Quaker Women in Ministry

Two summers ago, at the Friends General Conference Gathering, Peggy O’Neill contacted then Senior Editor Bob Dockhorn and me to suggest this special issue, about which she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and wonderful suggestions. We were sold on the spot, although we did need to come back to Philadelphia and season the idea with our associate editor before saying "yes." In preparing to write this column, I asked Peggy to give a little background on how the idea came forth from the Women’s Center at the Gathering, and this is what she replied:

"The idea for a special issue on Quaker women’s ministries grew out of discussions over several years at the Women’s Center at the FGC Gathering about the importance of the historical witness of Quaker women, and the desire of present-day Quaker women to follow in their spiritual ancestors’ footsteps and raise their own voices. Since the mid-’70s, the FGC Women’s Center has been an inclusive, safe place for women to express who they truly are, and how Spirit is working in their lives. Activities have included worship, mutual support for ministry, exploration of sexism among Friends, study of feminine spirituality, discussions of sexuality, rituals, and celebrations. In earlier years a major focus was women’s rights, including support for civil disobedience actions such as chaining themselves to the White House fence to demand passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. In recent years, the center has reached out to younger women and teens with multi-generational activities like drumming and circle dance, and sharing the Quaker roots of feminism. In 2009, when they asked themselves the questions, ‘What are the messages of Quaker women for the world today? How do our lives speak in relation to the major issues facing our world?’ these women realized that the answer was multi-dimensional and multi-faceted, and worthy of a discussion in a larger forum like Friends Journal."

We are very pleased to bring you a selection of articles written by women across the branches of Quakerism about their leadings, their challenges, their openings, and their ministries. You will find profiles of some Quaker women who are recorded as ministers, and you may learn about Quaker women you’ve not heard of before. More material connected to this issue can be found on our website at http://friendsjournal.org. I hope that you will find these articles as interesting and inspiring as I have.

It seems fitting somehow that my last column before retiring at the end of September is being written in a special issue on Quaker women’s ministries. I personally felt called to ministry in my 20s—which came as a surprise and shock. I did not feel worthy, and have tried, not always successfully, over the last 40 years to be faithful to God’s leadings. Nearly 17 of those years were at the helm of Friends Journal, which had won my heart and convinced me in the early ’70s that I was a Friend. It has not always been easy, but it certainly has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Religious Society of Friends in this capacity. I will miss traveling among you, hearing from you by email or letter, and following the work of Spirit in the lives of so many—an opportunity which comes with this good work. I’m very glad to leave behind a vibrant organization with exciting plans for the future. Thank you, Friends, for providing the container for this ministry, and for trusting me with it for so many years.