Annual Report to Business Meeting

This is my annual report to SF Monthly Meeting. SFMM appointed a clearness committee for me in late 2006, and my anchor committee began meeting with me in January 2007. In November of 2007, the meeting approved a traveling minute.

(For more background, I recommend a search of this blog under the tags convergent or myjourney, or simply through the archives - all available in the sidebar of the homepage of this blog.)

Each fall since then, I have submitted a written report on my work in the previous year, some reflections on that year and my plans for the coming year. This is my report from November 2009, slightly edited for internet publication. I hereby share it with you too.

First I would like to express my gratitude to San Francisco Monthly Meeting and especially to my Anchor Committee for their support and encouragement and patience.

In February, I co-led a weekend workshop for convergent Friends at BLQC with Martin Kelley of Philadelphia YM and Wess Daniels, a member of Evangelical Friends Church -Eastern Region, and now pastor of Camas Friends Church in Northwest YM. It was attended by almost 30 Friends, from six yearly meetings across the United States, including six members of SFMM. It sparked a series of blog posts, short videos and an article in Friends Journal by Angelina Conti. Much of the coverage can be found in the archives at www.quakerquaker.org

I also co-led a workshop on Quaker blogging at the FWCC Section of the Americas Annual Meeting in March with Gregg Koskela of Northwest YM. He and I spoke about how writing a blog has been a ministry to us and by us for others. We included a version of the exercise that Chris M. and I first led at SFMM, of a low-tech blog commenting exercise, where people could read posts on the wall and leave their own comments and then return to read what others had written. It was well attended, for a late night interest group, around 30 people from all over North America.

I wrote an article for Western Friend about Plainness, and a book review for Quaker Life about Lest We Forget: Self-Supporting Ministers from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM).

I gave a short talk at College Park Quarterly Meeting last month about the essentials of Quaker practice, how to teach them better and how this meshes with convergent Friends.

I continue to maintain this blog as an outlet for my writing and a gathering place for cross-branch dialogue. Readership is down significantly since I am writing less often, but still averages about 50 visits per day. The most commented-on post in the last year was technically a book review of the semi-fictional trilogy by Brian McLaren called A New Kind of Christian. The comments, however, were mostly about various theories of the Atonement, from various perspectives across the Quaker spectrum. Three of my blogposts appeared in the new book, Writing Cheerfully on the Web: A Quaker Blog Reader, edited by Liz Opp that came out in July 2009.

In the coming year, I anticipate to travel less and write less because of my full-time employment outside the Religious Society of Friends. My anchor committee has agreed to continue meeting with me, although less frequently than in the first couple of years, given the decreased level of activity and discernment required.

I’m wrestling with the nagging feeling that God is calling me to this ministry of hospitality and encouragement: this work of bringing Friends together, convening learning communities, facilitating conversations and supporting Friends on their spiritual journeys, which brings me such joy and fulfillment and peace. Aren’t I really supposed to be doing this all the time? Am I disobeying God’s leading by spending so much of my time earning a secular living? Or is the desire to devote myself to a full-time, "hireling" ministry a distraction? A temptation?

Actually, I think I am given both pieces of work to do. God is showing me what the Quaker path of ministry looks like. I have a “competency” as Friends have traditionally called it, and I am figuring out how to balance my household chores/family responsibilities, my paid employment and my religious vocation.

This is part of the challenge of living as a Quaker in the 21st century.

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Blogger Gil S said...

Thanks for sharing this Robin. In my experience there is an ebb and flow in ministry which is all part of God's purpose for us. There are lessons to learn in working in the world which will feed into your Quaker ministry and vice versa.

I'm glad your committee will be continuing and that you are committed to reporting back to your meeting. I hope it shows you, as well as us, how much you are still contributing and how faithful to your calling you are.

11/09/2009 7:36 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey Hipp said...

It's funny, Robin — I feel as though I was present at so many of these ministry opportunities, but in truth, I've only been at the FWCC one — the rest I've just witnessed through the lens of your blog.

Last week, Holly Baldwin and I requested a joint support committee for our ministries through Fresh Pond Friends Meeting. This will be the third such dual-minister support committee at Fresh Pond. As more and more Friends have their ministries discerned and named in our community, the joint committees seem like a good use of the limited resource of Friends able to serve. (Plus, Holly and I would have wanted to be on one another's committees, regardless!)

P.S. I met a recent transplant from your meeting to New England -- Hester Schell! She actually ended up accompanying me on my visit to Amesbury Friends Meeting last weekend.

