Ohio YM Minute on Eldership

Eldership is a gift of the Spirit, in our midst.  Elders need to recognize that they have been given that gift, which is both a cause for rejoicing and a cause for faithful exercise.  Eldership is not a practice that can be rightly done in one's own strength.  This must be done under the hand of the Lord, Who will provide both the direction and the strength.

Prayerful concern for the spiritual life of the meeting and gentle encouragement and guidance for those who offer vocal ministry are special fields of service for elders.  In some cases these qualities may be found in a younger member, as age is not the sole determinant of discernment.  Perhaps we have too long thought of the station of elder as one who cautions or reprimands the members for wrong doing.  However important that aspect of eldership is, there is so much more to this gift than that.  Encouragement is often imperative to the discouraged, as wall as to the one who has made a right step forward.  Sharing past experiences may help the traveler along the way in his or her spiritual life.

Elders are discerners of character and motives.  They can separate right from wrong, truth from untruth.  Elders need to be tactful, to be cheerful and not severe, to be trustworthy, to be calm in the midst of a spiritual tempest.  Elders grow to have a large reserve of wisdom from which to draw.  Elders need to be constantly watchful over themselves, that their own agendas not interfere with their calling, yet they must be diligent for right gospel order.  They need to be supportive of those who are spiritually struggling.

It would be best for elders to live among the community of believers, attending its meetings and remaining aware of what is happening among the people on an everyday basis.  Elders need contact with others called to that office, both in their own monthly meeting and in the quarterly and yearly meeting.  Younger elders learn from older elders, just by being together.

Elders should be prayerful.  They should read the Bible and other spiritually helpful writings regularly, for they never know the hour when their office will be called forth.  Writings of early Friends are often helpful, for even though those writers lived in a different time from us, spiritual struggles of right and wrong remain the same.  There may be times when an elder will suffer as the result of following the Lord's will in the office, but we encourage elders to press ahead as they are led.

As elders must be willing to exercise their gift when it is given, so also must they be willing to yield it up when circumstances or ability make it impossible for them to continue to serve in the office.  Elders need the prayers of the meeting that they may be guided by the Lord in all their work.

From the Minutes of Ohio Yearly Meeting, 1989

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Quote that speaks to me

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies

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They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.  
Death cannot kill what never dies.  
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.  
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this Divine Glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
 - William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude, 1702.

Note: This passage was quoted by J.K.Rowling as the epigraph of her novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Braithwaite on Outreach

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Men & Women with a Message of Power

It is as a "religion of life" that Quakerism will be presented in the future and is being presented now.

Its distinguishing note will be its resolve to bring all this human life of ours under the transforming power of spiritual life.  It will stand out against all divisions and compartments that separate the sacred from the secular, the sanctuary from the outward world of nature, the sacrament from the days' common work, the clergy from the laity. 

It will tell of a Christian experience that makes all life sacred and all days holy, all nature a sanctuary, all work a sacrament, and gives to every man and woman in the body fit place and service.  Its concern will be to multiply men and women who will have a message of power because they are themselves the children of light.  It will claim the whole of man's life, and the whole of life, individual, social, national international, for the dominion of the will of God.

William C. Braithwaite and Henry T. Hodgkin, The Message and Mission of Quakerism (Philadelphia, Winston, 1912), 25-26.

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