Not every Quaker meeting has a paid pastor, but some have found it helpful. Margaret Webb, pastor of New Garden Meeting in North Carolina, explains her role.
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- How does pastoral care get done in your meeting? Do you feel that your meeting could benefit from any of the roles that Margaret described?
- Margaret says, “We each minister to each other within a Quaker community.” How do you minister to your Quaker community?
Margaret Webb: Quakers believe that each person has a ministry, has a call, has something that the Spirit is calling them to do. Because of that we believe that each of us has gifts and we each have a role in our meeting community. So we each minister to each other within a Quaker community. So I’m one of many ministers, which is why I’m called a “pastoral minister.”
What Does a Quaker Pastor Do?
I’m Margaret Webb. I’m the pastoral minister at New Garden Friends Meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina. I grew up in an unprogrammed meeting, and we loved one another and we cared for one another but I do think that it’s useful to have one person who is paid (released) to do that work, to tend to those connections, and to also help alert the wider community to needs.
Providing Pastoral Care
Some pastors take deep joy in worship planning, and reading spiritual works and preparing their hearts and their minds for worship, and that’s the center of their ministry. Some pastors find their center in religious education, in helping people learn about faith and explore faith. For me, the center of my ministry is really pastoral care. So I start there with my week and then I build outwards from there.
So a lot of what I do during the week is I visit people. I visit elderly people, who maybe can’t make it to meeting every Sunday, or who can’t come to meeting at all anymore. I visit people who are sick and I visit people who have been hospitalized, and I visit people who are in crisis. I provide a presence with those people.
So a lot of the work that I do as a pastoral minister is helping be with people who need somebody to be with them.
I put together pieces for meeting for worship, so if we have music as part of our worship, I help with the selection of music and I prepare a message–which is usually quite short–that helps deepen our silence. I also prepare other pieces of programming as needed, so baby dedications or vow renewals, if a couple wants to renew their vows, I’ll prepare those pieces as well.
Business gets done in Quaker meetings by committee, and that has been my experience in unprogrammed, silent meetings and also in programmed meetings where there’s a pastor who helps with worship. Still, all of the work of the meeting is done by committees.
So my role as pastoral minister is to just support that work: to provide whatever kinds of tools those committees might need, to do the work that they’re doing for the meeting.
So I can’t do all of the pastoral care of the meeting. That would be impossible. But we have committees that also help with that care. It’s my role to be intentional about people’s needs, and that also, people who have gifts of pastoral care–which, there are a number of people in this meeting who have those gifts–that they’re being connected to people who need the nurture.
So I’m the person who makes connections a lot of times. I’m also, in some ways, like a gardener. I provide the space of nurture when it’s needed and also empower other people to step into that gardener role. And I think some communities do best when they have someone who has been released to be their gardener. That is one of the ways that communities have found a way to thrive in the modern world.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.