As a child, the impulse to blow through the straw to create bubbles in your chocolate milk is a great analogy to describe the sensation of emotions I experience when I’m called to do ministry work in my community. The balance in my body begins to shift and I get that tingling in my fingertips and my heart suddenly feels heavy with motivation. Ministry work calls to me because I associate it with the process of unity, listening and then taking action. There have been times where I’ve felt discouraged about doing ministry work, but I have also felt the desire to pursue this critical work in my life.
The greatest influence on my work in ministry has been the support that has surrounded me. In high school, I felt that, as a young women of color, I wanted a safe space to be able to share my stories and experiences of being a minority in America. I thought it was crucial for people of color, especially young people, to have a community that took into consideration their safety and their comfort. I am so appreciative that I had support from members in my community to pursue my goal to create an affinity group for young people of color, in the High School Program at the FGC Gathering. The affinity group was a space where young people could come together and in unity share and listen to other’s experiences. It was essential to hear other experiences as well as sharing your own. A group of young people of color can relate to the oppression that is so relevant in our society today providing each other with support.
Since I have been away at school, I have felt disconnected to my community in college (a school that was founded by Quakers), as well as my community back in Philadelphia. There is a strong expectation to do volunteer work at my school, but not much support to do ministry work. Quaker process seems to have been lost in the transition that is currently happening among my classmates.
It seems as though our society has become more divided and nationalist, due in part to the increase in violence and hate crimes. We live in a world where people of color have to be conscious about their behavior everywhere they go. It means that it’s necessary for a person of color to be able to alternate between two cultures and adjusting their behaviors or language because of societal prejudices that are institutionalized into the American culture. This regular adaption of behavior to fit different community settings is called code-switching.
Fortunately, people of color are pushing back against these oppressions and rising up to create new historical movements. More than ever, I have felt the passion to seek out new ministry work because of the present state of the U.S society, which is in the hands of someone we cannot trust. Now, I am in the process of seeking other resources and support to follow my leading for ministry work regarding my future and the future of this world.
Elanna is a life-long FGC Friend. Her essay was written for the November 2018 issue of Vital Friends. Receive Vital Friends and additional FGC program updates to your inbox now.