Intervisitatin Working Group Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Intervisitation Working Group (IWG) continues its spirit-led mission to encourage and enable outgoing and incoming visitors to travel among Friends. We are led to serve Friends with a “ministry of presence”: the spirit-led gift of being present among Friends, to listen and share in worship without judgement.
As we move forward in this ministry, the working group is joyfully challenged to ensure we keep Friends aware of our ongoing work and its bridge-building possibilities. We seek ways to increase opportunities for intervisitation amid a larger and more diverse group of Friends. Being in the care of Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee, we are paying careful attention to how the intervisitation program serves as a ministry of the Yearly Meeting. We strive to maintain open, fruitful communication and fellowship with M&PC and the other working groups it oversees.
IWG continues to host its annual travelers’ gathering in March to help would-be visitors (whether for intervisitation or other reasons) learn about traveling among Friends. Our traveling ministers continue to visit many Yearly Meetings and Friends’ groups in North America and around the world. We constantly seek new opportunities to bring Friends from elsewhere to be present with us. The IWG continues to support the BYM Visiting Program, a service offered by the BYM office to assist BYM Friends who wish to visit other meetings within the Yearly Meeting region. We use that program’s online reporting service to help create records of our visits. As of this writing (June 2016), we plan to host our annual travelers’ lounge, workshop, and other activities at BYM’s 2016 Annual Session.
The Intervisitation Working Group is always looking for more Friends to visit, both incoming and outgoing. Moreover, we deeply need companions to accompany traveling Friends. You can direct your questions or let us know of your interest by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or speaking to our working group members.
I. Outgoing Visits
Before traveling, visitors to Yearly Meetings are encouraged to obtain a travel minute from their local Meeting and then have it endorsed by the Yearly Meeting, usually at an Interim Meeting session. After their return, these Friends report to Interim Meeting about their visits. Since we gave our last Annual Report, here are the BYM Friends’ travels we have supported:
September 2015: North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM)
Jolee Robinson and Erik Hanson attended these annual sessions, to be present during what has been a difficult time for NCYM (FUM).
October 2015: Mesquakie Friends Church, Iowa
Jolee Robinson attended this gathering at a Friends Church in an American Indian community. They are running an active program for children and youth, which they hope to expand, but struggle to attract adults to church services.
January 2016: FWCC World Plenary Meeting (Intl. Rep. Mtg.), Peru
Bette Hoover, Jason Eaby, Michael Doo, Kristin Loken and Chuck Kleymeyer attended. Over 320 international Friends gathered near Pisac, Perú in the Sacred Valley of the Incas to conduct the business of FWCC and to discern its future direction. Of note was the proposed change to increase the interval between World Plenary Meetings to 10-12 years due to financial and environmental concerns. Friends were unwilling to let that much time pass between meetings and reduced it to 7-10 years. This may result in more World Conferences.
April-May 2016: Friends Theological College, Kaimosi,Kenya
Georgia Fuller (Langley Hill) visited Kenyan Friends for the fifth year. The college has faced many economic challenges as a result of the long transition (May-October, 2014) between the end of Ann Riggs' contract as principal (director) and the arrival of Robert Wafula as the new principal.
Currently the enrollment is steadily increasing and the college is working with a new accreditation process that blends theory with practical application. Georgia taught two intensive, three-credit courses: Introduction to Psychology and Introduction to Research and Research Methodologies. She felt privileged to live with staff and students, whom she has known for five years.
June 2016: Great Plains Yearly Meeting, Wichita, Kansas
Georgia Fuller (Langley Hill) attended. Great Plains sent their good wishes to their previous visiting ministers from BYM, Maria Bradley (Sandy Spring) and Linda Coates (Little Britain). Friends told Georgia that Maria and Linda had brought the ministry of presence to Great Plains during some difficult years. Now GPYM is growing and thriving. The time was joy-filled and spiritually deep. Two new worshiping communities are engaged in the process of discerning membership in the yearly meeting.
II. Anticipated Travels
Cuba Yearly Meeting: Georgia Fuller
Indiana Yearly Meeting (FUM): Jolee Robinson and Joan Liversidge
Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region Yearly Meeting: Jolee Robinson and Joan Liversidge
Triennial of United Society of Friends Women International: Jolee Robinson
North Pacific Yearly Meeting: Maria Bradley
North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM): Jolee Robinson and others
III. Visitors to BYM Annual Session 2015
Five visiting Friends came to Annual Session with support from the Intervisitation Program:
Beth Gorton (Quaker City Monthly Meeting, New England YM)
Dale and Sylvia Graves, West Newton Monthly Meeting (Western YM)
Emily Provance, 15th Street Monthly Meeting (New York YM)
Jean Smith, Kaimosi Monthly Meeting (Kenya YM)
BYM also welcomed two FCNL representatives, Elizabeth Beavers and Mary Comfort Ferrell; Barry Crossno, General Secretary of FGC; a workshop leader, Jenny Masur of the National Park Service; and the plenary speaker, Peter Brown.
