At the Mid-morning program on Nov. 6, 2016, Pat Jones presented the following retrospective of her work as Director of Ministry from 1978 to the present.
Words: Meeting presence, contact, eyes and ears, consultant, referrer to resources, communicator, coordinator, representative, pastoral caregiver and arranger, accompanier, tone setter, available
I will begin with how it started for me.
I met the Minneapolis Friends Meeting “Search Committee” when I came to meeting for worship here in January of 1978. I was in the state for pastoral care residency interviews at Mayo and Abbott NW hospitals. I had completed four years of study and ministry internships at the Earlham School of Religion and my professional aspiration was to do pastoral care in a multi-staff hospital chaplaincy program, and my particular interest was ministry with psychiatric patients.
In February of 1978 the Meeting flew Jim Amundsen, to whom I was married, and a fellow ESR student, and me for a longer visit and interviews for the Director of Ministry position. Following our spring graduation from ESR we began a job sharing arrangement as Co- Directors of Ministry at MFM, one full time job equivalent, in July 1978. We spent early months getting to know the Meeting, often visiting people, and, among other things, listening to what people liked and disliked about the last several pastors or pastor- like Meeting staff and getting more of a sense of what was wanted from us. During this time Jim continued education in pastoral counseling and I did a further program in clinical pastoral education. In 1980 Jim and I separated, he decided to devote full time to pursuing further education in counseling psychology, and I took on the full time commitment of Director of Ministry work.
So, what did we, and after 1980, I do in this position? Almost immediately we attended a Friends United Meeting Triennial which was held at Wm. Penn College, something that was expected of us. Back in Minneapolis. we began meeting with committees, sitting on the facing bench and closing I think all the meetings for worship, speaking at semi-programmed meeting once a month, and visiting broadly members of Meeting, including house-bound and inactive members. We were a Quaker presence at the meetinghouse and a first point of contact with inquirers and the public. We produced the bulletin and the newsletter, typing them and running them off on an inky Gestetner machine. We compiled a directory which was printed professionally on a volunteer basis by a member of Meeting.
Jim and I held an ongoing Bible study at our apartment, with participants mostly age 35 or younger. I held many series of new attenders sessions, often in homes, selecting suitable Meeting members to lead on topics of Quaker worship, Quaker history, and either Quaker Faith and Practice or Quaker business and organizations. I visited new attenders and members in their homes and apartments, and the younger generation (mine) helped one another and old members as they made moves to new homes, enabled by one member with a truck. I encouraged young adults in visiting the old people and there was much connection and love, kind of family-like, among various aged people.
We were charged with involvement in Iowa Yearly Meeting as part of a review process about whether the Meeting would continue or discontinue its historic relationship with IYM. So, I regularly attended IYM sessions, served on its Stewardship Comm., was an IYM rep to Friends Committee on National Legislation’s Annual Meeting, and attended at least one Yearly Meeting Pastors Conference. IYM initiated my licensure as a minister in Minnesota. Perhaps saying too much here about one long ago experience, I learned many evangelical hymns I had not known before and became acquainted with many Iowa Quakers, especially those from Hesper and West Branch Meetings, which had some commonality of viewpoint with MFM. I really engaged with and came to love many of the people from IYM and wished the relationship could be one based on friendly rural- urban exchanges of visits in homes rather than contentious church business. Maybe my love of IYM helped the Meeting separate from it as I knew the loss and shared the pain with those who really cared about it.
Following the break with Iowa, I accompanied some Minneapolis Friends Meeting members in the exploration of various yearly meeting possibilities, attending annual sessions at Northern, where I and others had gone before, and Nebraska and Canadian Yearly Meetings. A couple of us attended a Friends United Meeting board meeting as they considered our request for interim direct affiliation, as the Meeting had also requested from Friends General Conference.
