Bob Schmitt and Laughing Waters Studio

Bob Schmittby Bob Schmitt, Twin Cities Friends Meeting, St. Paul, MN, Northern YM
In the very early 90s I began receiving invitations to travel my yearly meeting under a concern for faith and practice as the yearly meeting considered whether to create its own Book of Faith and Practice. My home meeting assigned two members to support my discernment in accepting these invitations and calls to travel. At this time liberal Friends Meetings were only beginning to identify and support members who might have a particular ministry. The understanding of the use of elders for most was limited to traumatic experiences of being shamed and corrected by scolding cranky Friends.

My experience was to pick up what I could from the few Friends I knew (Jan Hoffman and Kenneth Sutton, to name two) who were exploring the reclaiming of the true role of elders (to draw out, support, and tend emergent leadings) and reintroducing that role to contemporary liberal Friends.

In that context, the two Friends who were committed to keeping a loving eye on my leadings and myself were learning as we went about the roles of minister and elder in general as well as trying to be faithful in our discernment.

The shape of my ministry has ebbed and flowed over these 20 some years. Periods of travel, periods of inward work, open time to care for ailing parents, time to receive the grief of loss. Opportunities to travel again followed by periods of more singular focus on my home meeting.

Now, in 2015, I find myself in a period where I have retired from all of my Quaker pastoral duties to open the space to tend to my brush painting practice and my teaching of painting. This was perhaps the hardest of the discernments I have made with my elders and my Meeting. The same commitment to discernment that I have practiced for over 25 years has now led me away from Quaker activities but not from Quaker practice.

The most recent fruits of my discernment has been the creation of the Nine Gates. This series of nine scrolls depicts what I see as thresholds of a spiritual journey. These images were created to illuminate the 2015 Key West Literary Seminar: How the Light Gets in – literature of the spirit. In addition to a gallery show in Key West, they were shown for 4 months at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality in St. Paul, MN. For this setting, I offered 3 nights of program to view and explore each gate and share the experiences each provides. A donor has purchased and presented a full set of these scrolls to Wisdom Ways who will make them available for rent and travel.

I am also seeking additional settings were the scrolls may be displayed on their own or in connection with some kind of program (evening talks, weekend retreats). Inquiries are welcomed on any and all of the above.

[Releasing Ministry Alliance extends our ongoing gratitude to Bob for his design of our logo! Visit to check out Bob's services and products.]