As we welcome the new year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the shape that my ministry has taken in the last 12 months. For me, 2013 was a time of exploring new models, making new friends and learning new skills. It was a year that radically challenged many of my assumptions about life, ministry and what it means to experiment with the Quaker/Christian tradition in 21st century urban America.
Without a doubt, 2013 has been the year of Friends of Jesus. Though it took us a while to formally change our name, this January we adopted a whole new strategy for developing community here in Washington, DC. This new model focuses around small groups, each one with its own core of leadership. Our small groups focus on equipping ourselves and others to become modern-day disciples of Jesus.
We started with one small group meeting at the William Penn House on Capitol Hill. This allowed us to gather our initial core and invite friends from across the metro area to come and explore what it could mean to share our lives, serve others, and follow Jesus together. We adapted our format to emphasize community-building and engagement with the Bible. We also reduced the length of our meetings significantly, seeking to be more accessible to folks with busy lives, long commutes, and limited energy.
The changes we adopted had an impact. The original small group flourished, and by the fall we had multiplied that small group into two new cells – one gathering in the suburbs of Maryland, and the other based in the eastern part of DC proper. During this time we also multiplied leadership, adding two new core members, both of whom have felt called to provide leadership for the new small group in Maryland.
This has been time of near-constant outreach. As I look back over my calendar for 2013, I see that most weeks I’ve spent afternoons grabbing coffee with folks, and many evenings sharing dinners and participating in social events. At times, just meeting with folks and staying connected has felt like a part-time job by itself!
As I’ve been digging into the work of local outreach and pastoral care, I’ve been learning to balance other areas of responsibility, too. I continue to work part-time for Friends United Meeting, serving as their Web & Communications Specialist. I also do technical writing for a hospice and palliative care newsletter. And, starting this summer, I’ve been apprenticing with a local carpenter, learning some practical skills and seeing DC from a new perspective, as a tradesman.
This combination of digital work, professional writing and manual labor has been good for me. At the same time, it has often been a challenge to balance all of my activities so that my ministry is not disrupted. I continue to seek ways to live more sustainably, finding a path that pairs financial viability with faithfulness to the service that God has called me to.
As I look ahead to this new year, I feel hopeful. In the last few months, there has been a marked growth in energy and enthusiasm across the Friends of Jesus Fellowship as a whole. New communities are emerging across the East Coast, and God is raising up and equipping an amazing team of ministers to provide leadership, teaching and outreach. In many ways, this has been the year when the Friends of Jesus Fellowship has truly begun to take root and grow. In the year to come, I am praying that God will continue to bless us and give us roots that go deeper, branches that go higher, and fruit that blesses the world.
Thank you for all your prayers, encouragement and support this year. God is working through each of us, whether through prayer, outreach, financial giving, leadership, teaching, encouragement, or any of the many other gifts that God provides. May we continue to be instruments that God uses to build up the body of Christ and bless the world with his love!
In gratitude and friendship,