Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 7

“Travel in the ministry is eight-tenths drudgery and two-tenths spiritual stuff.”  Sarah P, Spokane Friends Church (Northwest Yearly Meeting)
Travel in the ministry requires a lot of advance preparation.  After the minister has discerned where she is called to travel, it is important to communicate with the meeting, church, or others who will be receiving the minister, to clarify what will be expected.  Some meetings extend specific invitations to speak or lead workshops.  Others expect traveling ministers to lead a discussion in a religious education class or over a potluck.  A meeting may just expect the Friend to worship with them.  Sarah H, from Freedom Friends Church, who recently traveled to Kenya, commented that if the minister is traveling to a different culture, it is important to learn about that culture in advance, if possible.

Many young Friends spoke about the importance of traveling with someone else, either another minister or an elder.  Kathy H, from Multnomah Monthly Meeting, said that it was essential for her to have someone to debrief with at the end of the day.  Betsy B, from First Friends Meeting, spoke of how important it was for her to worship with another person and to ask each other, “Am I on the mark?  Am I not on the mark?  Are you on the mark?”  Young Friends who have traveled as elders, such as Sadie F, from Putney Friends Meeting, said that the fact that they were elders opened up discussions among Friends about what an elder is, and that it does not necessarily mean someone who is older.

Much of travel in the ministry involves deeply listening to the nudges of the Spirit.  Emily S, from Durham Monthly Meeting, talked about how after preparing six pages of notes for a talk, “God showed up, as God always does,” and she threw down her notes and started speaking.  She felt that the preparation was important, but it was also important to be faithful to the working of God in the moment.

One practice that some ministers spoke of was having “opportunities,” or times of worship with a few other people, while traveling.  Although I sometimes feel awkward asking others to have worship with me, I have found opportunities to be wonderful experiences.  In an opportunity, a few Friends and I take about 20-30 minutes to worship together, then speak to anything that arises out of the worship.

Something for ministers to keep in mind, as Lloyd Lee Wilson reminds us, is that you never know why you are there.   At times, I have thought that I knew why I traveled to a particular meeting, but had a sense when I was there that it was for a completely different reason.  Sometimes I feel like I am sowing seeds and will never know the “real” reason for the visit.

In addition to checking in with one’s traveling companion, it can be helpful for the minister to check in with members of his or her support committee or others in the home meeting, particularly for extended travel, either by phone or email.  Sarah H, from University Friends Meeting, said that it was helpful for her to have times of worship over the phone when she spent an extended period of time in Jordan and Syria, where there are not very many Quakers.

Several of the Friends I spoke with said that travel in the ministry was different from other kinds of travel because it was more focused, but others found that the lines between the two began to blur.  Julian B, from Central Philadelphia Meeting, commented that just as every day is God’s day, every journey “is a possible opportunity to connect with God and to be part of God’s work in the world.”  Similarly, Noah M, from Putney Monthly Meeting, said, “I’m finding more and more that this traveling in the ministry thing sort of seeps into all the cracks.”

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

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