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In 1993-94, I participated in the Spiritual Nurturer program of the School of the Spirit. I didn't have any clear sense of the ministry for which this program would equip me, but I felt led to the program anyway. During the course of the program, I kept trying to figure out my ministry direction. I graduated from the program with hardly a clue.
In the summer after graduating from that program, I became exposed to the Internet. I soon realized that there were people searching for spiritual meaning who were using the Internet as a way of reaching out to others for help in their search. At that time, this was done primarily through Usenet news groups and email lists.
The Internet, I discovered, was a means by which people in disparate geographical locations could connect for many purposes. Initially, it seems like an impersonal medium, as one frequently has never met the people with whom one is communicating. But I soon found out that many people would really open up over the Internet, often in ways they would find very difficult in a physical meeting with others. Friendships developed, much like pen pals who never met each other for those not on electronic media.
I found this was a medium in which I could use the gifts developed in the Spiritual Nurturer program. People who felt isolated where they lived would share their spiritual questions and issues with me, and I could encourage them and nurture the gifts and leadings I sensed through what they wrote me. While I often felt I was doing very little, sometimes those with whom I corresponded seemed to feel they had been greatly helped in the process. Actually, in my own understanding, I should be doing very little, since it is Christ who is the true Teacher and Guide. My role is to point people to Christ, and help them find ways to nurture their own relationship with Christ.
I soon began developing Web pages. My particular emphasis was in networking among, and encouraging, Christians who had ties with or felt leanings towards the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). I provided a service for little groups of the faithful who were gathering together regularly through a listing called Friends Christian Renewal. This expanded with other things which seemed helpful to have on the Web.
In 1998, Kathryn Morse, then the Managing Editor for Religion at Suite101.com, emailed me to invite me to become a Contributing Editor at Suite101.com for Quakerism. She knew about me from surfing the Web. After looking the site over, I agreed and have edited this topic ever since. This has provided the discipline of needing to produce an article each month, which is quite helpful. I have written most of my articles keeping in mind that a large number of my readers may come with little or no knowledge of the Religious Society of Friends. I have been surprised at the number and variety of people who have found their way to my topic.
In recent years, I have been part of a new ministry effort in my area, Friends in Christ. We have sought to reach out to people in the Greenbelt-Berwyn Heights-College Park area of Maryland with a fresh, open, participatory approach to growing in a living relationship with Jesus Christ. We have found the Internet to be a very useful tool in this ministry. For the local ministry, it is a good means of communication being in an area with one of the highest rates of Internet use in the country. Sometimes people have found us through the Internet.
One of the exciting things about the Internet for a small, local ministry like Friends in Christ is that it provides an easy means of reaching out well beyond our local area. People from every permanently inhabited continent find our Web site, and are encouraged by what they see. Often they share their spiritual questions with us, and we seek to respond as we are led. For some in tragic situations, the contact with our ministry has been an important source of hope, helping them to press on. This has also developed into an email list through which we share an inspirational message each week:
Seven years after I discovered the Internet, I am spending considerable time using it in ministry. I maintain the Web site for my local ministry and pages for some other groups, I produce a weekly email message that goes throughout the world, I manage QuakerInfo.com, I edit the Quakerism topic at Suite101.com, and I have additional material on my own ISP's server. I also participate in a number of email lists, Web discussion fora, and Usenet groups. So I think the Internet has changed my life in significant ways. I hope that I have also allowed God to use me and my access to the Internet to further the Divine purpose in this world.
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