Visitors from outside the Yearly Meeting enrich all Friends’ experiences at Annual Session. We encourage Friends at Annual Session to interact with them both individually and in our Intervisitation Lounge and other activities throughout the week.
IV. Workshops and our Travelers Gathering
At 2015 Annual Session, we offered a workshop on discerning leadings to visit among Friends. After some discussion, we entered a deeply impactful worship sharing focused on queries about the call to travel, and both logistical and spiritual obstacles to that calling.
Our 2016 Travelers Gathering fell on the Sunday afternoon following March Interim Meeting and was hosted by Langley Hill Friends Meeting. This year, about 10 Friends attended, where Friends shared experiences and asked many insightful questions about the process of traveling. Joan Liversidge led gathering attenders in a fun “experiential communication” exercise which helped us to both listen to each other and express ourselves concisely and quickly. Ann Venable, BYM’s Development Coordinator, reviewed the new services provided by BYM’s Visiting Program, which includes an online travel reporting service on BYM’s website, “travel bags” containing useful materials for those traveling among meetings, and a “BYM Passport” that contains the location of all meetings in the BYM region with space for notes and informal endorsements. We discussed the process of obtaining a travel minute when a Friend is led to travel under a concern, noting the process is often not widely known or taught even by experienced Friends and Friends meetings.
We found the gathering’s timing to be a challenge, as it conflicted with Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting as well as a number of spring activities at various local meetings. While holding this activity on the same weekend as March Interim Meeting has been helpful in the past, we are considering whether scheduling it on a different day--or not--might encourage attendance.
Our 2016 budget this is $4,500. As of this writing, none of these funds have been spent yet, as the bulk of our budget supports visitor registration at the upcoming Annual Session. In 2015, we spent $2,365 of our $4,500 budget, with $684 gifted in kind.
We appreciate the continued support of the Yearly Meeting for this valuable ministry. These funds allow visitors to come to us that could not otherwise. And while many of our travelers generously cover their own travel or report expenses as tax deductible contributions, we can help support BYM Friends who are led to travel but do not have the personal resources to enable them to commit to this leading otherwise. The work of intervisitation builds bridges between different groups of Friends and enriches our own spiritual journeys as we learn about those of other Friends. We are deeply grateful we can enable this transformative ministry among Friends.
VI. 2015-6 Working Group Members
Maria Bradley, Linda Coates, Windy Cooler, Jason Eaby, Georgia Fuller, Martha Gay, Beth Gorton (NEYM), Erik Hanson, Joan Liversidge, Rebecca “Rep” Pickard (clerk), Jolee Robinson, Joan Spinner, Ken Stockbridge
This past year, as we continue to transition from the role of the old ad hoc Intervisitation Committee to the Intervisitation Working Group established last year, we remain focused on our mission to serve Friends with a “ministry of presence,” at Yearly Meetings and Friends’ organizations throughout the world as well as among local meetings affiliated with Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
Transforming our annual retreat/workshop into a “travelers’ gathering,” we offered guidance to Friends who wish to travel under any concern. We have continued to send out visitors and host incoming ones. We have also provided input into Baltimore Yearly Meetings’ burgeoning Visiting Services Program and hope to continue to provide our support and service to this program designed to assist all individual Friends and committees who wish to travel within the Yearly Meeting. We (will) host our annual travelers’ lounge and workshop at Annual Sessions.
The Intervisitation Working Group is always looking for more Friends to visit, both incoming and outgoing, as well as for companions to accompany those traveling with or without a concern. For more on our program, including a schedule of Yearly Meetings to visit, see our website at http://intervisitation.bym-rsf.net. You can direct your questions or let us know of your interest by email to email@example.com.
Mission Statement for Intervisitation Working Group
Background: When the ad hoc Intervisitation Committee was laid down in 2013, the working group which arose in its place began to craft a mission statement to clarify the working group’s role and intent. Much effort was made to ensure the working group’s mission meshed with the goals outlined by the BYM ad hoc Vision Implementation Committee. The working group’s process for drafting this statement is outlined in detail in our 2014 Annual Report. After review by Ministry and Pastoral Care, in whose care the working group provides, the working group approved the following mission statement at the end of 2014:
The Intervisitation Program of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) seeks to nurture the beloved community of Friends by encouraging, preparing, and supporting those who travel among Friends, both inside and outside of BYM. Our experience has shown the power of visiting in order to care for relationships within and among Yearly Meetings, especially where they are fragile, as well as to enjoy the richer, more abundant life available in the wide family of Friends. Through a simple “ministry of presence” we hope to be spiritually and prayerfully present, to listen deeply with love and without judgment, to be tender with another, not to bring our own agendas, and to get to know each other in that which is eternal. Visits will be in all directions, and involve both offering and receiving hospitality.