From early on, I led memorial services at funeral homes, at the meetinghouse, and at gravesides for members, several for inactive members with earlier connections to Meeting, including one related to the first Quaker family in Minnesota. Most of these people I had visited with once or many times when they were still alive and I learned pieces of Meeting history from them. Following one of those visits I received on behalf of the Meeting the portrait of Abby Mendenhall which is currently hanging in the conference room. One old timer visited me repeatedly at the meetinghouse, leaving a check for Meeting each time. A couple of these no longer active folks attended meeting again some in their old age. A couple of them predictably sent large annual checks. Also Meeting families began to ask me to lead memorial or graveside services for members of their families not associated with Meeting, and I have done many of those. I took charge of or found Meeting folks to take on various tasks related to disposition of goods of Friends who died without family in the area. I made arrangements with Lakewood Cemetery.
I got to know or know better the last MFM pastor, the Ministering Secretary, and the preceding Director of Ministry, learning from them, establishing trust, and doing some part in healing hurts and reconciling where there were misunderstandings and separation.
I cheer-led those who took responsibility for Meeting’s sponsorship and the settlement of a Laotian refugee family and have maintained relationship with them. I befriended a Quaker Guatemalan immigrant living locally, helped him connect some to Meeting, and I attended his court hearing. I supported Kenyan Quaker students in Minnesota, helping them find housing with Meeting members, friends within MFM, one of whom placed a student in a good job at the U, and I took part in leading the wedding of two of them.
I attended a monthly lunch for women in ministry when there weren’t many, connecting with many of the women minister pioneers of Minneapolis. I served for years as the only Meeting liaison with the Minnesota Council of Churches, was part of a group of judicatory heads, together with denominational leaders and bishops, and was on its Social Concerns Committee, including serving as its chair at the time the committee issued a controversial treatise on Ministry to and with Gay and Lesbian people. This committee also gave input on Joint Religious Legislative Coalition priorities. JRLC is an interfaith group that does legislative advocacy on a state level like FCNL does on a national level. If it didn’t exist Quakers would want to invent it. I had smaller involvements along with some Meeting members with the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, and by myself with Linden Hills and Minneapolis Ministerial Associations.
I spoke about Quakers in schools, churches, and with midweek busloads of students coming to visit the Meeting, with church groups that have come, and I have arranged for many other members to do the same and encouraged them in their preparation and debriefed with them.
I met with people from the Minnesota Historical Society a few time to consult about their taking additional materials from us for their collection and to turn some materials over to them.
I helped usher in a new generation of leadership in the Meeting and have supported Clerks of Meeting. I was essentially willing to do whatever it took to support a person in that leadership position, though at times the support was quite personal. A couple times I organized meetings of former Clerks to help the new Clerk.
In 1990, following my daughter’s birth, I went to 3/4 time, and office assistance, which was fairly limited before that to typing a few hours a week, was expanded to about a quarter time.
With Quakers I have participated in Metro Friends events, several large gatherings of FUM and FGC, a North American conference for Quaker women in ministry, taken part in a Quaker Consultation, gone to London, Philadelphia, Iowa Conservative, Nebraska, Iowa FUM, Canadian, and Northern yearly meetings, worshiped with Meeting of many types, visited Pendle Hill and Woodbrooke, etc.. I was part of an American Friends Service Committee delegation visiting Mexican border towns to learn from people who worked in maquiladoras. I lobbied in Washington with FCNL’s E. Raymond Wilson. When expanded gambling in Minnesota loomed, I contacted all Quaker groups in the state. I supported individuals and the Meeting in wider Quaker organization involvements.
I’ve done continuing education related to death education, grief, including men and grief, economics for clergy, mental health for clergy, Quaker business, Quaker history, brain development, emergency preparedness, family abuse, white privilege, undoing racism, and generational issues as they pertain to local congregations.
I danced with the Meeting. I took direction from the Meeting’s movement at monthly meeting and throughout. Usually I followed but I also led at times, often imperceptibly, sometimes by modeling. I advocated for dual affiliation with FGC and FUM, befriended gay and lesbian people at Meeting and in the wider religious community, conveyed some standards.
