By Della Stanley-Green
After I committed to this series of blog posts on living Quaker leaders for this month, the next name that came to mind was Stephanie Crumley-Effinger. I first met Stephanie when I was a young ESR student, and she was a fairly recent ESR grad serving at Earlham College as the campus minister/liaison to Friends communities. Over the years we have spent time in yearly meeting sessions, pastors’ gatherings, one-on-one conversations, and in a variety of Earlham/ESR and Quaker gatherings. This week, I had the opportunity to talk with my colleagues, Andy Stanton-Henry (QLC Associate Director) and Gretchen Castle (ESR Dean), about Stephanie. It was delightful to hear how our experiences of Stephanie are very similar. We all experience Stephanie as one who is encouraging, calming and generous.
Stephanie brings a sense of calm that emanates from her life and in her ministry. Whether she is in a Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, assisting students in their supervised ministry/contextual ministry experience, or volunteering the office at ESR, she is deliberate, attentive, and careful. With the non-anxious presence that she provides as she serves and leads, she infuses quiet joy into the atmosphere.
I remember watching Stephanie balance motherhood and family life with ministry. Years ago, I drove Stephanie and her few months-old youngest child from Richmond to one of the state parks where Western Yearly Meeting ministers were gathering for what we used to call Pastors’ Short Course. I admired how she balanced her ministry and motherhood. I know that she certainly had struggles over the years. Yet, I watched how she moved her attention as needed. I am sure that she knows of the times when she might not have done everything exactly as she might have hoped; but as I watched, I saw her demonstrate incredible flexibility over and over again.
When she moved from her campus ministry position at Earlham College to the Director of Supervised Ministry at Earlham School of Religion, I saw her flexibility again. She took those ministry skills, wisdom, and experience and transferred them to her new setting. From several of the students and coworkers, as well as my own observation, I saw and continue to see Stephanie as grace-in-action — able to flow into what is needed at the time.
Amid many hard conversations and lively discussions, Stephanie asks good questions. Actually, I would say that she asks great questions. She listens carefully and has a way of digging down to yet another level into what is really going on at the spiritual level. In any and every gathering of Friends (or human beings in general), it is a gift to have someone present who listens deeply and can unearth the real question that is underneath the words being said. Stephanie carries that ability with her and uses it wisely.
In this month of thanksgiving, I give thanks to God for Stephanie Crumley-Effinger, a living lesson in Quaker leadership. As I have the joy of giving thanks for these living leaders, I will continue to bring to the fore some of the traits that are important for Quaker leadership in the 21 st century. It is not that all Quaker leaders must have all of these. It is that these leaders are embodying faithfulness in offering their spiritual gifts authentically for serving and leading.