In 2006 I joined West Hills Friends Church. This was not a transfer from another Friends Church nor a simple transfer from another church body. I had been a member of the Presbyterian Church, and an ordained minister of that church for over fifty years.
I had spent part of the summer of 1949 traveling with a group of young people and working in churches in Texas and Louisiana. The rest of the summer was spent hitchhiking across the US visiting family. During this time I felt a call to the ministry that was clarified in conversations with two of my uncles who were ministers.
In two years I finished my college degree and then went on to theological seminary for three years. Having finished the required education and passing muster with the appropriate committees and the Presbytery of Carthage-Ozark, I was ordained and installed into my first church on August 11, 1954.
Ordination in the Presbyterian Church confers upon the minister a number of opportunities and responsibilities beyond those of lay people. Although I left the pastoral ministry and went into secular employment after fourteen years, I retained my ordination and it opened doors to many opportunities for service over the years.
After three years attending West Hills Friends I realized that this is where I belonged and it was clear that it was time to become a member. However, by leaving the Presbyterian Church I was also leaving my ordination, which had been valuable to me over the years.
As I considered losing that ordination by joining WHF, it became clear to me that ordination was just one kind of response to my call to ministry. Over the years my ministry had changed in form and practice. My leaving the Presbyterian Church was another change, but not an ending to my ministry.
Friends and Presbyterians do not have the same views on the church. For Presbyterians there are things that have to be done by ministers. When boards, councils and assemblies are organized they must have a balance between numbers of ministers and lay people. (The time is past when that balance involved three genders: men, women and ministers.) Ministers have a number of special responsibilities and functions, both in leading worship and in the administration of the church as an organization.
Friends, from the beginning, have had a very different foundation for the way we function. It is said that George Fox did not abolish the clergy, he abolished the laity. Every one of us has the same responsibilities and opportunities in the worship and governance of our faith community. This is well expressed in the line in our Sunday bulletin: “You are the leadership of this meeting!”
Every function and opportunity I had as a Presbyterian minister, I have as a Friend. I did not leave the ministry, I joined the gathering of ministers we call West Hills Friends.
— Wilbur Wood