Intervisitation 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 Intervisitation Working Group shares a vision of reconnecting and strengthening bonds within the worldwide Quaker fellowship, especially across cultural, theological, and liturgical practices. Our work visiting and connecting to Friends of differences honors the diversity and variety of Friends everywhere. We affirm that the lessons of a ministry of presence apply when connecting to people of all colors and backgrounds.
We meet quarterly as a group, and several Friends share much more frequent F/friendships through support committees, travel and personal sharing. Our gatherings are rich with exploring our individual leadings to ministry that support each other’s spiritual growth. In the last year, we have added “Quaker Continuing Education” time for self-learning early on the agenda for each meeting. We note that it has anchored our meetings more deeply in our tradition and opens us to more Spirit-led decisions. Topics have included the new BYM Antiracism Declaration and the 2013 BYM Minute on Embracing the Ministry of Friends. We had planned on worship sharing about sin and shame issues in our Spring meeting, but deferred to more personal check-in time given that we were newly adjusting to Zoom conferencing at that time.
During our reflections on the Antiracism Declaration, we recognized a few specific steps that we can take to become more welcoming and inclusive:
-we can lift up the African Friends’ ministry both from history and current ministries
-we could invite our Kenyan Friends and Guatemalan Friends living in the Baltimore area to be part of IWG
-we can incorporate this declaration into our training programs for traveling Friends
-we can continue to observe institutional and systemic racism and become more aware of the racism that individuals carry, often unconsciously
Since that discussion, IWG Friends have visited with the Kenyan Friends and the Hispanic Friends Church to invite them, and there was good response.
The year also focused on the use and mechanics of Travel Minutes for Friends traveling in the ministry. We wrote up this process in the First month issue of the Interchange and recommend it for consideration in the Manual of Procedures. We continue to encourage all Friends traveling in the ministry to have a travel minute, or at least a letter of introduction from the monthly meeting for those traveling to visit other Friends more informally.
In 2019 Friends in the working group were able to travel in the ministry to at least 13 other Yearly Meetings sessions, 17-20 different Quaker communities, visiting in 6 countries. Additionally, several Friends have been led to travel more Meetings within BYM, and have visited at least 8 monthly meetings, often offering some sort of prearranged ministry about the learnings of Intervisitation.
There are several other BYM Friends who travel in the ministry who are not affiliated with IWG. Friends elsewhere, notably in FWCC and some FUM communities, have noticed the numbers of BYM’ traveling ministers and appreciate the initiative and learning we have amassed.
At 2019 annual sessions, we offered two workshops, hosted the Intervisitation Lounge several nights, offered scholarships to 9 Friends from other yearly meetings to attend, and helped offset expenses for three Friends in their travel ministry. Our clerk shared several spiritual lessons drawn from her traveling ministry at a plenary. During annual sessions, we also joined with United Society of Friends Women International women and men for tea and worship. Out of that came an effort by USFWI at Stony Run to start a new chapter.
We continue to support the work of a Friend called to minister to Quaker families and celebrate that her Monthly Meeting has embraced her ministry. We also celebrate our members’ active engagement on the board of FUM and travelling for service work to 2 different FUM affiliated missions.
With the 2020 pandemic forcing worship, study and committees onto an online platform, our ministry has been physically curtailed and challenged to adapt to offer a ministry of presence in new ways. Friends have now worshiped with communities often far beyond their normal environs. Online worship at Pendle Hill, Beacon Hill, Woodbrooke, and Quaker Spring have all been reported as quite spiritually nourishing by many. We recognize the opportunities for sharing worship and fellowship through Zoom have opened doors we did not have access to before. Friends from BYM have been able to attend at least 4 other yearly meetings during the spring 2020, given that virtual gatherings are not limited by travel arrangements.
