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A call to integrety

We live in an age where the words honest and integrety are not in the vocabulary of many people. I work (as a suplement to my pastoral roles) in a major retail outlet and we have a policy to allow people to return items under a certain price without a receipt, which is very good for many people but this policy leaves the company open to abuse. How has this been abused? Small thefts, people will steal low priced items like dvd’s, cosmetics, and other items go outside and then go to another location return those items for actual cash. I sit and wonder what happened to integrety?

One of my favorite aspects of the Friends Church has been its devotion to honesty or integrety throughout our history. It is found in our most ancient times in the jailings of our founders for not swearing oaths because they felt that every word spoken should be truth and an oath implies that dishonesty is the common language of our culture. It is also seen in the plain speach stances among many others. This devotion to intergrety has probably been the most influential aspect of Friends to the culture, leading many companies to use the name of Quaker to bring better business. Unfortunatly I feel we have neglected this in our contemporary age. What have we replaced it with? I read many of the items presented by various committees of Friends they focus on our testimony of peace or equality. Both are very important but I feel we have neglected integrety to achieve gains in these areas.

We have commitees urging the support of political stances and individuals that support defunding military and equality, yet many of these groups have track records lacking integrety. I say this of both major political parties. Integrety is sorely needed in our culture.

Integrety is important because affects all aspects of our lives. Fiscal integrety keeps our businesses and organizations working. It also keeps our families in our homes and fed. I am saddened when I see so many Friends supporting charity yet saying nothing on financial integrety to those they assist either through their Meeting or in government programs. I do not say helping is wrong in fact I believe we need to help more but as we help we need to encourage integrety in their finances.

Plain speech is also a very important aspect of integrety. Plain speech isn’t speaking in olde English, but truth. We live in a culture of lies. Just recently the president of the United States allowed a long period of questioning and debate over his citizenship status, I found that the whole process was rediculous. He could have easily quieted the issue months ago by speaking plainly. The idea that we can’t speak plainly runs deep in our culture, but when we honest speach is used we do gain respect in the community.

Our actions need to speak as well. I love the idea promoted by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel always and when necissary use word.” If we promote peace, equality, and integrety we lose all respect when our words aren’t reflected in our actions.

I challenge all Friends to again embrace integrety. Without true integrety our testimonies of peace and equality will fall on deaf ears. 

Role of the pastor

In thinking of the role of a pastor under the understanding of the Friends Church many things must be considered. What is the role of a paid individual in an organization where ministry, business and the decision making process is performed by a group and not individuals? More specifically what is my role in this position?  Traditionally the pastor is seen as a Shepard or leader of the flock. Among Friends we see the Shepard as being Christ Himself with no need for a middle person between God and humanity. Yet there is a reason for the role of pastor. From my perspective it is to advise.

The first and possibly the most important part of the role is to advise the meeting on scripture. This is the place of the vocal ministry and probably the most visual aspect of the pastor. The vocal ministry is advice as well as encouragement. This advice on scripture doesn’t stop at the pulpit though; they are to also advise those teaching in various settings to gain understanding. They do not necessarily have to have total knowledge of scripture but should be encouraged to create an environment where others can discuss what God is saying historically, culturally, and practically.

The second role of the pastor is one of spiritual director. A spiritual director is a trendy word, but one that I feel fits a pastoral role better than counselor. As a spiritual director a pastor meets with people on a more individualized basis to advise and encourage them to deepen their relationship with God and those around them. This is similar to a counselor because often times the spiritual and interpersonal aspects of life merge, but it is different a pastor may not have proper training to help people get a grip on deep emotional wounds, and that is why professional counselors have emerged in our culture. Yet there is still a role for the pastor to encourage, advise, and walk with people in this. As a spiritual director their role in counsel is more directed in helping other develop a lifestyle of prayer, devotion, ministry service, and biblical study applications. These may help emotionally as well since our spiritual and emotional aspects of life are connected.

