Christine Betz Hall

by Marge Abbott and Christine Betz Hall

We love the Pacific Northwest: the community of Friends here: the beauty of the mountains and the seas, and so much more. Friends here are few in number compared to the Midwest or East Coast and our numbers can feel even smaller when you realize we are split between two different yearly meetings which are on nearly opposite ends of the Quaker spectrum. Perhaps pushed a bit by such circumstance, some of us have been able to build rich connections with “the other” Friends and have been nourished by such connections.

Over several years Christine Betz Hall experienced a growing sense of calling to somehow bring a program like School of the Spirit (SotS) here to this corner of the country almost as far in the U.S. as can be away from the Philadelphia/North Carolina center for the SotS programs.

Numerous other people shared this vision, people from both North Pacific and Northwest Yearly Meetings who had developed respect for one another and experienced companionship together on their faith journey even as they have had to wrestle with who we are in our diversity as Friends.

Chris had a long term support committee from her home Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, which met with her through her years of seminary training in Seattle and afterwards, as this new leading grew. But neither her home Meeting in Fairbanks nor her new Meeting on Whidbey Island (WA) had the resources to help bring this calling to fruition.

In December 2009, a number of people who shared this vision gathered at North Seattle Friends Church for a time of discernment.  Chris brought to the group both her sense of leading and the story of discussions with SotS about affiliating with them and the results of her visits among Friends in the U.S. Pacific Northwest testing the depth of desire for such a program.

Two things became clear out of those meetings. First and foremost was the depth of interest for such a program. Significant numbers of people in both yearly meetings felt a need that Chris’ vision could fill. But, it also was clear that it would not work for this to be part of SotS, despite the compatibility in goals. A combination of distance, economic downturn, and people feeling stretched to the limit of their energy meant that it was not feasible.  It was then that the promise of Good News Associates’ assistance arose.

Good News Associates (GNA)
GNA was founded in 1998 out of a desire to be faithful to divine call and to support individuals whose calling did not fit into the existing Quaker organizational structures. It is not officially affiliated with either yearly meeting, but its Board and Associates come from both evangelical and from liberal traditions. It describes itself as follows:

Faithfulness to God’s call doesn’t always match the regular slots that life provides us. In fact, it appears that God is raising up a wonderful assortment of gifts and ministries that don’t fit into regular institutional positions for ministry at all. People are finding themselves called to do work for which there is no job or paycheck.

GNA understands this challenge and supports people called to non-institutional Christian ministries… GNA walks with individuals as they are led by the Spirit of God, liberating them through ministry-related income and contributions to be obedient to the unfolding shape of their calls. The organization also offers professional identity, networking and expertise, discernment, and accountability.

In 2011, Chris Hall was accepted as a GNA Associate in support of her calling to establish a new Way of the Spirit. This retreat and study program is a 2 year cycle of retreats for spiritual growth from the wisdom of the Quaker tradition. Way of the Spirit draws participants and presenters from both yearly meetings in the Pacific Northwest. GNA has become the program’s financial and spiritual home.

Way of the Spirit is financially supported through participant fees and tax deductible donations to Good News Associates. Chris now works full time in ministry and receives a wage draw through GNA that is increasing slowly as program size and donations allow. GNA has aided Chris in fund-raising efforts, helped her formulate a program budget, and offered other supports. GNA lends credibility to the Way of the Spirit efforts, with regular board oversight, and solid financial accountability.

More intangible but no less vital, is Chris’ increased freedom to tend what she most cares about—the program and the people who share the Way of the Spirit journey.  And at the heart of the matter, GNA offers a praying circle to affirm and discern way forward through the thicket of options a new program faces: Which retreat venue? Where to travel to spread the news? What wage is feasible? What should participants pay? Should she lay down the extra part time job now? And How does she talk about money to unprogrammed Friends?

Quaker ministry is not a “do it yourself” proposition. At its best, the Quaker tradition and circles like GNA and the Releasing Ministry Alliance, know the Life and Power in praying groups of people, faithful to the movements of the Spirit among us.

Chris says, “I celebrate the support and care Good News Associates offers me and the Way of the Spirit program with great joy and gratitude. The Board, donors, and Jan Wood, GNA Executive Director, have been solid anchors and dependable wind in the sails of my ministry efforts. Way of the Spirit is changing lives, igniting passionate and faithful service in meetings up and down the West Coast, in large part because of GNA’s prayer and business model. I thank God for GNA!”

Note by Viv Hawkins: I celebrate this success story and the faithfulness of everyone involved! When I first imagined Releasing Ministry Alliance several years ago, I contacted Good News Associates to inquire if they would consider associating with many more ministries and some which would not identify as Christian. They were not called to do so.