Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Struggling with ministry: money and -- courage?

I am struggling a bit with ministry right now. The main thing, the obvious thing, is that there are a handful of events I want to travel to this summer, and I have to figure out how to find enough financial assistance and raise enough other financial support to do so. I also have to figure out if I have enough "spoons" (internal resources in the face of chronic illness) to be able to do so.

The thing that's really biting me in the butt right now about all this -- besides asking for money, which as we all know is just so much fun, and so easy -- is, in the words of Beloved Wife, putting myself out there.

I hate that.

But it's an integral part of ministry in community.

No, no, I want to say, my ministry is between me and the Goddess. It's about regular discernment, being faithful to my leadings, figuring out what I'm led to do and doing it; and if I've done it "right," other people will respond.

Except it's not. That way. Or, not only that way.

I've been wrestling for a while with how so much of my ministry is about what happens next: what happens after I've listened, been in discernment, and made a plan. Then comes talking to people. Then comes advertising an event, submitting a workshop proposal, herding cats in the workshop running the workshop, finding space for an event, etc, etc. All of these things invariably involve talking to other people about it. And not just talking to other people, but, as Beloved Wife said, putting myself out there.

Taking risks.

You know how you feel after giving ministry in Meeting for Worship -- tender? That's how I feel about my ministry work. That's how I feel about a particular effort in the ministry when it first comes to me, and that's how I feel about it even when it looks like the ball is rolling along well. Even when my Oversight Committee helps me refine something and tells me, "Run with it!," even after I get the workshop or interest group approval, I feel tender, and this weird combination of certain and uncertain. Hurrah, I did it! We're ready to go, goes hand-in-hand with, What if no one else responds? What if no one comes?

When I first moved to Seattle and became more active in my ministry, I asked myself that often about events I was hosting: What if no one comes? And although it was painful, I realized it didn't matter: what mattered was that I was there, fully present and open-hearted, holding space, so that people could come.

How do I translate that into the travel I feel led to do in the ministry this summer? How do I translate that into putting myself out there, and asking for money?

If I had enough money, it wouldn't matter whether or not other people think it's part of my ministry for me to go to, say, the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference, or whether other people think it's important for me to go. I could just pay my registration and book a plane ticket. But because I plain can't go on my own financial resources, I have to ask for help. And this means putting myself out there, means taking the risk that other people won't think it's as important as I do.

This is part of the price ministry demands of those of us who don't have enough money to support it financially ourselves.

We must take that risk more often of asking if other people believe in the value of what we're doing.

And that's hard.

What travel do I want to do in the ministry this summer? (It's scary to write this part!)

I also really want to go Cherry Hill Seminary's Summer Intensive, but I know I don't have enough spoons right now for the classroom work beforehand and afterward.

I feel pretty sure that I will get the financial aid I need to go to FGC Gathering and to NPYM. I've been to those before; how to put together enough financial aid is nicely laid-out and well-established, both in general and for me.

Couple Enrichment Leader Training, and the PNWQWTC -- which, of course, happen first -- I'm feeling some angst over how to make happen financially.

Argh! Did I mention this is hard?


fillingcalix said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. It's really interesting to read about. It does seem like - while we often lament how to discern God/dess' will for us - it is actually the manifesting that will that is more difficult. Are you familiar with Havi Brooks? She just wrote a post on that seems like it might be related. And obviously I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to also consider doing Shiva Nata (that is

Su said...

It's hard to convey in the comments of a blog post, but I was just nodding the whole time I read this.

I send people to the spoon theory link all the time, too. It's one of the most useful images for explaining what life is like with (for me) chronic pain.

Robin M. said...

Oh yes, I know this feeling. The tenderness, the fear that others will not see how important this is, the occasional resentment that if (money, illness, obligations) things were different, this would be easy, I wouldn't have to ask for help, I could just do it. On my better days, I remember that it is good for any discernment process to have to go through this step and it's good for other people to have opportunities to help. I think it's helpful for people like me to read this - we are not alone.

Mary Ellen said...

One of our Meeting members just came to Meeting for Business to share her desire to go to the NW Women's Theological Conference, and offered to sell cloth bags to help finance the trip. By the end of the morning, without her having actually asked for it, we decided to give her enough money for the registration and travel expenses. But I could certainly tell how hard it was for her to show up in this way. I have a different problem - I could probably afford the cost, but can't take the time. Hope you make (at least some of) these leadings come about - without overstretching your energy.

staśa said...

I hope to post a more in-depth reply, but did just want to thank each of you for your comment. It really means a lot to me that this speaks to other people, that others recognize this, that other people go through this, too. So, thank you. :)

staśa said...

It's not just the discernment, though... it's -- what's the way to describe it -- the balance between what work we have to do to be faithful to what we've discerned, and waiting for / expecting the way to open.

I can be clear to do something, in the discernment sense, in the Quaker sense of clearness, but it doesn't automatically follow that way will open. And yet, how way does or does not open is often a discernment tool.

For example, when I went to the Middle East on a peace witness trip, it took me a long time to reach clearness, and every single step of practical arrangements took two to three times as much time and effort as I would have expected. What that a message that I shouldn't go, or about the need for persistence? Part of that trip was sheer hell, all of it was hard, hard work, some of it was wonderful, and yes, it was a blessing that I went.

When I went to NPYM Annual Sessions for the first time last year, it took I don't know how many darned iterations for the arrangements, especially transportation and the details of financial aid, to work. It all worked out in the end, I had a lovely time getting there and back as well as being there, it was a blessing that I went, and I hope to go again this year. But I really was dubious when it was taking so much to make it work.

It means a lot to me that this resonates for folks. Thank you!

staśa said...

I found out late the other night (it being earlier in the Pacific time zone) that my Meeting has no travel funds left. I had just taken my committee's advice and a leap of faith, booked my ticket, and applied to the Meeting for financial aid.

I decided midnight was the wrong time to panic.

But now I have $423 + $250, not just $250, to raise. Eeek.

Breathing. Being faithful. Hanging in there. Laughing a little about all this!

RantWoman said...

Thank you so much for posting thing. I found it looking for something else but it helps so much to remember that other people have struggles at least somewhat similar to mine.