Eighth Month 2011.
A Minute on
Eldership from Ohio YM annual sessions
of the Relationships of Ministers & Elders. This was an account of
Jan Hoffman written following New York YM sessions in 1991
with a Monthly Meeting about Ministry
is a Friends Journal article by Debbie Humphries & Diane
Randall about the several year process through which Hartford Meeting wrestled
with Debbie's request for a minute supporting her leading to travel under religious
Deeper Service: Ministers & Elders Working Together by Jan Hoffman & Kenneth Sutton is a chapter
from Walk Worthy of Your
Calling: Quakers and the Traveling Ministry, edited by Margery Post Abbott and Peggy Senger Parsons.
It describes in detail a trip Jan & Kenneth took together with Kenneth
serving as Jan's elder as she carried out traveling ministry among Friends on
the West Coast.
Ministry: Reclaiming the Role of Elder
by Bob Schmitt. An account of his experiences of the dynamic between
elders & ministers at a 1999 "Nurturing the Nurterers" retreat
sponsored by FGC Traveling Ministries program held in St. Helena's SC.
The Gifts of
Eldering by Susan Davies describes two
powerful experiences: one of being eldered while she led a retreat at Woolman
Hill, and another where she served as elder for a Quaker minister. This was
written during a 2008 retreat at Pendle
on Eldering at Vassalboro QM Retreat
by Susan Davies
Report to FGC Traveling Ministries
Program on the 2002 Alaska Friends Conference by Cathy
Walling. This is a report on
healing & forgiveness that occurred unexpectedly as a result of a traveling
ministry visit. It discusses a value to using elders from the meeting being
Some Things I Learned about Being an
Elder While Doing So For Jan by Penny Yunuba. Includes useful suggestions on
practical and spiritual actions to take the day before, the day of, and after a
workshop in which Penny served as elder for Jan Hoffman.
Eldering is a poetic meditation on the
subject by Danelle Flower
Bibliography & links to other writings on
Other Resources on