My Journey to Ministry

Ray shares his first message as a recorded minister during worship at Cincinnati Friends at the close of Wilmington Yearly Meeting.

I came across my original request to be considered for recording as a Quaker minister that was presented to Ministry and Counsel on October 8, 2018. Back then I wrote, “I am requesting the Meeting to arrange a clearness committee to help me discern my next challenge, which I believe is this - to finish becoming a professional chaplain, specifically as a Quaker minister.”

Our Ministry and Counsel agreed to share my concern by naming a clearness committee for me.This was the beginning of a journey that took me two years and ten months to complete. Along the way, my understanding of all things Quaker grew by leaps and bounds, due primarily to Jim Newby and Patricia Thomas, members of Wilmington Yearly Meeting’s Training and Recording Committee. I learned so much in the company of my fellow students and at the feet of the various volunteer instructors who shared their knowledge and experiences with us during Saturday morning classes.

Along the way, I gained a greater appreciation for the Quaker testimonies, as well as for emphasis on practice and process that came from the various care committees who gave of their time to guide me. I found strength in and gratitude for my family and friends, both inside and outside our Quaker community. So many folks graciously shared this journey of mine and adopted it as part of their own journeys.

My weightier friends taught me to walk this journey by faith rather than by sight (Corinthians 2:5-7). I am so glad I did, or I would never have had the courage to continue my leading of the heart!

Following is an excerpt of my message I shared following my recording as a minister of the gospel on August 1, 2021:

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothed you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:37-40)

This gospel message of Jesus is so different from the movie versions of how to be a hero. Jesus didn’t take up his light saber and win the day like a Star Wars hero. No, the day he won is still dawning for us who continue the journey with him.

The prophetic tradition that Jesus embodies has an intense concern for people who have been abused, neglected, deprived, and cheated by the harsher circumstances of life. The world is filled with them! We who seek to imitate compassion through action might get this urge from an overflow of love from our past. We might have had good parenting, good neighbors, a good community, church perhaps, and mostly positive formative experiences.

But I wonder. Might such a concern also come from the enriched awareness that breaks forth in the unlikeliest of people and circumstances? Remember that Jesus spoke in this passage to folks we might call "anonymous Christians" because they do their acts of love simply out of innate human goodness instead of in conformity to cultural norms. Their sensitivity, with the paired loving action for others, could begin to define for all of us -- Christians, non-Christians, non-theists -- what real joy is and what our life purpose can be. It can change our identity, flipping it from being an
immature person obsessed with being the recipient of love and part of the ‘in’ (or insulated) crowd, to a more mature person who reasons not “they think, therefore I must think or be,” but rather “I love, therefore I do.”

Patricia Thomas represented Yearly Meeting’s Training and Recording Committee as she shared the process that Ray completed to become a minister of the gospel.

Much has happened since my request in 2018. As was my original intention, I still plan to exercise a Quaker-inspired chaplaincy on a personal, one-on-one basis. The main thrust of my call as a minister of the gospel, however, is to communicate what is most alive in me in community settings. I have a leading to help facilitate groups of people who are seekers like me. I want to contribute to nourishing positive transformations in our Quaker community and beyond
through creative sharing that emphasizes self-care and mindful, compassionate communication. I have a passion for teaching a non-violent approach to the Bible that is in accordance with our Quaker peace testimony.

I am excited to be part of a living spiritual tradition that not only encourages its followers to transform their dreams into actions for good, but that equips them to do so. Friends love, therefore we do.

I am so pleased and so proud to now be a recorded minister, one of so many servant leaders among the rich and blessed fellowship of Cincinnati Friends Meeting and Wilmington Yearly Meeting. I look forward to sharing the continuing journey of faith and this life filled with love with you all.

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1 Comment

  1. Jeff Arnold | | Reply

    I am pleased and honored to be a part of your spiritual community, Ray.

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