As we plan for annual sessions to be held virtually, we are encouraged to think broadly and widely about how to reach beyond our more familiar Intervisitation gatherings. We will continue to offer intervisitation lounge and the one workshop previously scheduled. We see that we can offer on-line workshops through the year in addition to those at annual sessions. There are numerous topics that are sharable, and we could reach a much larger community. Since our ministry has gone on for 17 years, we know there are many who look to BYM for guidance and practical suggestions. We note that George Fox himself was the first traveling minister and that Quakerism could not have grown had it not been for the ministers who traveled from one community to another preaching and spreading the good news. It is our honor and privilege to be given this leading to re-discover the gifts of traveling in the ministry.
Clerk, Intervisitation Working Group
The Intervisitation Working Group is a committed community of 17 energetic Friends who share the vision of reconnecting and strengthening bonds within the worldwide Quaker fellowship. We meet quarterly for planning in what has turned out to be much more than administrative sessions. Our gatherings are rich with sharing and exploring our individual leadings to ministry that support each other’s spiritual growth. Growing from our 15 years of experience of traveling in the ministry, IWG affiliated Friends have expanded our scope of visiting to at least 30 different Quaker communities in 6 countries. There have also been more visits within our own yearly meeting this year where Friends have been invited for workshops about the learnings of Intervisitation. Now in early 2019 as this report is being written, Friends are in Ramallah and Belize and others preparing to leave soon for Kenya, Australia, and New Zealand.
We know that there are several other BYM Friends who travel in the ministry who are not affiliated with IWG. Friends elsewhere, notably in FWCC and some FUM communities, have noticed the numbers of BYM’ traveling ministers and appreciate the initiative and learnings we have amassed.
IWG continues to encourage all travelers and companions to seek a Travel Minute from their home Meeting and to have ongoing spiritual accompaniment on the path into ministry. This usually takes the form of regularly scheduled support from Friends in the local Meeting. Ideally this is under the care of Ministry and Counsel and would involve at least an annual report to M+C if not to the whole Meeting. We recognize that some local Meetings might not be familiar with the accountability we are asking for and that we have a role in initiating this awakening. We have affirmed our need to learn more about the differences between the different types of support committees and find what is best for travel ministry.
All traveling Friends are encouraged to share widely within BYM and our affiliated Quaker organizations, through the website reporting tool, workshops, RE programs, and personal sharing in smaller groups. The website reporting link has been simplified but is not well used nevertheless. Seems the leading to traveling ministry is not always given with administrative inclinations.
In 2018, of the 19 Friends who are traveling, we know 11 of them have current travel minutes. They all express a deep calling to building the Religious Society of Friends in a wide variety of expressions. We have discerned that there is no need to renew the minute each year if the leading has not changed materially.
At 2018 Annual Sessions, we offered three workshops, hosted the Intervisitation Lounge several nights, offered scholarships to 8 Friends from other yearly meetings to attend, and helped offset expenses for three Friends in their travel ministry. Our workshop “Sitting with Ambiguity” has been shared at three BYM Meetings in the past year as part of our effort to promote intra-visitation between Friends more locally. We continue to offer this workshop for interested Monthly Meetings.
We are aware that the diverse callings which our YM has been given through traveling Friends have advanced the question of how we corporately embrace ministry. In some yearly meetings, the traditional process of recognizing ministers and elders involves naming and nurturing gifts of ministry as the gifts emerge. They rely on “concentric circles of larger bodies [which] discern and record them as part of an ongoing process of mutual accountability.” (Grundy, 1999) How are we, in the BYM community, to respond as these gifts become more visible? IWG’s collective experience is that traditional Quaker ways of naming Friends as ministers and elders has historically deepened Friends' awareness of the Living God in our midst, and as a result, the practice of naming ministers and elders as such enhances a ministry of presence. We remain open to guidance as to how to improve support, nurture, and celebration of these gifts growing in BYM.
