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When a baby becomes a toddler

Jez Smiths blog - Fri, 10/04/2013 - 05:55
My baby has just become a toddler! And the giraffe pictured here above has helped. We borrowed this rather lovely item from Lewisham Toy Library. Taking it out into the local parks and the streets has helped give toddler lots of practice walking and now he’s doing it unaided. Meanwhile, I ran my NCT route […]
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Local dinner

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 10/02/2013 - 19:27
It may just have been dinner but the potatoes were from the allotment and the beans came from Frendsbury Gardens. Do we ate talking food metres, rather than miles.
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Jez Smiths blog - Thu, 09/26/2013 - 06:05
Spotted this in Whitechapel Sainsbury’s yesterday. I imagine that to rope and chamois leathers are toys for many people, just not for me!
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Little steps

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 09/21/2013 - 00:00
How quickly a year goes when you’re a father! My baby is almost a toddler and he now his first pair of shoes, which we bought from Gently Elephant this week. He also has Wellington boots too but they’re still a bit big.
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More Thoughts on Recording

Quest for Adequacy - Fri, 09/20/2013 - 14:18
The night before I went to preach at Camas Friends Church, I had a dream.  I dreamed that I was sitting in the Camas Friends meeting room, waiting to give the message.  In my dream, the announcements and introductions went on and on, and I began to get anxious that there would not be space for me to speak.  To my horror, I saw people standing to leave.  One by one, they quietly walked out of the room.  But when I looked to my right, I saw a small girl sitting on the bench next to me.  She looked up at me, her eyes wide, and said, "Are you going to be the preacher today?"  Then I woke up.

I have been in Atlanta for a month now, and it has been a bit of a bumpy landing.  There are things that I love about studying at Candler School of Theology: my classes are interesting, the professors are brilliant and entertaining, and my classmates are caring and thoughtful.  But I have also experienced a fair amount of culture shock.  I am adjusting to living in the South and being a full-time student again after several years of working as a lawyer.  I am also the only Quaker in a Methodist seminary, which has its own challenges.

One thing I did not anticipate was how big of a deal my recording would be here.

Because it is the beginning of the year, I often find myself in classrooms where we go around the room and introduce ourselves.  For many of my classmates, the introduction goes like this:  "My name is Jessie and I am United Methodist, on the ordination track in the North Georgia Conference."

When it's my turn to introduce myself, I usually say, "My name is Ashley and I am a Quaker (a member of the Religious Society of Friends).  I am a recorded Quaker minister (the Quaker version of ordination)."  

When I say that, people's eyebrows go up.  They shift in their chairs.  Last week, a professor said to me, "So, you're just here for the education."

It's true.  For many of my classmates, they need to go to seminary in order to be ordained in their denominations.  As a Friend, I do not need the degree to be a minister (in fact, several Friends tried to talk me out of it before I came here).

I am grateful for my recording, and it is still new enough that I am trying to figure out what it means to me and for my ministry.  I sometimes think it means more to non-Friends than it does to Friends.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a friend who should be recorded. She has a clear call to ministry and has been deeply involved in public ministry among Friends, which is bearing fruit. But her yearly meeting does not record ministers. 

She said that, in a conversation with another minister, she blurted out, "I wish they would just record me!" The other (recorded) minister reminded her that recording is not something to take lightly. 

While I agree on one level, I also think that, when someone is doing public ministry, eventually the lack of recording can become a burden, and it is a burden that the meeting should take up. It is the responsibility of the meeting to provide support and accountability for public ministers, and recording is the way that Friends traditionally have shown their intention to provide that support and accountability. 

I also think this weighs heavier on women than men. It is true that yearly meetings that do not record ministers do not discriminate between women and men (neither are recorded). However, that does not take into account all of the voices that women hear telling them that they cannot do ministry. There are entire denominations that will not allow women to preach or even teach men. It is still unusual for a little girl to hear a woman preach. And when Friends say that they will not record ministers, that is one more voice telling women that they cannot be ministers.

Recording is important, Friends. Especially the recording of women. We need to take a look around and recognize the gifts that God has given to our meetings and find ways to support the Friends who are sharing those gifts with us.
Categories: Blogs

Whose details are they anyway?

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 21:09
Recently, I was reminded of the old adage that if you’re not paying for it, you’re part of the product. Often applied to social media like Google and facebook, it also applies to my (and your) email address. I think my email address belongs to me, but last year I realised that it belongs to […]
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The enduring appeal of sour grapes

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 12:37
In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath comment on how the Aesop fable of the fox and the sour grapes has lasted over 2,500 years. The fox repeatedly jumps to reach the grapes but they’re too high. They must be sour, he thinks, as he slinks away. The story was referenced this […]
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Peppa pig lookalike?