Ministry of Presence potential for healing and deepening in the Religious Society of Friends (RSF)
As we visited among Yearly Meetings affiliated with Friends United Meeting for about 9 years, BYM was engaged in a strategic planning and implementation process. The power and influence for visiting among Friends as a Ministry of Presence was recognized and affirmed through several recommendations from the Vision Implementation Committee:
- Reach beyond the borders of any part of BYM that we are in, and connect meaningfully and in an ongoing way with other parts of BYM
- Reach out in a proactive way and not just be available when called upon or when we desperately need help
Friends United Meeting has recently named its outreach, visitation, work camps, and mission exchanges as Living Letters. FUM recognizes the long tradition of visitation among Friends in the RSF.
From the earliest days of the Quaker movement, Friends have been visiting each other. Friends send and receive travelers as Living Letters, epistles written on our hearts, bringing messages of encouragement and assistance. We visit in order to affirm our Oneness as the body of Christ. We meet each other in times of need and in times of joy. We learn from each other and we know each other in that which is eternal. Through holy encounter, we are knit together in love. And through the sometimes-surprising encounter with Christ in the “other,” we are profoundly changed.
BYM’s Ministry of Presence expands Intervisitation particularly in our own yearly meeting and other yearly meetings within the Religious Society of Friends. We see our presence and “being with” whomever we are visiting, entering into shared worship and fellowship, joining with each other in that which is eternal, crossing the many divides that we as Friends have experienced. As the FUM Living Letters program states, Friends traveling with a particular concern or focus are also engaged in a form of Ministry of Presence since they bring their hearts and love to others with their living presence. Friends have been present with other Friends through many difficult times. Sometimes it is when a particular Yearly Meeting is in the middle of a painful experience like a split or when another Yearly Meeting takes a particular position on something that most BYM Friends do not support. During those times the visitor draws upon his or her own Spiritual practices to stay centered and present and those of an elder or companion if there is one present.
We are still at the beginning of this expansion and exploring how we will be led. Our report below gives a summary of experiences in the last year since our annual sessions in August, 2014.
Report on Outgoing Visits
Friends visiting with travel minutes will return them to either Interim or Yearly meeting with endorsements. Often these endorsements include visits made to local meetings within the Yearly Meeting visited. Such visits in the course of our individual travels, with or without a travel minute, are also very much a part of the Intervisitation experience and are encouraged.
The following part of the report offers some experiences from BYM Friends who have traveled in the last year.
June, 2015 – Friends United Meeting Triennial in Indianapolis
Two official representatives and several other BYM friends traveled to participate in this gathering of FUM Friends. They reported to us at last year’s annual sessions that it was a very spiritually enriching experience.
July, 2014 - Britain Yearly Meeting – Friends in Residence at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center – Visitors: Joan and Rich Liversidge, Sandy Spring MM
We received Joan and Rich’s travel minute at the March, 2015 Interim Meeting which was endorsed by Friends in the “other” BYM during their visit to Great Britain last summer. British Friends acknowledged gratefulness for our BYM sharing Joan and Rich’s spiritual and practical strengths . They also traveled to several monthly meetings and received endorsements.
November, 2014 – Cuba Yearly Meeting – Visitor: Jolee Robinson, Adelphi MM
In this Friends United Meeting sponsored visitation, we joined Cuban Friends for a 5:30 am worship service (actual time the missionaries arrived) that included watching the sun rise over the bay to acknowledge and celebrate the 114th anniversary of missionaries from Iowa Yearly Meeting who established Quakerism in Cuba on November 14. Jolee reports that she learned how grateful Cuban Quakers are for these early missionaries (visitors). She came away with a new appreciation for FUM missions and a feeling that we in BYM are really connected to FUM.
During the visit with 10 Monthly Meetings on the Eastern end of Cuba which were all programmed worship, Jolee was greatly impressed with the depth of spirituality and understanding of Quaker testimonies and values held by Cuban Quakers. Jolee also notes how Cuban Friends have remained steadfast in their faith through many hard times.
Examples of community outreach is the provision of purified water to the community, dormitory facilities for groups to come and stay for gatherings, and providing a room for Evangelical pastors to hold classes. The Cuban Peace Center in Gibara offers AVP, mediation and other peace building programs. Another church (meeting) plans to rebuild its old school building, destroyed by a hurricane, and use it for community mediation, AVP, and other community outreach.