11/09/2009 2:14 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks Gil and Jeff for your comments. The process of having to write the report is really good for me, for just the reasons Gil mentioned.

Say hi to Hester for me! We miss her in our Friendly Eight group.

11/09/2009 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Eileen Flanagan said...

Gil speaks my mind. I know it's hard, the need to make money to support our families and the fact that ministries often do not fill that need. Just know that you are not alone in this struggle and that your willingness to share your struggle publicly is helpful to others.

11/09/2009 7:49 PM  
Blogger Shawna Roberts said...

Hi Robin!

An excellent report. I did have to chuckle when you pointed out that the need to balance "official" ministry work, livelihood, and family was a concern of the 21st century. From the very beginning, it has been a balancing act. Consider John Woolman's journal, and the way he chose his means of earning a living, in order to find time for his "official" ministry.

Not to worry. God can find ministry for you to do where you are earning your living, too.

I like Gil's phrase "ebb and flow." Yep. The tides of life bring us opportunities, and carry us away from old work, and bring new energies to ongoing work... We ride the waves of the Holy Spirit, and where we end up never seems to look like what we first imagined.

Cowabunga, robin!

11/10/2009 7:44 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Hipp said...


One more thing (even though I feel like this is a repeat of a comment I made on this blog I year ago!):

I really encourage you to continue sharing amongst Friends your struggle for this balance. As someone who yearns to create more room in his life to follow leadings for ministry, I am surprised by how few modern Friends explore this issue (at least in a public forum).

For many of us, the John Woolman model of owning one's own business, having the freedom to reduce one's hours to allow for attendance to the Spirit, and closing up shop for months at a time to allow for travel in the ministry just doesn't seem manageable in the modern context. Many Friends who feel called to orient their life around Quaker ministry today become Quaker staff. This is not what I am (currently) called to.

Fortunately for me, I married a very supportive partner last month, and we are seeking what changes we can make together to support my faithfulness. I'll share more news as it develops!

Thank you again.

11/12/2009 9:41 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks Jeff and Eileen and Shawna for your encouragement. I didn't mean it to sound like this was a new dilemma I had discovered, rather to affirm that this hasn't changed, even though many people (including me some of the time) wish there were other options.

Frankly, there aren't many Quaker jobs in this area. That's not a realistic option.

One of my questions, which I've ranted about before is why my contributions as a housewife were not enough of an economic contribution to our life. The answer is that it would be if we didn't want to send our children to the expensive Quaker school here in San Francisco. Even on a half scholarship, we need my income to keep our kids in the school. So there is also the ongoing question about whose needs come first. Is the first rate and spiritually based education for my children more important right now? Are there lessons I need to learn in the workplace anyway? Would it be better to put them in the mediocre public schools near our house? What about when they go to high school? (This could be a whole 'nother blog post.)

And last I want to say clearly that I am very lucky in my actual employment options. I earn a high hourly rate. I have good working conditions. I have great child care. And I feel like I'm doing good work. So don't let my crankiness fool you into thinking I'm oppressed by my employer. But maybe the grass is always greener on the other side of some fence, even if it's a nice fence.

11/13/2009 12:21 AM  
Blogger Shawna Roberts said...

There is a lot to learn outside of Quaker circles. Quakers are... well, different... in a lot of ways. Hanging with folks who are not Quaker can be very very important, sometimes, depending on what God is trying to teach you. And on what God wants to teach them. It can be very humbling and uplifting at the same time. You are probably exactly where God wants you right now, Robin.

I spent a couple years working at McDonald's, and loving every moment (ok, almost every moment). It turned out to be a real opportunity for ministry for me, both with my fellow workers and with customers. I chose to work there for several reasons, but the flexibility of the job was a very important consideration. As an hourly employee plugged into a place that had many hourly employees, I could tell my employer that I was going to be out of town for an FWCC meeting, or for a Gathering of Conservative Friends, or for a Yearly Meeting... and I could go. They usually forgot that I had told them that I was going, because I usually gave them a lot of lead time, but I was just firm with them, and let them know that I had to go, and that was that, and they always gave in (it helps to be a very good worker who is willing to lose one's job if necessary... after all, there are plenty of other fast food joints in the sea!)

I suspect that if John Woolman lived today, he might have his own business. But he might also have chosen an hourly position somewhere like McDonald's that was willing to work with his schedule.

I would still be working there today, and still be taking the time off that I needed to do Quaker traveling, except that other life changes came along and made it impossible to do so for a while. But don't limit yourself to Quaker staff positions, when you think about flexibility. There's other ways to find that flexibility, while at the same time serving God.

11/13/2009 3:12 PM  

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