Friends traveled far and wide in 2018 with the support of IWG. The Meetings visited include the following:
Evangelical Friends International Eastern Region
New England YM
New York YM
North Carolina Fellowship of Friends
Piedmont Friends Fellowship
Piedmont Friends YM
Sierra Cascades YM
Southern Appalachian YM and Association
Monthly Meetings/Churches/retreat centers outside of BYM:
15th Street Meeting, NY
Acadia FM, ME
Belfast Area FM, ME
Berkeley FM, CA
Brooklyn Meeting, NY
Burlington FM, VT
Champlain Islands WG, VT
Chautauqua WG, NY
Concord FM, NH
Core Sound FM, NC
Durham MM, NC
Farmland Friends Church, IN
Friends General Conference Gathering
Friends World Committee for Consultation
Kenyan Friends worship group at Stony Run, MD
Middlebury FM, VT
Monadnock FM, NH
New Garden MM, NC
New London FM, CT
Pendle Hill, PA
Portland FM, ME
Powell House, NY
Quaker Hill Conference Center, IN
Sarasota FM, FL
South Starksboro FM, VT
Stillwater FM, OH
Storrs FM, CT
Wilderness FM, VT
Woolman Hill WG, MA
Belize City Friends Church, Belize
Quaker Institute for Peace, Holguin, Cuba
Prince Edward Island Allowed Meeting, PEI, Canada
Intra-visitation in BYM:
Broadmead Worship Group
Friends Meeting of Washington
Northern Neck Friends
Travel Minutes: the following Friends have travel minutes that have been minuted by their monthly meetings. Some of them also have endorsements from BYM.
Adrian Bishop and Rosalie Dance, Stony Run
Windy Cooler, Sandy Spring
Jade Eaton, Adelphi
Georgia Fuller, Langley Hill
John Lozier, Monongalia
Meg Meyer and Arthur Boyd, Stony Run
Patti Nesbitt and Michael Conklin, Sandy Spring
Jolee Robinson, Adelphi
Patti Nesbitt (Sandy Spring)
Clerk, Intervisitation Working Group
The Intervisitation Working Group is a vibrant community of 15 energetic Friends who share the vision of reconnecting and strengthening bonds within the worldwide Quaker fellowship. Our work revives the historical Quaker practice of traveling in the ministry where two or more Friends travel together, one primarily as ministry, the other primarily the elder or companion. We practice providing a ministry of presence, active listening and holding space to facilitate receptivity to Spirit. Just showing up, with a loving heart, and without an agenda are powerful means of honoring and enabling the presence of the Spirit. This work started with FUM affiliated Yearly Meetings and expanded naturally over the course of 10+ years to reach Friends from all branches of the Religious Society of Friends. In 2017-18, with the promptings of the BYM staff and a growing number of Friends led to this work, IWG members have begun intra-visitation travel to some of our more distant and smaller local meetings in BYM.
All travelers and companions are encouraged to seek a Travel Minute, or if time is too short, to secure a Letter of Introduction, from their home local Meeting. It is advisable also to have a standing spiritual care committee to provide support and accountability, especially after the travel. The process to do this involves the following 4 steps:
- A clearness committee meets probably twice to confirm/clarify/validate the Friend’s intentions to travel in the ministry. This committee might become the longer term spiritual care committee.
- The Friend’s gifts of ministry and intention to travel are stated in a proposed Travel Minute that usually the traveling Friends draft themselves.
- The Travel Minute is approved by Ministry and Counsel of the local Meeting, which brings it to the whole Meeting for approval, and then
- It is brought to the Yearly Meeting (or Interim Meeting) for endorsement.
In 2017, IWG supported 8 Friends who were travelers to 12 different YMs or MMs, in 7 different countries. 4 of those Friends had Travel Minutes. We also supported 13 visitors from different Yearly Meetings at our Annual Sessions. To date in 2018, there are 12 Friends traveling this year, 8 of which are under the care of their Meetings with Travel Minutes, with plans to visit up to 21 different Quaker communities and YMs, in at least 4 countries.