January, 2015 – Friends Theological College (FTC), Kaimosi, Kenya –Visitor: Georgia Fuller, Langley Hill MM
Georgia Fuller traveled again to Friends Theological College in Kaimosi, Kenya. She gave eight guest lectures between January 10-15, 2015. While serving FTC and Kenyan Friends, she visited with the new Principal Robert Wafula. Georgia reports that he spoke several times of his visit to BYM Annual Sessions and how much he enjoyed it. During her time in Kenya, Georgia carried our presence to a Kenyan Church and gave 8 guest lectures at FTC. Georgia also notes that the transition from Ann Riggs, Annapolis, as Principal of FTC has been difficult. There were 5 months without a principal and the teachers wore working on partial pay. Kenya, overall is economically depressed, due in part to a decline in tourism. Kenyan Friends would benefit from our continued prayers and Light.
March, 2015 – Friends World Committee Section of the Americas, Mexico – Visitor: Jolee Robinson
June, 2015 – Great Plains Yearly Meeting, Kansas – Visitor: Maria Bradley
July, 2015 - Upcoming Visits Eastern Region Evangelical Friends, Indiana Yearly Meeting and Western Yearly Meeting
September, 2015 – North Carolina Yearly Meeting – Visitors: Jolee Robinson and Erik Hanson
III. Visitors to BYM annual sessions (2014)
Baltimore Yearly Meeting welcomed six visitors at our 2014 annual sessions from around the US. Eden Grace and Robert Wafula, the new principal at Friends Theological College in Kenya, were warmly welcomed by BYM Friends. Sammy Letoole and Angela Hopkins from Kenya were with us as well. We also had representatives from AFSC and William Penn House in 2014. As always, our visitors enriched our worship, our fellowship, and our community.
IV. Workshops and our Travelers’ Gathering
Each year, we also host a one-day informal retreat, which this year we have styled as a “gathering” for those who travel or wish to learn about travel among Friends. As in the past, this event fell on the Sunday afternoon following March Interim Meeting and was hosted by Patapsco Friends Meeting at Hebron House. This year, about 20 Friends attended, where Friends shared experienced and asked many insightful questions about the process of traveling. As in the past, we opened with a practice in deep listening led by Joan Liversidge; this practice sets an important tone not just for the gathering itself but also provides an example of what it means to be “present” among Friends. We then went into a discussion of the process a Friend should go through to obtain a travel minute when a Friend is led to travel under a concern, noting the process is often not widely known or taught even by experienced Friends and Friends’ meetings. BYM General Secretary Riley Robinson and Presiding Clerk Ken Stockbridge finally led a discussion on the new Visiting Services Program, to gather insight on what services it may help provide travelers in the future.
Responses from attendees at this annual retreat confirm that this annual opportunity provides support to all Friends in our yearly meeting who have a leading to visit among Friends, with or without a concern or focus, or with or without a travel minute. The Intervisitation Workgroup strives to provide a setting where Friends can encourage and support each other in a Ministry of Presence through this gathering. We invite all who travel among Friends to join us for this gathering, whether you travel with or without a travel minute, formally or informally, with or without a specific concern or focus.
Two workshops related to Intervisitation were offered and well received at 2014 annual sessions. Erik Hanson, Takoma Park and David Fitz, York, led a workshop on Christocentric Friends. Kenyan Friend Sammy Letoole led a fantastic interest group on his work in Samburu and Turkana Kenya. He described a very difficult and risky reconciliation work between two ethnic groups.
In 2014 many of our incoming and outgoing visitors donated their individual resources to cover expenses. Overall an estimated $5,210 was spent during visits since our 2014 annual sessions. Of that total, $4,617 was donated. We do expect that some visitors did not submit their costs to us. Overall, there were many resources contributed to this ministry by members of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
We appreciate the continued support of the Yearly Meeting in support of this valuable ministry as there are many Friends who may be called to visit and those called to visit with us that do not have personal resources to commit.
“Might there not be a richer and more abundant life in so wide a family?” - Ann Riggs1
This past year, the Intervisitation Working Group has been clarifying its new role, as it makes the transition from its predecessor - the ad hoc Intervisitation Committee. A world of possibilities came into view to broaden and deepen our Yearly Meeting’s experience with intervisitation. We have wrestled with the tension between those many possibilities and the need to keep our work focused and doable. As a result, our proposed mission statement has a primary focus on the “ministry of presence.” In the meantime, we have continued to send out visitors and host incoming ones. We continued hosting an annual retreat for any who travel among Friends. In addition, the very well-received workshop on dialogue around our differences, which we sponsored at the 2013 annual session, has been shared more widely and continues to be.
I. Proposed Mission Statement for Intervisitation Working Group
In 6th month, 2013, Interim Meeting laid down the ad hoc Intervisitation Committee and created in its place the Intervisitation Working Group under the care of the Ministry and Pastoral Care committee (M&PC). We had had a very rich experience with our intervisitation program, which had been initiated in 2004 to help rebuild community among Friends United Meeting. More recently, Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) had also been deeply enriched by intervisitation within BYM relating to developing a vision statement and revising our Faith and Practice. So the new working group was created to build on those experiences, seeking to integrate intervisitation into the routine practice of the Yearly Meeting.
