What We Need

By Mary Linda McKinney and Joann Neuroth

We have the belief that everything we need is available to us when we are doing God’s work. When God leads or calls or nudges us to do something, God provides everything we need in order to do it. Everything we need may not look like what we expect so our work is to release expectation and be available to what is. Everything we need may not show up when we think it should but instead shows up on God’s time, which is always the right time. We believe this because we know it from experience.

Several years ago, School of the Spirit went through a year of discernment about our call. The “On Being a Spiritual Nurturer” program was floundering and our board was shrinking and it was not clear to us what we needed to do. We put almost everything on hold and prayed and listened to what Friends said they needed, worshipped and worship-shared with one another. Our discernment ended when it was clear to us that Spirit decidedly had more work for this organization.

At the very beginning of this process, Joann, who had been the board clerk for a few years already, invited Mary Linda to join her as co-clerk. We had originally met during our time in the “Spiritual Nurturer” program and worked well together: Joann is a systems-thinker, good with numbers and spreadsheets, and Mary Linda is a creative imaginer. We both trust God and encourage one another to follow where we are led, even when it requires stepping into the unknown and relying on the Divine for guidance.

When we joined the board, there were around 14 members. We had no set terms, and operated by each member discerning when their call had run its course. By the time Mary Linda became co-clerk, the number of actively called board members was down to 7 or 8. Not long after that, we had to amend our by-laws to allow decisions to be made by 5 members. We pursued potential new board members but none were clear to join us in our work. Joann worried that this was a failure in leadership on her part but Mary Linda began to understand that it was Spirit helping us to become lean and nimble to make the decisions and do the work we would be called to do.

By the end of the year of discernment, we were clear that the call to provide opportunities for spiritual growth and learning was being renewed for School of the Spirit but the “Spiritual Nurturer” program was to be put on hold because the guidance we were hearing pointed to new directions. Christopher Sammond and outgoing board member Angela York Crane invited us into discernment about midwifing a new program, “Participating in God’s Power.” We also began to feel a call to create a program for Friends communities. The leading to develop the “Faithful Meetings” program was later given to Mary Linda in response.

While all this was going on, the board did not feel released from the need for the spiritual nurture work that had been the reason School of the Spirit was created. We searched high and low for a teaching team, for a sustainable business model, for a way to reduce costs to allow wider accessibility to the work. It seemed to us at the time that if God didn’t release us from the call, it was time for some Guidance about how to proceed. But our time wasn’t God’s time, and although no release came, neither did Way open. We waited, kept listening and moved toward the openings we’d been given.

Now, a few years later, the “Contemplative Retreats” program is moving into new life, and “Participating in God’s Power” is preparing for its second cohort with Christopher as the core teacher and a series of visiting teachers to support different themes. The “Faithful Meetings” program is ending its first engagement with a community and is working with three others. Joann has stepped down as board clerk to develop a program with Adria Gulizia. And thanks to generous grants from the Shoemaker Fund, we’ve been able to have three half-time contracted staff doing administration, development, and outreach. The School of the Spirit has become a robust organization!

Our programming has grown tremendously, but our board has not. We have added some wonderful new people and the composition of our governance board is more diverse than it has ever been. But we’re just slightly ahead of replacement with 6 folks comprising the executive committee with Lilith Swygert as our new clerk. And our need to be nimble and lean in time of discernment has given way to a need to be vigorous, creative and diverse in time of implementation. In order for School of the Spirit to continue to carry out the work that God has entrusted us with, we need dedicated and spiritually grounded Friends to join us. 

We need:

  • Board members who are prayerful and intentional when seeking God’s will with others and can help us live out God’s call for School of the Spirit: deepening capacity for contemplative practice in the Religious Society of Friends.
  • People who have the gift of fundraising and development or want to learn.
  • At our last board meeting we learned that our treasurer is ready to step down so we need to find a new treasurer.

Folks who join the board in caring for this ministry find a community that is deeply committed to following the will of the Holy Spirit. It is our intention for the governance of School of the Spirit to be spiritually enriching so that the work we share, even when hard, is not depleting.

Do you know someone who might feel called to join us in this work? Might you be? Please join us in holding School of the Spirit in the Light so that our organization can be the solid and reliable foundation from which the mission we have been entrusted with by God may continue to flourish.

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