All traveling Friends are encouraged to report back to their local Meeting and share widely within BYM and our affiliated Quaker organizations, through the website reporting tool, workshops, RE programs, and personal sharing in smaller groups. We find that this sharing both helps the travelers season their learnings and quickens the wider appreciation of the differences and similarities among Friends worldwide. It helps to reduce the separation and isolation between Friends, to honor and validate others with differing persuasions, and reaches beyond the “us” and “them” barriers that have particularly grown since the 2016 election and helps us see the movement of the Spirit among Friends.
IWG estimates that our actual expenses were around $13,200 in 2017. 63% of this is in-kind donations from BYM travelers ($8,290), 34% came from BYM ($4,500) and the balance was donated hospitality for our visitors. Most of our travelers are retired and able to cover their own expenses and file for taxes for charitable donations, but several employed Friends who share these gifts for ministry need to give up their vacation time to travel. Recognizing this situation, we affirm our desire to enable more ministry from younger Friends. We have asked for an increase in funding from BYM explicitly to enable more outgoing traveling to other Yearly Meetings.
We are offering three workshops and hosting the Intervisitation Lounge several nights at our annual sessions. One of the workshops, “Sitting with Ambiguity,” will be ready to take on the road within BYM next year to nurture traveling ministry and the gifts of providing a ministry of presence. This project will promote intra-visitation between Friends more locally. Three Monthly Meetings have already requested it.
We may never know how our testimony will take root. Visitation is an opportunity for fine-tuned listening and reflection, and requires disciplined patience, selflessness, radical faithfulness to finding “that which is eternal” in others, and much humility. When we experience Friends who are unwilling to include our voices in a conversation, we remember that vocal ministry is advised to be very measured as to where, when and how one speaks. Being present with an open heart is our strongest testimony that we trust strengthens the growing Quaker fellowship worldwide. Through these renewed bridges we have forged, we have glimpses of Fox’s vision of a Great People Gathered and know that our faithfulness to this ministry is in right order.
Patti Nesbitt (Sandy Spring), Clerk
The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Intervisitation Working Group (IWG) continues its spirit-led mission to encourage visiting Quakers across the Friends’ spectrum and throughout the world. We serve Friends through our “ministry of presence.” This simple mission is to be present among Friends, to listen and share in worship and fellowship without agenda.
We are grateful to be in the loving care of Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee. They remind us that we are a ministry of the Yearly Meeting and work with us to ensure we reach as many Friends as possible with our gift of presence. We strive to maintain open, fruitful communication and fellowship with M&PC and the other working groups it oversees, and we’re especially grateful to our M&PC liaison Tim Hunt for helping enable this communication.
We seek ways to increase opportunities for intervisitation amid a larger and more diverse group of Friends. The working group is aware that the prospect of visitation can be daunting based on commitments of time and monetary resources alone, and we try to alleviate these concerns with what resources we have. We are aware of potential anxieties about meeting with all kinds of Friends, especially when learning what it means to be a Friend can vary widely within our Society. Still, we have always found the fruits of intervisitation to be continually rewarding, and have built longtime, warm relationships with many Yearly Meetings, and look forward to continuing to do so for years to come.
Our traveling ministers continue to visit many Yearly Meetings and Friends’ groups in North America and around the world. We strive to use the BYM Meeting Visit Form (http://goo.gl/atw0Vq) to create records of our visits. We seek new opportunities to bring Friends from elsewhere to be present with us, and we are especially excited by the eight yearly meetings who plan to send visitors to be with us at Annual Session this year. We plan to host our annual travelers’ lounge, workshop, and other activities at BYM’s 2017 Annual Session, and were delighted especially by the high turnout at our lounge gatherings last year.
The Intervisitation Working Group is always looking for more Friends to visit, both incoming and outgoing. We especially need companions to accompany traveling ministers. You can direct your questions or let us know of your interest by email to the clerk’s email account firstname.lastname@example.org, or emailing the entire committee at email@example.com. Of course you’re also welcome to speak to any of us at any time!