We have developed a proposed mission statement for the new working group, which is subject to review by M&PC. Many ideas for potential work have arisen both within the working group and from the wider community, including
- encouraging all YM committees to identify members to visit local Meetings;
- identifying Friends willing and able to offer workshops of all kinds and sharing what they offer on a website as a resource for local Meetings;
- developing best practices for visiting;
- conducting training workshops;
- maintaining a list and tracking the visits of all BYM Friends having a travel minute, and generally supporting that practice;
- identifying a cadre of Friends with a gift of vocal ministry to visit within BYM to nurture and enrich vocal ministry in our local Meetings;
- expanding the scope of our intervisitation outside of BYM to include other branches of Friends and also lift up opportunities for wider participation in the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC);
- supporting the work of M&PC relating to embracing ministries of Friends;
- explore and draw from the intervisitation experiences of other YMs; and
- providing an annual comprehensive report of all visits made within, to, or from BYM for any purpose, as a way to track the state of our practice of intervisitation.
As the working group considered the exciting range of possibilities, we quickly felt overwhelmed by how expansive its mission could become. At the same time, we confronted the reality that, while we continue to sense a high level of support within BYM for intervisitation, the number of people willing to do the actual work of our working group remains pretty small. Especially given that we are entering a new phase of our intervisitation work, we felt a need to limit the scope to something achievable, hoping that would help create a solid foundation for whatever might evolve over time. All of the possibilities raised seem to be worthy and desirable undertakings; they are just more than we can realistically contemplate at this time. We encourage YM to consider how else it might pursue those possibilities.
So the working group considered what is the core effort we are called to pursue in laying a strong foundation. We felt it most appropriate to build on the most essential aspect of our experience with the previous program, which we concluded was a “ministry of presence.”When that phrase was lifted up in the course our work several years ago, we had an immediate sense that “yes, that is what we are doing here.” We must have all felt we knew exactly what that phrase meant because, as it turns out, we don’t seem to have ever attempted to define it, until now. So our proposed mission statement lifts up the “ministry of presence” as our primary focus.
An intervisitation committee member brought us the phrase “ministry of presence” after attending an event of Friends General Conference’s Traveling Ministries Program, (though we have not found a definition from that source). An internet search reveals that the phrase is in standard use among chaplains and missionaries of various kinds. The website for Franciscan Mission Services (http://goo.gl/IHUxoD) shares this quote from Henri Nouwen:
More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn't be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.
While related, the context for our intervisitation efforts may be somewhat different than for chaplains and missionaries. From our experience with intervisitation, a “ministry of presence” means
- to be spiritually present to those we visit,
- to hold them in the light,
- to pray with them and for them,
- to listen deeply and without judgment,
- to stand with them in times of joy, sorrows, and anxieties,
- to love,
- to not bring our own agendas,
- to get to know them and invite them to get to know us, especially “in that which is eternal,”
- to heal and build community,
- to be available to offer what service they might ask of us as way opens, and
- o be open to the same from those who visit us.
At its roots, intervisitation is an affirmation that we are in community with each other and available to each other. Our presence alone conveys the message that “we are part of you and you are part of us. We are here so that we may stay together, not break apart.” As such, intervisitation whatever level helps give life to the idea that we are one Meeting, one Yearly Meeting, and one Religious Society of Friends.
Our working group was also clear that we were called to expand the scope of our efforts to promote intervisitation both within BYM and to a wider range of the Religious Society of Friends outside of BYM, that is beyond Friends United Meeting (FUM). This year, we have extended our invitations to include the three Conservative YMs (Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa), Evangelical Friends Church - Eastern Region (set off from Ohio YM, which was set off from BYM), and Southeastern YM (which had participated in our program while it was still a member of FUM). Our proposed mission statement, however, is not so specific about the scope of our efforts outside of BYM, leaving that scope as a matter for ongoing discernment.
Also, the proposed mission statement is stated somewhat generally to allow for flexibility and change in how we pursue that. Over the coming year, we anticipate our focus will involve identifying a group of people to visit within BYM as well as to continue our current efforts to identify visitors from BYM to other YMs and visitors from other YMs to BYM. We will also revisit our guidance on visiting and related documents in light of the new mission statement and explore ways to continue developing and sharing best practices.
