On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry (Second Edition)
Reviewed by Max L. Carter
Brian Drayton draws on response to the 2005 first edition of On Living with a Concern for Gospel Ministry and his further experience traveling in ministry for this second edition. A thematic organization and expansion of some insights only enhance a book that has been a primer for Friends concerned for the state of ministry in the Religious Society of Friends.
For those new to Drayton’s work—and for those who might need a refresher on the earlier edition—there follows some of the key ideas included in 26 chapters organized into three parts:
- Gospel ministry is a service to encourage people to respond to the guidance of the Light and life at work in us.
- A preponderance of “convinced” Friends in our meetings, suspicion of leadership, and secularization in society present challenges for Friends ministry.
- Ministry should both confront and comfort, put social events in a spiritual context, and connect experience with tradition and Scripture.
- Effective ministry grows out of an “inward crucifixion” that opens channels for the Holy Spirit.
- Ministry often follows a cycle of “call,” testing a leading, growing in ministry, and sensing the need for sabbatical.
- Developing a devotional life, utilizing varieties of prayer, and deep reading in Scripture are important for maturing in ministry.
- Discernment is important through the “Quaker triangle” of personal experience, tradition, and Scripture.
- Learn from discouragement.
- A community of elders is important in seasoning ministry.
- The development of empathy enhances ministry.
- There’s no place like home (meeting) for maintaining discipline in ministry.
- Don’t forget joy!
There is much practical advice in Drayton’s chapters. He discusses how to test a “concern” and examines the challenges of travel, seeking “opportunity” with others, and whether the practice of “traveling as a Gospel pair” is always to be followed.
In a section on “passionate attachments,” he delves into issues of hero-worship, sexual attraction, and “scandal.” I am reminded of the description of the passions stirred up at the old frontier revivals, where “more souls were conceived than saved.” It would have been helpful in this section to give attention to the challenges for women and sexual minorities in ministry.
It would also be helpful to have a deeper discussion of how to respond to what some Friends call “birds on the light wire ministry” or offerings of “as I heard on NPR this week.” How to respond to consistent abuse of ministry in the meeting for worship is another subject that could be explored more thoroughly.
In addition to a study guide and helpful appendices, this edition has an extensive bibliography of further resources for Quaker ministry. One book I wish had been included is Allen Jay’s Autobiography of Allen Jay. With a firsthand account of growing up in the period of Quaker Quietism in the mid-1800s, Jay offers a more sober look at the excesses of a ministry restricted to the facing bench and those Friends who are “recorded.” Another would be Phil Baisley’s The Same, But Different: Ministry and the Quaker Pastor (reviewed in FJ Nov. 2019). There is Friends ministry, after all, that is experienced by programmed Quakers, too!
With the emergence of new forms of ministry such as the QuakerSpeak video series and other digital media, a growing vitality among younger Friends in finding ways to utilize “old forms” in new and meaningful ways, and the desire for spiritual depth in our meetings, Brian Drayton’s book will serve as a helpful “elder.”