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:
July 2016: Indiana Yearly Meeting (FUM)
Jolee Robinson visited (for the fourth year in a row!) and Joan Liversidge served as her elder/companion from July 27-30, 2016 at Quaker Haven Camp, Syracuse, Indiana. Joan and Jolee stayed for the Afterglow Worship on Sunday, July 31 with Dewart Lake Friends, a spirit-led gathering of Friends and neighbors from the camp with music and an inspired message for adults and children from the Pastor as well as waiting worship. Jolee enjoyed reconnecting with many IYM Friends she has made over the last four years. Joan was also able to connect with Friends she has known through participation in FUM triennials and other visits among FUM Friends. IYM’s theme this year was Greatness from God’s Perspective. The annual sessions were joyfully experienced by IYM Friends, individually and corporately, appreciating the peace they were experiencing after the formation of the New Association of Friends and the approval of a revised Faith and Practice in 2015 entitled Helping Breathe Life into Churches. Worship sessions with prepared messages, music offered by a gospel family, meetings for business, workshops, delicious camp meals, and fellowship by the lake and elsewhere were some of the activities attended. IYM’s Clerk and his wife were visitors for BYM’s annual session at Hood College. IYM seemed almost giddy with joy at their spiritual and financial health. They have negotiated an agreement with Barclay University in Kansas to train Quaker pastors, which includes using some of their own pastors who are appropriately credentialed.
July 2016: Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region Yearly Meeting
Jolee Robinson visited and Joan Liversidge served as her elder/companion from July 24-26, 2016 at First Friends Church and Malone University in Canton, Ohio. This was Jolee’s second visit to EFC-ER and Joan’s first. The theme of the yearly meeting gathering was Boldly Embrace the Future. A Hispanic Leadership Conference preceded the gathering. Jolee and Joan attended the final worship of the Hispanic Leadership Groups on Sunday, July 23. Jolee and Joan participated in worship which was alive with the Holy Spirit through music and singing, attended meetings for business where they approved deep changes to the yearly meeting as a result of 2.5 years of engaging in a process called Reimagine the EFC-ER, attended workshops, witnessed the recording and blessing of new Ministers, and several fellowship opportunities. BYM’s role in starting the yearly meeting over 200 years ago was again mentioned by the General Superintendent while welcoming us.
July 2016: Triennial of United Society of Friends Women International
United Society of Friends Women Triennial, held in conjunction with Quaker Men International, took place in in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jolee Robinson attended. The themes for USFWI was "Glimpses of Joy" and it was truly a joyful event. With the two gatherings, almost 60 Kenyans got visas, a big change over 2013 when only six came. There were two Jamaicans, but the Cuban woman set to come had her visa denied. Messages included "joyfully believing" by a Kenyan woman, "joyfully following" by the clerk of Jamaica Yearly Meeting, "joyfully serving" by an ex-missionary, all inspiring. Bible study, led by Ruthie Tippett, pastor of First Friends Church in Indianapolis, stood out for spiritual depth and humor. The final worship "celebrating joy" was preached by Oscar Lugosa, a Kenyan student at Earlham School of Religion and Georgia Fuller's "son."
August 2016: North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM)
Jolee Robinson, Catherine McHugh, and Erik Hanson attended. Our visitors report that the future of that YM is highly uncertain, both in terms of membership and finance. Friends announced before YM sessions that 20 meetings had left and letters from two more announcing their departure were read during the annual session. A proposal to maintain unity was taken as approved during the session and sent to the monthly meetings for further discussion, though many individual concerns continue to be shared in smaller group discussions.
