So what do you actually do?

New acquaintance: So what do you actually do in your job?
Me: That's a good question. 
It's funny. I think it's a good sign that I've gotten better at explaining who/what FWCC is without overloading people so that they're not afraid to ask another question. The first question is usually more like this:
New acquaintance: What is the, um, Friends World Committee for Consultation-Section of the Americas?
Me: We are the association of Quaker meetings and churches from Alaska to Bolivia. 
That's my soundbite version. I can say it all in one breath and people understand all the words, even if they don't know anything else about Quakers or what that involves.

Lately, I am inspired by the name of one of our projects that I think encapsulates what we do. Our new website with information about the various branches of Friends and short writings by Quakers on a variety of topics is called Voices of Friends. From my perspective, FWCC is all about helping Friends to listen to one another's voices, helping the outside world to hear the voices of Friends, and helping each of us to hear the voice of God in our own hearts and in the words and actions of other people (and the rest of God's creation). I want to use this imagery more in describing our work.

I'm curious whether this makes sense to other Friends, and whether this connects to what you thought FWCC was/is or not?

So what do I actually do there? My new short answer is that my job is part minister and part manager. A lot of religious education, a little pastoral counseling, some office management, the fundraising and accounting to sustain it all, some P.R. work and some institutional politics, and mostly volunteer organizing (in more religious terms, I call this helping to connect people with their own ministries).

I am considering Brent Bill's suggestion of using released minister as a descriptive title. He was suggesting it for the paid pastoral staff of a local Quaker congregation. Wess Daniels wrote about his adoption of the term in that context. I wonder if it's just as useful in my situation as well. I'm not actually suggesting that we change the title on my business card, which is Executive Secretary, and generally makes people think I'm the admin assistant to the CEO. That would require a different process that I don't have time for right now.

I'm more considering how it feels like I have been released to do the work I really want to do, and that my work is to minister to the whole Religious Society of Friends. The job description isn't very well defined, but essentially I am paid enough to concentrate on the RSoF at the international, inter-branch level, which is always, of course, also at the inter-personal level.  (For anyone who cares, I'm not actually paid enough to support a family without my spouse also working, but it's about average for a non-profit organization with our budget size.)

Part of the reason that the job is hard to define, as any minister or pastor or executive director knows, is that the work shifts and flows over time and space and needs and opportunities and expands to fill all the time and energy you can give it, plus some. The real reason I do it isn't the money, it's the joy and love and excitement I feel at being part of the infrastructure of the RSoF, part of holding it all together and equipping other people to be the Quakers we need in today's world. I would do this work for free, except that if I wasn't getting paid to do this, I'd have to find another job to support my family and then I wouldn't have time to do this work. (See half my blogposts from the last three years if you want to know how well that went. Especially here and here.)

So I am very grateful to have this opportunity to focus on this work. And to do it from a vantage point with systems already in place to implement the work that needs to be done. We don't need more organizations. We need the ones we have to do the work that God is calling us to do, even if that includes a faithful betrayal of the people who came before us.

In the Christian tradition, we are supposedly all released to follow this calling. I think this is part of salvation and being born again. At this point, I'm hearing Bob Dylan in my head, are you? Any day now...

More soon about balancing motherhood and ministry. But that's another blogpost.

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Blogger Robin M. said...

Just checking that the comment function still works. I'm surprised that there were zero comments on this. Not even Bob Dylan references. But this post had the most visits ever on my blog. Nearly double the next contender. Interesting combination, to me anyway.

9/12/2011 7:35 PM  
Blogger Alice Y. said...

Hello Robin. I don't know why I have only just seen this post. I think it's a good one. Just tagged it for the QQ feed, belatedly!

10/03/2011 5:11 AM  

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