Given that background, we propose the following mission statement, which we will ask M&PC to affirm:
Proposed Mission Statement of the Intervisitation Working Group
The Intervisitation Program of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) seeks to nurture the beloved community of Friends by encouraging, preparing, and supporting those who travel among Friends, both inside and outside of BYM. Our experience has shown the power of visiting to address the fragility of relationships within and among Yearly Meetings as well as to enjoy the richer, more abundant life available in the wide family of Friends. Through a simple “ministry of presence” we hope to be spiritually and prayerfully present, to listen deeply with love and without judgment, not to bring our own agendas, and to get to know each other in that which is eternal. Visits will be in all directions, and involve both offering and receiving hospitality.
II. Report on Visits
In 2013, we sent visitors to the Triennial of the United Society of Friends Women International (USFWI), two visitors to Western YM, two to Indiana YM, and three to North Carolina YM-FUM. We received visits to our annual sessions by two from New England YM, two from Bolivia YM, and one from the FUM staff.
This year, we sent two visitors to Indiana YM. We also became aware of one BYM Friend who will be visiting Ohio YM (Conservative) informally (without a travel minute), as she has been doing for several years. Another Friend plans to visit several local Meetings in Cuba in November, which will be our first visit within Cuba YM. We received three visitors from African YMs to our annual session through our intervisitation program, as well as several others from other YMs who came in connection with plenary programs and Quaker organizations.
In addition, three of our working group members attended a weekend gathering sponsored by the Traveling Ministries Program of Friends General Conference. A few BYM Friends attended the consultation held by FWCC in North Carolina. A few attended the annual Quaker Spring Gathering, held this year in Barnesville, OH, which draws Friends from across various Quaker branches. Two BYM Friends spent time as Friends in Residence at Woodbrooke in England. Several BYM Friends attended the FUM Triennial, where many connections are made or renewed, and we extended invitations to visit. At the same time, the Triennial makes it harder for both incoming and outgoing visitors to make visits to annuals sessions in the same year, given limited time and budgets for travel.
It’s worth noting that some of the travel minutes being returned to BYM often include endorsements from visits made to local Meetings within other YMs. Such visits to local Meetings in the course of our individual travels, with or without a travel minute, are also very much a part of the intervisitation experience.
We are always looking for more folks to visit, both incoming and outgoing. For more on our program, including a schedule of Yearly Meetings to visit, see our website at http://intervisitation.bym-rsf.net. You can direct your questions or let us know of your interest by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
III. Workshops and our Annual Retreat
At the 2013 annual session Erik Hanson and Joan Liversidge presented a workshop sponsored by the Intervisitation Working Group. About 40 people attended the workshop, "Christocentric Quakers and Nontheistic Quakers: A Dialogue," including several members of M&PC. This committee then asked Joan and Erik to train their committee to give this workshop. In May, Deborah Haines and Michael Cronin gave the workshop to a quarterly meeting held at Frederick. The workshop will be given again at 2014 annual session. Along with Windy Cooler, Erik also led the opening retreat of our 2014 annual session on an expanded and similar topic, “Bringing our Differences into the Light.”
Each year, we also host a retreat for those traveling among Friends, usually on the Sunday afternoon following March Interim Meeting. This year, seventeen attended, and we had a rich opportunity to share our experiences. We have settled into a habit of opening with some practice of deep listening. We have found there’s always room for more focused and facilitated practice in listening, and this practice also sets a tone and feeds into the sharing we do in the rest of the retreat. While the working group has chosen to focus on the ministry of presence, we encourage all who travel among Friends to join us for this retreat, whether they travel with or without a travel minute, formally or informally, with or without a specific concern or focus. We have found it to be mutually beneficial to share across the range of these travel experiences, as we reflect on the discernment, blessings, challenges, and process involved.
Many of our program’s expenses are incurred by travelers and not reimbursed. Not all travelers report their unreimbursed expenses, so our aggregate reports are only estimates, except for expenses paid out of the YM budget.
In 2013, we estimate about $7100 was spent on visits, of which about $6000 was paid for by travelers and about $1100 was paid for out of our YM budget of $4000. Thus, we used only 28 percent of our YM budgeted funds, and YM funds covered just 16 percent of the program costs. We did reimburse expenses for one traveler from BYM to another YM upon request, given the availability of funds from our budget. We submit a more detailed report to Stewardship and Finance each year, along with our budget request.
No report received.
Over several years of deep worship following the 2002 Friends United Meeting Triennial in Nairobi, Kenya, Baltimore Yearly Meeting recognized not only our own pain but that our relationship with others in Friends United Meeting was broken and in need of healing. Out of this deeply centered and spirit-led worship, we recognized a call at annual sessions to begin a healing process by re-instituting the earlier practice of visiting and worshipping among Friends. So in 2005, the first visitors were welcomed into our annual session gathering and a group of adults and young Friends traveled to North Carolina Yearly Meeting. Since 2005 we have sponsored over 60 visits to other yearly meetings of Friends United Meeting in North America and East Africa. Cuba and Jamaica are the only two FUM yearly meetings that BYM’s Valiant 60 have not visited. In addition, we have hosted over 35 visitors from FUM yearly meetings.