The third role is to advise the Meeting. I do not feel that in the Friends Church that the pastor is the leader, if they were there would not be the need for the Clerk. The pastor is there to encourage prayerful consideration and to ask questions of individuals as they consider ministry. After advice is given then encouragement is provided. I find as a pastor I am often slowing people down so they can consider multiple aspects of an issue. At times this may seem like I am trying to control the direction of the Meeting, but as an advisor the wish is to encourage the Meeting to consider various options, use of resources, and to not get caught up in popular trends but to seek the leading of Christ. This is one of the hardest aspects of pastoral ministry in the Friends Church since often I feel as if I am opposing the Meeting. The reality of it is that the pastor is trying to encourage potential ministers to develop their positions, and to seek prayerful guidance and direction. When there is clearness the ministers enter the meeting for business with confidence along with the backing and support of the pastor to help advise the Meeting.

Most of the pastoral role in the Friends Church is unseen; it is backstage so to speak, even though pastors regularly speak publicly in the meetings for worship. This role is present even in the unprogrammed Meeting. This is the reason that the role of pastor is listed as a spiritual gift.

By no means is the pastor to be the only doer of church ministry. The hands and feet of the body of Christ, which is the church, are all those called to various tasks? The role of the pastor is for advice, encouragement, and direction. They come along side others so they can do the work they are called to do. The role of the pastor is one among many. It is a specialized role one that does require training at times, and the devotion of time not necessarily required by other ministers in the Meeting.

The last role of a pastor is that of the contact person for the community. They are the representatives of the Meeting to people who do not understand our processes. A pastor must understand that even though they speak for the Meeting they are not the Meeting, and should bring matters of consequence to the Meetings to be considered. All of these things require time, energy, and some training (either education or practical application). These tasks can be spread through several members of the meeting but often these gifts are found in only a few.

Since this role is specialized and often only found in particular members, they should have some compensation for the time and energy they devote to the Meeting, to advise them corporately and individually. This of course is something the meeting should consider. Is there a member who is devoting so much time advising the Meeting in these roles that they are having to sacrifice time to make a living?

I have been a pastor in three different Meetings and have yet to learn fully where to draw the lines. I have been asked to give reports in our Meetings for Business yet am unsure of what to report, because most of a pastors activity is done in confidence. It occurs between individuals and specific groups. So I have generally just reported on the growth and passion I observe while attending the various meetings and conversations with emerging ministers. Ending always with encouraging the Meeting to embrace the leadings of those who speak of their ministry passions even if they do not fit the traditional ideas of ministry. I do not know if other pastors have struggled with their role within their various Meetings and would enjoy a conversation with anyone and their observations of their roles when they apply their gifts.

Spanish Translation via google docs.

So what is the rapture?

There has been quite a bit of talk about the rapture of late. My family really got into the discussion when the Left Behind series came out. But there has always been something about this teaching that has left me wondering. If God’s plan is to remove His people from inpending doom then why have so many Christians had to live through great tribulation? When we look at history there have been many times where Christians were persicuted for their beliefs. Some were killed, some exciled, others just ridiculed. Even in more recent history many Christians in the former Soviet Union were sent to the gulog as a result of their beliefs. (Read Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisioner, spiritual Father). For me that was a time and place where a raputure would have been most welcome. But God didn’t rapture His people, he alowed them to live through it.

I believe that tribulation faces all of us. For most of us, this tribulation is not a physical but one of a spiritual nature. How we face and pull through these trials is what really matters. When we face trials with hope, joy, praise, and faith in God then our lives become a blessing. Also when we face trials with negativity then we are consumed, not being a reflector of God’s light but the darkness of the world. I hope that as we face the days after the latest rapture scare we will think of what rapture really means. It is being caught up, I hope we all will be caught up with God as we worship Him in spirit and truth.

Worship is the rapture we all can participate in, in all situations. When we worship we enter into the realm of God, we are no longer caught in the darkness of the world around us, but we are caught in the Light. Worship and prayer is an area of life we can enter no matter where we are, or situation we are in. When we are in a life of prayer we are caught up and with God. When we meet in His houses of worship, we again are caught in his presence. Our contempary ideas of rapture do not represent the historical ideas of rapture, but the feelings of rapture we all experience in His presence are real and present always. For me I was raptured last evening, and will be again this morning as I attend our Meeting for Worship.


Meeting Times

Meal at 6pm
Bible Study at 7pm
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
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