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 12:25
Peppa pig is a cartoon character loved by millions of children around the world. A few months ago a flyer came through our letterbox (despite the no junk mail sticker of course) for a local children’s nursery. To me this looks like Peppa pig on their flyer. But no, it’s a look-a-like according to the […]
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International baby of mystery

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 09/16/2013 - 20:25
We have an international baby of mystery. Where do his toys go? Is he responsible for their disappearances? The red ball from the top of the discs turned up just now. It had been missing for months. Similarly, Bishopston, our eponymous dinosaur from the sadly now defunct fairtrade clothing store turned up tonight. We at […]
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Out in the rain

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 09/16/2013 - 05:50
Out in the allotment, in the rain, we gathered in the last of the potatoes, weeded the beds and planted the green manure seeds. Despite, or because of, the driving rain it felt good to be outside getting jobs done.
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Writing for the bin

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 09/09/2013 - 03:20
“So much more stylish than a conventional bathroom bin, this retro version instantly ups your design credentials. Pair with a host of vintage-inspired accessories or elements of cool kitsch for a contemporary look that oozes personality.” I chuckled when I read the text above – it’s in the “product info” for the bin, pictured above, […]
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London picnic weather

Jez Smiths blog - Sun, 09/08/2013 - 12:10
Our friends cancelled a birthday picnic for their son due to the uncertain weather forecast. A reasonable decision, as it turned out. We were going to go to occupy vs the arms fair instead when another friend pointed out that Sunday was our last chance to swim in the serpentine lido this year. We had […]
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Parkrun, the neighbour connector

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 09/02/2013 - 12:00
  I live on the other side of the tracks to my local Hilly Fields parkrun, in Brockley, London, and I often see runners while I’m on my way up, But I don’t usually see anyone else going to parkrun until I’m just a couple of minutes from the park.  This Saturday I noticed another […]
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Miley Hypocrisy

Benjamin Lloyd's blog - Sun, 09/01/2013 - 17:05
I didn’t watch the VMA awards. Like many friends, I was appalled at the amount of coverage Miley Cyrus’ presentation received, given all the other actually important stuff going on the world. I… Read More →
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The motto of my life

Jez Smiths blog - Thu, 08/29/2013 - 12:20
The motto of my life is probably “hmmm… it’s taking longer than I expected.”
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Could London be in heaven?

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 08/28/2013 - 18:07
There’s a phrase I’ve come across among Quakers about living the kingdom of heaven on earth. It’s about making the kingdom, the just world, happen here and now, not at some unknown future time after our death. I’m often reminded of this world at Whitechapel station in London of all places! Because it is here […]
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And I ran again

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 08/27/2013 - 22:44
I ran just under 4 miles tonight in something just over 35minutes. Not so fast, but good enough.
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Plant returned!

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 08/27/2013 - 07:51
Good news. One of our neighbour’s plants was returned. They told us they thought someone must have decided it was being thrown out and was okay to take. It was returned without a note, so we will probably never know. One is still missing.
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A sorry tale of plant theft

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 08/26/2013 - 13:47
We had some new neighbours move into our small block of flats last week. They came from somewhere with a garden and brought lots of pot plants with them. The plants have been a cheery addition to our otherwise rather dreary driveway. So it was very annoying to learn that someone has nicked some of […]
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Tearing Down, Building Up

Quest for Adequacy - Fri, 08/23/2013 - 11:25
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 1:4-10. The first time I preached, it was a surprise for everyone, including me.  

For our fourth School of the Spirit residency in the fall of 2010, the teachers put together a panel from the class to talk about "Being Other in Community."  I felt led to be on the panel, so I wrote a proposal saying that I would like to talk about the prophet as other.

After the teacher told me I would be on the panel, I spent the summer trying to write out my message.  First, I wrote about Elijah in the wilderness, telling God he wanted to die.  Then I wrote about the last chapter of Jonah: Even though Jonah's mission had been wildly successful, the story ends with Jonah being angry with God. 

Although both of those Bible passages spoke to me, the message was not coming together.  That was hard for me, because I had planned to write the message out in advance and submit it as my fall reflection paper.  I was also terrified of getting up in front of my class without knowing what I was going to say.

I spent a lot of time during that fall residency in prayer.  I still did not have the message.  Then, finally, during the hour of worship before the panel was scheduled to speak, I knew what I had to do.  It became clear that all I needed was Jeremiah 1:4-10, and that I would be preaching from that passage.

So I did.  I spoke about God calling Jeremiah to be a prophet and my own struggles with others naming the gift of prophecy in me.  I said that it was hard in part because I am young, but also because I am a woman.  I shared how challenging it is for me when I feel led to give messages that tear down and destroy, because I always want to build and to plant.

As I spoke, I knew I was preaching, and it felt right.  Afterward, I was glad that I didn't know in advance, hard as it was, because I only would have doubted myself and my abilities.  And that experience gave me confidence later when I felt led to preach again in programmed worship.

Now, three years later, I am beginning seminary at Candler School of Theology.  When I saw that the theme for orientation was "Tearing Down and Building Up," I laughed.  I knew immediately that it was a reference to the first chapter of Jeremiah.

Like the School of the Spirit, I know that seminary will be a distilling process for me.  In addition to what I will learn about the Bible and Christian history, I will also be learning about myself and what God is calling me to do.  I know that it will be challenging, and there will be days where I doubt myself and God, and wonder why I am here.

But I am also grateful for signs—like this orientation theme—reassuring me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
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