I attended both meetings for worship and meeting for business over 95 percent of the time for 38 years and probably 2/3 of the committee meetings.
I have usually been the first point of contact for couples wanting to marry, and have shepherded the marriage preparation process and helped shape the weddings and usually taken some role in them. Not infrequently there have been requests from family members of Meeting members to officiate at weddings in the manner of Friends, sometimes at the meetinghouse but not under the care of Meeting because the couple was not active in the Meeting. There were also Quakers from elsewhere, a couple times joint care with another Meeting, weddings where I again would play a primary role. The Meeting also used to get many requests from people unrelated or nominally related to Meeting or Quakers who were looking for someone to officiate at their weddings. I did some of these, but discontinued because it was too much to add onto my central work for Meeting.
I worked to develop and revise worship planning speakers’ guidelines and closer sheets, setting and communicating the sense of worship I/we want to encourage. I also assisted with the development of the Child Welfare policy and procedures, Marriage Oversight materials, and Bereavement/Death and Memorial Service Committee forms and documents, each of which helps the committees (which turn over) with guidelines for accomplishing their work. I have worked with members of Liaison and Review Committees to write and refine my own job description. I joined supervising committees in interviewing candidates for positions.
I consulted with Friends at my or their initiative related to mental health challenges, diminished cognitive function, family, children, marriage, disease and health, relationship with Meeting, membership, planning for old age and death, rituals, religious belief or lack thereof, discontinuing medical treatment and removing life support, money matters of all kinds, reading recommendations, referrals to professionals and to people in the Meeting they should know and to Quaker or other organizations.
I supervised office staff and conducted performance reviews.
I met with several Quakers and others interested in Earlham School of Religion or other seminary or clinical pastoral education, and I supervised four ministry interns at the Meeting, including one Kenyan, and connected with their seminary programs.
I initiated a fundraising committee as plans developed for a major building renovation, got tutored by a member who was a professional development officer at a college, found a member to do a feasibility study with me, formed a fundraising committee, cast a wide net, and before the end raised about $600,000, without any two or three major donors but with widespread participation and many people giving the largest donations of their lives. I applied for and received a Quaker grant for the renovation and located a Quaker source of loan. A couple years earlier when a $75,000 ramp was proposed everyone laughed and said how could we possibly do that? Money had been talked about publicly very little before that time and there was an assumption the Meeting was poor.
After the Meeting developed a sabbatical policy for the Director of Ministry, along with members of the Liaison and Review Committee I applied to the Lily Endowment and received a $30,000 Clergy Renewal Grant for a sabbatical experience for me and for the Meeting. I later applied for and received a Bogart Grant for the study of Christian mysticism.
I wrote countless reference/ recommendation letters for members applying for college, grad school, Quaker youth programs, grants, jobs, etc. It has been one of my favorite parts of my work, articulating the gifts of others.
I supported youth trips to Cuba and El Salvador by setting up and participating in the selection of adult leadership and clearness committees for participants. I’ve helped Meeting people connect to other Friends in the U.S. and elsewhere, introducing them to Friends directories and other resources, to Quaker trips, to peace and service organizations and opportunities, etc. I encouraged Quaker intervisitation.. I have written many letters of introduction for traveling Friends and shepherded letters from Friends visiting us.
I have been the primary host for scores of Quakers who have come to lead programs at Meeting, arranging their schedules, transportation, lodging, etc.
I organized an initial meeting of experienced Friends related to priorities for a meeting website, interviewed people for a paid position to create one, and secured funding for its development.
I helped shape the evolution of semi-programmed worship, advocating for brief planned messages and flexibility of program, consulting related to preparation, messages and music. On my own and others’ initiatives I have discussed people’s gifts for and exercise of ministry, people’s financial giving to the Meeting, membership, etc. I have met by myself and with groups of others for prayer and worship at the meetinghouse, in hospitals, and in homes.