Ministering to Each Other in Middlebury Friends Meeting

Discussion held on 3/11/01
Notes taken by Priscilla Baker

General comments and reflections:

  • The essential foundation for ministering to one another is worship; silence is a bond.
  • Remember to include ministering to each other at other-than-difficult times.
  • Visiting is a powerful way to build connections among all of us.
  • It is important to gather outside of Meeting for discussion, social communion and connection-building.
  • M & C is more actively addressing how to minister via their new practice of connecting each Friend to someone on M & C who will periodically check in with these Friends.
  • Clearness Committees provide one vehicle for ministering.
  • What is the culture in MFM about ministering to each other? How does the concept of shared responsibility for ministering get imbedded within the culture?
  • Each one of us has our own special way of ministering to others and of reaching out, e.g., calling, writing, providing food, transporting, visiting. There is not just one way to minister.
  • Our ministering is very good and powerful when it works, but sometimes it doesn't work because something slips through the cracks.
  • Comparison of new people coming into Meeting and new people coming into a family: it is a long process of gradually getting to know one another and of deepening relationships. This doesn't happen overnight.

We made two lists over the course of this discussion.


WHAT IS DONE BY MINISTERS/PRIESTS/RABBIS (religious leaders who are empowered and hired as messengers of God)? They

  • visit the people in their congregations.
  • are aware of who needs what.
  • have their hands on the pulse of the congregation as a whole.
  • know about passages in peoples' lives: births, deaths, sicknesses, retirements, marriages, divorces, graduations, etc.
  • act as spokespeople of their religion to the public.
  • do outreach, on behalf of their group, within the larger community.
  • organize others to provide for needs within the community.
  • welcome newcomers, visit them and answer questions.
  • provide a confidential ear; provide pastoral counseling when needed.
  • organize and oversee religious education.
  • run the business of the church or synagogue.
  • prepare modes of communication, notably newsletters.
  • shepherd their flocks.
  • embody the spiritual values of their religion and give voice to these values.

Furthermore, there is the expectation that these religious leaders are role models, possessing sometimes superhuman characteristics through exemplary behaviors. This sometimes allows or enables parishioners to be fallible.



  • be more welcoming to newcomers; visit them and answer their questions
  • seek out and connect with people we don't usually talk to.
  • inform Friends about Clearness Committees and encourage people to use this vehicle of support and clarification.
  • get to know each other outside of Meeting; play together; do (seemingly) trivial and unrelated-to-Meeting activities.
  • keep active our after Meeting hospitality, regular potlucks, singing after Meeting, and books and flowers at Meetings.
  • continue to minister to each other via food, visiting, cards, phone calls, transportation.
  • continue our Healing Circle at the beginning of Meetings for Worship.
  • continue to use our monthly newsletter as a vehicle of communication and sharing, especially news of Quakerly interest.
  • continue to use our e-mail list and phone-tree as vehicles for informing everyone in Meeting about important news of each other.
  • continue to improve the children's program which has become much better organized this year.
  • continue the men's group and the women's annual gathering.
  • support M & C in their charge to oversee the spiritual life of the Meeting.
  • have periodic gatherings/potlucks welcome newcomers and answer questions about Quakerism - perhaps every 1/2 year.


We ended with the suggestion that we create a set of queries to help Friends reflect on their own ways of ministering within the Meeting community. E.g.,

Do I make time to connect and to minister to others within Meeting?
Am I aware of and responsive to what others may need?
How can I participate in ministering to others within Meeting?
What are my special ways or gifts of ministering and helping to care for others in my spiritual community?

We agreed to invite Friends to share, during introductions at the end of Meeting for Worship, what has kept each of us in MFM over the years?