This evening we had our elder’s meeting. We have five elders, three women and two men, plus myself and the clerk of the meeting, who usually attends but doesn’t have to. We have a great age range, swath of life experiences, different experiences of God and a panorama of gifts represented. Tonight we planned on discussing the first 10 pages of the Elder’s Handbook from our Yearly Meeting. I for one really enjoyed the discussion. Oh, how I love the finer points of ecclesiology! It was great; we got a little theological, we got personal, and we talked around the questions: what draws you to being an elder? In other words why are you here, why do you want to be an elder? What role do you see yourself fulfilling as an elder in our meeting? It was great to hear our group share how they ended up in leadership, what gifts they have (and don’t have), and the insecurities that come with leadership.
One thing that impressed upon me was the simple fact that each person was chosen to be an elder for different reasons. “We need this person because our meeting really needs this right now,” and so on. While there was a feeling that we are not cut out for this job of leading others in our meeting (I mean elder, overseer, spiritual life committee all send shudders up my spine), there was also the obvious fact that other people in our meeting really do trust these people to do this job for a reason. And to me, this is part and parcel of what it means to have elders in a programmed Quaker meeting. Here is a group who takes on the spiritual life of the church and seeks to nurture it, here is a group of people who are brought together to fulfill different roles and to share their different gifts, and here is a group of people who have been chosen by the community, not self-appointed, not voted in, but rather recognized to already be doing the work of “elders.” All trying to work in tandem, all trying to find what it means to be faithful to God’s call.