Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 4

Community Support of the Ministry
“We cannot stress enough the importance of community blessing for public ministry.  When this does not happen within the immediate congregation, a person who is called must reach out more widely.  If the blessing is not present in the wider community, either the individual misheard the call or the community is at risk of dying.”  Margery Post Abbott & Peggy Senger Parsons, Walk Worthy of Your Calling: Quakers and the Traveling Ministry
One of the most visible ways that a meeting can provide support for someone traveling in the ministry is by providing the minister with a traveling minute or a minute of service.  After the minister has met with a clearness or support committee to discern how to proceed, the committee should prepare a report for the meeting to consider in its meeting for business.  The report should include a description of the ministry and proposed travel, and a recommendation from the committee that the meeting support the Friend’s ministry.  

In the meeting for business, the community as a whole can consider the Friend’s leading and how to support it.  This is also a good time for the community to ask the committee and the minister clarifying questions about the scope of the ministry.  By giving the traveling minister a minute, the meeting provides an introduction to the Friend, a testimony of the Friend’s character and good standing in the meeting, and shows that the Friend’s ministry is under the care of the meeting.  

A minute also creates an expectation that the Friend will bring back endorsements from the meetings and churches he or she visits, and will report back to the meeting after completing the travel.   Noah M, from Putney Monthly Meeting, said that his meeting’s process in approving his traveling minute and other’s reactions have helped him take his ministry more seriously.
An issue that came up frequently in the interviews was how it can be more difficult to find meeting support when the minister is not a member of the meeting he or she attends.  Young Friends in particular may not be members of meetings because they are in a transitional time of life and may be waiting until they have finished school or settled somewhere more permanently before applying for meeting membership.  Erin M, an unprogrammed Friend from Canada, stated that she has not felt led to become a member of a meeting in part because she feels that she is a member of all Friends and cannot choose between the different branches of Quakers.  Others, like me, may live at a distance from their primary faith community.
I would like to encourage meetings to support young Friends who feel called to traveling ministry even if they are not members of the meeting.  Emily S, who is a member of Durham Monthly Meeting, but attends Central Philadelphia Meeting, said that she was amazed that the meeting gave her a support and care committee, even though she is not a member.  If members of the meeting are concerned about why the minister is not a member of the meeting, ask the Friend directly.  In addition, if the minister is living far away from his or her home meeting, the home meeting should consider ways that the meeting can provide support at a distance, through emails, phone calls, prayer, and reports from the minister to the meeting.
Another way that the meeting can provide support for the minister is for individuals to learn about the culture of the place where the Friend will be traveling.  Sarah H and Treye M, from University Friends Meeting, who have both traveled in the ministry in Palestine, said that it was very helpful for them to be able to talk to each other about their experiences, because they did not have to explain all of the details and history of the current situation in Palestine to each other.  Similarly, I have found that when I travel to visit evangelical Friends churches and yearly meeting annual sessions, it is helpful to be able to talk to others who have spent time with evangelical Friends and understand how they are different from unprogrammed Friends, both in worship style and theologically.
One of the best ways a meeting can support a minister is by being clear about how the meeting will continue to support the minister while she travels and the meeting’s plan for holding the minister accountable.  If the minister does not have a support committee, the meeting should help the minister create one.  The meeting should provide ways for the minister to keep in contact with the meeting while she is traveling and let the minister know what its expectations are for reporting back to the meeting after traveling, whether that should be through a written report, a presentation to the business meeting, or another form of reporting back.

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