Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Visit to Wilmington Yearly Meeting

By Valerie Hurwitz

During the summer, faculty, administrators, students and alumni from Earlham School of Religion travel to many Yearly Meeting sessions.  In addition, we’ll also be at events such as the FUM Triennial, and a group from ESR will be traveling to Kenya and Rwanda to visit with Friends there.  Now that the academic year is quieting down, we’ll be bringing you more news from the road!

April 29-May 1, I attended Wilmington Yearly Meeting in Wilmington, OH.  Wilmington is an FUM-affiliated pastoral meeting that has part of its meetings in Ohio, and one Quarterly Meeting in Tennessee.  As you can imagine the Tennessee quarter has events centered around their meetings, and the Ohio quarters have events centered around their meetings.  People work to get to know each other across the distance, but find that this is sometimes a barrier.  The Yearly Meeting summer sessions trades off meeting in Ohio and Tennessee.  April, as you might notice, is a little early for a northern-ish yearly meeting.  Wilmington Yearly Meeting is incredibly excited to be hosting the FUM Triennial this July, and decided that in order to avoid having the Yearly Meeting business sessions and Triennial back-to-back, they would meet now for an abbreviated time.

Wilmington College is affiliated with the yearly meeting, and is the home of the Quaker Heritage Center, a Peace Center, and a Quaker Leader Scholars Program.  If you are ever traveling in that area, it’s worth stopping by the Quaker Heritage Center to see what they have on display.  The Peace Center has artifacts from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and also does conflict mediation training with children.  Dan Kasztelan, an ESR alum and campus minister, runs the Quaker Leader Scholarship program, which creates a cohort of Quakers attending Wilmington that do community service projects together, as well as community-building exercises.  The Yearly Meeting has some wonderful resources right in its backyard!

The first event I attended was a visioning exercise.  The yearly meeting has lost membership in recent years and is having serious and thoughtful conversations about envisioning the future of the Yearly Meeting.  Friends were asked to consider what are the things they like best about the yearly meeting, and what are the things they like least (or, as I would prefer to say, “the things that can be improved”).  Some of the big positives that arose in discussion were the assistance the yearly meeting gives, fellowship with other Friends, the informality of the yearly meetings, the training and recording process, and the feeling that the Spirit is moving in Wilmington Yearly Meeting.  People discussed wanting to improve the fellowship, especially between those in Ohio and those in Tennessee.  There is also a concern about keeping the Yearly Meeting relevant, about encouraging gifts (pastoral and otherwise), reflecting simplicity and Christ in the Yearly Meeting (simplifying committee structure, for example), sharing Quaker beliefs with others, and encouraging Yearly Meeting youth.  This is difficult and necessary work, and Friends were very kind to each other in this process.

That evening was the banquet, and the Quaker Leader Scholars from Wilmington College spoke about how much this program means to them.  Dan also showed a slideshow of events and travels from the last year, and I was glad to see several pictures from their trip to the YAF Gathering in Wichita, KS last May!  On Saturday the yearly meeting conducted a Bible study and their business sessions.  Wilmington YM had a limited amount of time this year for business, and encouraged Friends not to read their reports, but to summarize and move quickly.  Friends, they finished their business sessions with two hours to spare!  (Clerks, take note!)

I also wanted to share a bit of what ESR student Jon Goff (and pastor of Maryville Friends) told me about the Wilmington YM recording process.  Jon and I spoke about this during the YM sessions, and he summarized later over Facebook:

“ . . . WYM records ministers in the areas of Pastoral Minister, Chaplain, and Evangelist. I believe that's all for now, though there's been talk of other areas.

“Within each of these there are a variety of readings based on a core curriculum that each recording candidate needs to go through. I don't know the specifics of the Chaplain and Evangelist track, but in the Pastoral Minister track, some of the areas to read include Old and New Testament, Church History, Pastoral Care, Theology, Friends Studies, etc. A certain amount of reading is required in each field, which basically translates to one book each, chosen by the candidate . . . In addition, George Fox's Journal, John Woolman's Journal, and Barclay's Apology are specifically assigned. In addition to the reading, a three page report is written on each book/reading that's completed.  [It should be noted that Jon completed these requirements through ESR’s MDiv curriculum.]

“ . . . In addition, a seasoned Friend agrees to serve as a "Counselor Friend," a mentor to the candidate, meeting regularly (at least once a month, I believe, though I met with mine once a week for a lot of it) to discuss how ministry is going, serve as a sounding board and give guidance about any questions that may come up. Upon completion of the curriculum (reading and writings) and the recommendation of the Counselor Friend, the Training and Recording Committee meets to discuss recommending the candidate to YM Ministry and Counsel; approval is followed by approval, and then the recommendation comes before the Yearly Meeting at large for approval, followed by a recognition during Yearly Meeting Sessions.”

Two things struck me about this.  The first is the recognition of specific tracks within recorded ministry, not limited to pastoral ministry.  ESR’s MDiv/MMin program has several emphases: pastoral ministry, unprogrammed ministry, religious leadership, writing, pastoral care, spirituality, and peace and justice studies.  ESR works to acknowledge the breadth of different types of ministry not only in Quakerism, but also in the larger Church.  The second is the academic and interpersonal aspects of the recording process.  Candidates both must develop an academic background in relevant areas and spend time with a seasoned minister to give guidance.

Does your yearly meeting record ministers?  What is the process?  What do you think the process of recording ministers should ideally look like?

Valerie Hurwitz

Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.


  1. Thanks for this report!

    My recording is through Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Additionally, I served as Campus Minister and later as Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religion at Wilmington College. Thus, I have a lively interest in what happens there.

    A couple observations: the distance between the Ohio meetings and the Tennessee meetings has been an ongoing challenge. This needs to be addressed constructively. I have always found it strange that Friends drive all the way through Kentucky in order to reach other yearly meeting folk. Please, WYM, develop a strategy to plant at least five meetings in Kentucky! I note with great interest that the YM recording program offers an emphasis in evangelism. Excellent! Put this emphasis to work in planting meetings in Kentucky. This would be a worthwhile (and long overdue!) outreach and investment in the YM's future.

    I'm glad there is a process for recording apart from the traditional seminary route. I would strongly encourage WYM to emphasize and help make financially feasible a seminary education for those in leadership throughout the YM--there are alternatives, but there is no substitute for the growth and formation that occurs in these programs. However, when this is not possible (not simply "not convenient"), then a strong, alternative program is in order.

    I would recommend that the YM look at strengthening the program that is reported here. Reading books of a candidates' own selection and writing a three page review is better than nothing, but it is far from sufficient. First, there must be guidance in the selection of readings in order to maximize the benefit of such work (there are resources that can assist with this). Second, the program ought also to include workshops, short courses, etc. The health of the yearly meeting is certainly worth this kind of investment.

    I realize I do not have before me the official documents of the program and am relying on the summary presented here. However, as a minister recorded through WYM and as a Friends theologian deeply involved in ministerial formation, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss further, in this forum or face-to-face, how to develop further the good work already begun by Friends in WYM.

  2. I wish there were a "like" button that I could click for everything that David just said.

    I'm going to post this link to the Quaker Church-Planters group on Facebook.

  3. I *think* that there is only one person who is recorded as an Evangelist in the YM right now, from the Tennessee Quarter. There are also some folks working to start a meeting in Nashville, which might encourage others to start meetings in Lexington, Louisville, or other Kentucky cities. There was a lot of joking about driving through Kentucky and I agree that it would be great to have a few meetings along the way!