July 2016: New Zealand Yearly Meeting
Patti Nesbitt and Michael Conklin attended New Zealand Yearly Meeting as part of their year-long service as Resident Friends in Auckland Friends Centre, during which they offered a ministry of presence to over 500 guests they hosted at the Centre and traveled in the ministry throughout New Zealand to over 15 Quaker communities. They report that New Zealand Yearly Meeting concluded a yearlong review on its structures and priorities. Friends considered a jubilee year to focus on spiritual nurture. The YM consists of 27 disparate worship groups within 7 monthly meetings in a country that is as long and narrow as California. Many of the Quaker communities are as small as 4-6 people, and the largest have only about 40 active members. Nevertheless, New Zealand Quakers have a prophetic voice in the South Pacific calling out for national disarmament, climate change initiatives, and indigenous peoples’ rights. As the Paris Accord indicates, that prophetic voice is rippling out to the world. Patti and Michael will report more fully upon their return about their other travels among Friends in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.
September 2016: West Branch Monthly Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative
While in Iowa for other reasons, Jolee Robinson attended this Meeting with her host family. She believes BYM has a lot in common with this Yearly Meeting.
December 2016: New Zealand Summer Gathering, Taranaki, New Zealand
Michael Conklin, Patti Nesbitt and Kat Habib attended the NZ Summer Gathering which is a fun week of spiritual sharing, community building and playful activities. Michael offered two interest groups - one on FCNL programs and the other on discernment of personal leadings.
March 2017: Silver Wattle Quaker Centre, Bungendore, Australia
Patti Nesbitt attended a week long workshop on Transformations in Life Transitions, following her leading to support Friends in the elder years. She learned more about Friends’ witness and struggles in Australia and came to appreciate the power of Aboriginal experience of the land.
March-April 2017, Kenya
Georgia Fuller visited Kenya for the 6th time and was able to enjoy the benefits of establishing long-term relationships and trust. She consulted on the new Leadership curriculum that Bungoma Monthly Meeting plans to offer in partnership with Friends Theological College (FTC). At their meeting for worship, a newborn girl was presented to the congregation. Georgia, who was missing her own grandchildren, kissed the little girl and fussed over her. The parents decided to name their daughter “Georgia.”
Georgia also visited Lugulu Yearly Meeting, which runs a satellite campus in partnership with FTC. She encouraged the older students in the program by telling them that she went back to school at the age of 48 and is now 72 years old and still learning. “It’s never too late to learn!!” Georgia also visited Lugari Yearly Meeting, which celebrated their new FTC satellite campus. As the only member of the Friends United Meeting Board who was present, she joined the local dignitaries in planting trees to commemorate the event and signed the historical record.
On the FTC campus Georgia visited with the family of Oscar Lugusa. She and her monthly meeting, Langley Hill, have helped send Oscar to the Earlham School of Religion to get his master’s degree. Oscar’s youngest child was born 2 months after he left Kenya for Earlham. His wife named the infant “Georgia.” BYM’s Georgia shared her gold medals from last September’s Northern Virginia Senior Olympics with Oscar’s older children.
At FTC, Georgia fulfilled a request from the Head Student (student body president) and the General Secretary of Uganda Yearly Meeting for a seminar on writing research papers. She then repeated the seminar for five other students, one of whom decided to name his newborn daughter “Precious Georgia”—pending the approval of his wife. Margaret Amudavi, the Academic Dean at FTC, predicted that BYM’s Georgia is starting a new Kenyan trend.
Georgia taught Biblical Interpretation to a combined class of Diploma 1 and 2 students. She had 18 students of such diverse abilities that on one quiz the top student scored 100% and the last one scored 20%. However, everyone buckled down and passed. The students gave Georgia an appreciation ceremony, complete with Kenyan clothes. She promised to come back next year and teach them Old Testament Texts and New Testament Texts, as long as they do not forget the meanings of “genre” and “hermeneutics.”
II. Anticipated Travels
- Friend United Meeting Triennial, Wichita, KS (See FUM report!)
- Indiana Yearly Meeting (Jolee Robinson and Jade Eaton)
- Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region (Jolee Robinson and Janey Pugsley)
- Australia Yearly Meeting in Adelaide, Australia (July-August) (Jason Eaby)
- Britain Yearly Meeting in Coventry, UK, and local meetings in the UK, Sweden, and Germany (Patti Nesbitt and Michael Conklin)
- North Carolina YM (Jolee Robinson and Catherine McHugh)
- Cuba Yearly Meeting (Jolee Robinson and Ray Lane)
III. Visitors to BYM Annual Session 2016
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.