Committee members, and many other BYM Friends, understand and meet the spiritual challenges of peace-making and community building that this ministry has presented. We continue to seek bridges of understanding through a traveling ministry of presence, deep listening, and hospitality. Over the years we, and many of our guests, have actually become the bridges. For example, one of our of first guests, Micah Bales, from Great Plains Yearly Meeting, was on our opening panel at our 2012 annual sessions and is also a newly appointed staff person at Friends United Meeting. Another guest, Cliff Loesch, from Great Plains Yearly Meeting is now the Presiding Clerk of the Friends United Meeting Board. Wanda Coffin-Baker, our guest from Western, is now its Superintendent. And the list goes on………………………
The experiences arising from our ministry of presence are well described by Richard Rohr, a Roman Catholic contemplative, “When you can be present, you will know the Real Presence.” We experimented with this ministry of presence; sometimes learning new lessons and re-learning old lessons. We have been gratified by the responses from travelers, their companions, our visitors, and Friends from the other yearly meetings that we have visited. And most importantly, we have been faithful to the call that we received for this healing ministry.
The Yearly Meeting commitment and support has been considerable: funds included in the annual budget; opportunities in meetings for business for travel minutes, reports from travelers, and committee reports; space for a gathering each evening at annual sessions for travelers, visitors, companions, and other interested Friends; publishing articles in the Interchange and sending out information and announcements from the yearly meeting office; and providing a warm welcome and hospitality to visitors during Annual Session.
At 2011 Annual Session, we began a period of discernment concerning our call to this ministry. Friends recognized the need for more healing and united in a leading to continue but were unsure what form the Program should take. The discernment continued with two meetings at Adelphi and Sandy Spring Monthly Meetings. We were pleased with the response from Friends who came, especially those who had not previously been involved with the program. It became clear at our October meeting that we honor the request from other FUM yearly meetings to provide training on Intervisitation. That training occurred in April at Sandy Spring MM.
Through this discernment process it has been clear that we should explore how to integrate Intervisitation into the routine practice of the yearly meeting while maintaining the vitality of the Program. We recommend that the discernment continue with a focus on the following questions:
• Is it time to lay down the ad hoc Committee on Intervisitation and restructure with a new, more permanent structure?
• How do we provide financial support for outgoing BYM travelers?
• How do we provide financial support for incoming visitors from other Yearly Meetings?
We invite and encourage Friends to join with us this week at annual sessions to continue this discernment. Opportunities are varied: the Intervisitation Lounge in Westminster 326, starting at 9:15 every evening except Saturday; an interest group scheduled for Saturday at 4:15 (room TBD) ; and our workshop scheduled for Friday from 2-4 (room TBD). We also anticipate opportunities at fall interim meeting with a final report and recommendation scheduled for March, 2013 when our extension as an ad hoc committee ends.
We ask God to send us the wisdom to continue to heed the exhortation of George Fox:
“Be patterns, be examples, in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one, whereby in them ye may be a blessing and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”
The Intervisitation Program of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) seeks to strengthen the Religious Society of Friends and nurture the beloved community of Friends, especially within Friends United Meeting (FUM). While BYM's concern regarding an FUM personnel policy planted the seed, that concern is not the program’s focus. Rather, as we in BYM faced the pain we felt as a result of that policy, we awoke to the fragility, and in some cases brokenness, of the relationships among the yearly meetings and monthly meetings within FUM. Thus the goal of BYM's Intervisitation Program is to encourage, prepare, and support Friends to travel among Yearly Meetings with the faith that we can listen deeply, strengthen our relationships, and build our faith community. Our program assumes that Intervisitation will be in all directions and those interested will offer and receive hospitality. Extended as an ad hoc committee through March, 2013.
For more information visit us at intervisitation.bym-rsf.net
Our Vision: Our vision and mission came alive during the 2010 summer visitation. Living out the Peace Testimony through intervisitation remains both challenging and rewarding from spiritual, financial, and logistics perspectives. In this past year, we continued to grow this ministry, building bridges of understanding through the ministry of presence, deep listening, and hospitality. Bridges were strengthened and new bridges were started, growing the number of Friends who have been touched over the last seven years. We continue to hold the vision that by working together we can “strengthen the Religious Society of Friends and nurture the beloved community of Friends.”
Connection to BYM Vision: BYM’s vision includes both internal and external outreach. The Intervisitation Program connects to both with an emphasis on forming relationships among Friends who are different from us. We serve in faith, asking God to send us the wisdom to heed the exhortation that George Fox gave Friends from Launceston Prison in 1656: "Be patterns, be examples, in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one."
