“The more that I step into the gift of ministry, the more I need to surround the gift with a good container,” Johanna Jackson tells us. “Ministry is kind of like standing on the far edge of a limb of a tree. The trunk [of the tree] is the safe core where I can exist in a storm—but going out on that edge is where I can make change.”
Johanna was accompanied by JT Dorr-Bremme, who often elders for her, holding space while she’s engaged in discernment. “As someone who carries a ministry,” she explains, “I find it’s really important to be close to someone who can give me that anchoring and that grounding.”
Learn more about Johanna and JT’s ministry and community-building work at their website, Forward in Faithfulness.
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I’ve met with different people who offer vocal ministry in different ways, and some people do it with some fire in their spirit. Some people do it with great gentleness and softness. For me the more that I step into the gift of ministry, the more I need to surround the gift with a good container. Ministry is kind of like standing on the far edge of a limb of a tree, and the trunk is maybe the safe core where I can exist in a storm but going out on that edge is where I can make change.
On Quaker Ministry and Eldering
My name is Johanna Jackson. I use she/her pronouns and I’m here with JT Dorr-Bremme who is eldering and holding space. We live in State College and Huntingdon, PA, and when we work together, often we work as an elder-minister pair. So JT dips deep into prayer and I speak from somewhere in the space between us.
What is Eldering?
Eldering is a kind of spiritual grounding and anchoring. It’s also known as holding space in some communities and as someone who carries a ministry or has words to share I find it’s really important to be close to someone who can give me that anchoring and that grounding. Elders are people of many different ages; it doesn’t mean that someone is older to be an elder. I’ve seen young people who have a great ability to listen, take in, filter, and in some ways cleanse the air around them.
A Calling to Ministry
Something I find satisfying about doing the work of ministry is it’s kind of like being a filter with all of this stuff coming around and filtering in. So in my experience, ministry includes taking in a lot of content and then giving back only some of it. For me as I’ve started to grow in this gift there’s a lot of times that I either feel like I’m taking in too much content and I need to sort of shut the faucet for a little bit or I’m learning how to have discretion with what I emit from what I take in. So there’s a risk of saying too little: maybe I can miss an opportunity to share something that would be very helpful for someone, and then there’s also the chance of saying too much or listening in too much and overrunning when I speak. So when I’m doing my work well I’m finding the middle ground and I know what that feels like, but in order to find that middle ground I need to explore the edges and the extremes a little bit.
Following a Leading to Ministry
Following a leading, for me, has been rigorous and rewarding. It feels kind of like getting ready for a big feast, and there’s a bunch of chopping and creating to happen and then with my community I have a feast. So getting ready stage, it takes a lot of alignment for me to shift my life in a new direction to follow this leading. Maybe for other people there’s less of a shift but for me I needed to let go of some things I really liked doing and pare down and simplify. And what helped me commit to doing that was that I knew I really wanted to say yes to this fire in my heart and also it hurt to say no to it! And so it felt good, it felt right, it felt like I was answering something deep within me by chopping all the vegetables to prepare that feast, and now I’m in a stage of enjoying the feast.
- Johanna discusses how her ministry is balancing act of speaking too often or too little, and how she finds that middle ground is rooted in “explor[ing] the edges and the extremes a little bit.” How do you find the middle ground in your own ministry?
- What is an experience with eldering (either being an elder or being eldered) that greatly affected you? How did it affect you?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.