What do Quaker pastors do?

This is part of a series called “answers for a small-f friend.” These articles are deliberately simple, informal, and under 200 words…the kinds of answers that I might give casually over a cup of lemonade. 

If you’re wanting to go deeper, I recommend Faith and Practice (any yearly meeting’s version) or Quaker Process for Friends on the Benches by Mathilda Navias. If you’re a video person more than a text person, try the QuakerSpeak series, available online.

Do you have a question I should add? Let me know in the comments.

What do Quaker pastors do?

Quaker pastors are released ministers—people who are supported financially in order to give them more time to serve the local faith community. Their position doesn’t automatically give them more spiritual authority than anybody else in the meeting. But they probably wouldn’t be pastors if they weren’t grounded, spiritually guided people with significant gifts to share.

Not all pastors have the same job description, but roughly speaking, they preach, visit the sick and the lonely, pray for the people in the meeting, conduct memorials, celebrate births, officiate marriages, meet with committees, and sometimes do religious education. They connect with other pastors and ministers from the community. They minister to neighbors and invite them to meeting, and they sometimes participate in local service or activism. They might mediate conflicts in the meeting. Some also do building maintenance or cleaning.

Like other Quaker employees, pastors have to balance what the community asks them to do with what they are led to do. They’re also usually underpaid compared to pastors in other faith traditions, which is really hard if they’re supporting a family. The Quaker pastors I know are patient, loving, hardworking, faithful, and very human. Their ministry amazes me.

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