Intervisitation Activities from April, 2010 - April, 2011: Twenty-one BYM Friends traveled among FUM Yearly meetings from April to September, 2010 as part of BYM’s intervisitation program. Visits in 2010 spanned two continents: North America and Africa. Our annual sessions were blessed with another seven Friends who attended from six yearly meetings in North America. 2010 was a year of enormous learning, many Blessings, and a strengthening of the connections among Friends.
Outgoing Visitors: Seven BYM women traveled to Kenya to join about 50 other men and women from North America to attend Triennial meetings for Quaker Men International and the United Society of Friends Women International. They were accompanied by two FUM Board Members. Many of the visitors to Kenya stayed on after the Triennial to visit, worship, and serve among Friends. Several FUM mission projects were visited with many visitors providing service (e.g. Kaimosi Hospital, Friends Theological College, Lugulu Hospital, Kakemaga Orphanage, Rural Services Project for Widows and Orphans, FUM Africa office in Kisumu, many Friends churches). Some examples of the post Triennial visit include attendance at the Friends United Meeting Board meeting, working with and visiting staff and patients at Kaimosi Hospital, teaching courses at Friends Theological College, distributing health and school supplies to Friends schools and mission hospitals, and worshipping with Friends in their homes and churches.
Other Friends visited yearly meetings in North America: Southeastern Yearly Meeting, Great Plains Yearly Meeting, Canadian Yearly Meeting, Western Yearly Meeting, Wilmington Yearly Meeting and North Carolina Yearly Meeting. Some of these yearly meetings are experiencing troubling times; laboring together to discern God’s will. BYM Friends’ prayerful presence in their midst has been welcomed and appreciated. It is our practice when visiting to fully participate in both the business and the fellowship activities. BYM Friends report that these experiences provide a valuable richness and depth to their Quaker faith and practice as a result of their participation in the intervisitation program.
Incoming Visitors: This year we enjoyed welcoming returning visitors as well as first time visitors from yearly meetings who sent someone for the very first time. We had visitors from the following yearly meetings: Great Plaiins, Iowa, Wilmington, Western, New England, and New York. Visitors from Great Plains and Iowa led workshops and programs for both adult and junior young Friends. New York Yearly Meeting sent two Young Friends who participated fully with other Young Friends. Other Friends who were planning to join us had either family or personal health issues and were not able to attend.
Organization and Structure of the Committee: The work of the Committee is complex and time consuming. Many Friends want to travel or host visiting Friends but fewer are led to the administrative tasks of this ministry. An experiment was conducted this year by identifying four Friends as a “leadership team”: co-clerks, recording Secretary, and finance Secretary. Due to excellent recordkeeping and organization by the previous Clerk, templates and timelines were easily transferred to the new leadership. Fuller participation in the approximately every other month administrative meetings fell off this year.
Other Activities: A training for Friends interested in traveling or have traveled was held on March 28, 2010 at Langley Hill MM. About 20 Friends attended and shared two meals before and after a time of worship, learning about Intervisitation and FUM, and sharing of information and experiences related to diversity among Friends.
Georgia Fuller, Langley Hill, extended the visitation and service to Kenya when she spent several weeks at Friends Theological College teaching a credit course on Romans during the month of April.
Many of the BYM travelers to Kenya were invited to share their experiences with Friends at Friends House, Bethesda MM, Langley Hill MM, Patapsco MM, and Adelphia MM. Rich and Joan Liversidge traveled to Southeastern YM in February and presented to Lake Worth MM about BYM’s Intervisitation Program. Note: Southeastern YM has altered their relationship to FUM as of spring, 2010 from full member to observer.
2011 Intervisitation Activities: Jolee Robinson and Joan Liversidge will be leading a workshop on BYM’s Intervisitation Program at the Friends United Meeting Triennial in Wilmngton, Ohio at the end of July. There will also be a display set up in the exhibit area. During that workshop and in informal conversations with Friends, we will propose that FUM yearly meetings fund BYM guests at their annual sessions just as we funded visitors to our annual sessions.
Both incoming and outgoing visitors traveling this summer will be reduced mostly due to the Triennial in Ohio. Many Friends who would like to attend our annual sessions or travel to other yearly meetgings are attending the Triennial and cannot add more time to their travels. At this time BYM Friends are planning to attend Iowa YM, and North Carolina YM. We are expecting Friends to be with us at annual sessions from Kenya, Great Plains, North Carolina and New York.
Discerning God’s will to strengthen the relationship with FUM meetings: After a long discernment process, general funds were restored in the BYM budget for Friends United Meeting. The heartfelt stories and witnesses about how visits have touched hearts and souls contributed to this new discernment. Continued BYM funding, as well as other Yearly Meeting support of BYM visitors on site costs, would result in a deepening of relationships that have been formed. We ask Friends to continue to hold this ministry in prayer and light as we remain faithful to the mission of listening deeply to God’s will.