Four visiting Friends came to Annual Session with support from the Intervisitation Program:
Beth Gorton (Quaker City Unity Friends Meeting, New England YM)
Stephen and Deborah Howell (Farmland Friends Meeting, Indiana Yearly Meeting)
Jean Smith, Kaimosi Monthly Meeting, East Africa Yearly Meeting
BYM also welcomed Deborah Rowlands, clerk, and Paul Parker, recording clerk (akin to superintendent or general secretary), of Britain Yearly Meeting. Howard van Breemen of Salisbury Friends Meeting (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting) visited. Jerry Knutson, a joint member of BYM’s Monongalia Friends Meeting and Orlando Monthly Meeting in Florida, had his travel minute from Orlando endorsed by BYM. We additionally welcomed visitors from FCNL and FGC, and Carey Lecturer George Lakey.
We are delighted that as of this writing (June 2017), at least 13 visitors from other Yearly Meetings have registered to attend with support from the intervisitation program, with many more planning to attend besides. Final attendance will be reported next year.
IV. Workshops and our Travelers Gathering
At 2016 Annual Session, we offered a workshop on the ministry of presence, led by Joan Liversidge and Jolee Robinson. Friends discussed the importance of the ministry of presence in helping form long-lasting relationships between Friends across the Quaker spectrum as well as other ways in which it helps Friends nurture one another with compassionate listening and presence. We also hosted our Intervisitation Lounge from Wednesday through Friday nights, which saw record numbers of attendees (at least 20+ Friends each night), including both visitors to BYM as well as Friends who wished to meet with visitors and learn about the program.
IWG again hosted its annual travelers’ gathering in March 2017 to help would-be visitors learn about traveling among Friends, whether for intervisitation, traveling led by another ministerial calling, or simply wishing to meet other Quakers. This year’s gathering took place at Richmond Friends Meeting on March 19, 2017, the day after Interim Meeting. Eight Friends attended. We had a get to know you session centered around the question, “What have I learned from listening?” We discussed procedures for obtaining travel minutes and discerning a call to traveling ministry. Ann Venable shared information on BYM’s Meeting visit initiative, which provides information to all Friends wishing to visit within the BYM area and provides an opportunity to report on those visits through the BYM Website.
We again found the gathering’s timing to be a challenge, and many Friends interested in the idea of the gathering told us they could not attend. While holding this activity on the same weekend as March Interim Meeting has been helpful in the past, we are learning that those who do come to Interim Meeting often feel overwhelmed by the prospect of devoting a whole weekend to Quaker-based activity; furthermore this time often increasingly conflicts with Quarterly meetings and other local meeting activities. We believe the gathering provides useful information to Friends, but are considering alternatives to when to host it.
Our 2017 budget is $4,500. As of this writing, $3,800 has been spent, most of which has been to support visitor registration at Annual Session. Thanks to an incredible surge of responses to our invitation to visitors from other Yearly Meetings, we expect more of these funds will be used for visitor registration, and $367 will be spent to support outgoing visitors traveling to other Yearly Meetings. In 2016, we spent $4,522; travelers submitted $3,325 worth of travel expenses as “in-kind” donations.
We are incredibly grateful for the continued support of the Yearly Meeting for this valuable ministry. This allows us to receive visitors who could not otherwise attend without our support. 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. It enriches our own spiritual journeys as we learn about those of other Friends. We are deeply grateful we can enable this transformative ministry.
VI. 2016-7 Working Group Members
Maria Bradley, Linda Coates, Jason Eaby, Georgia Fuller, Beth Gorton (NEYM), Erik Hansen,Joan Liversidge, Janey Pugsley, Jolee Robinson, Rebecca Pickard (clerk), Ken Stockbridge.
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.
1. in a post on David Johns’ blog, speaking of the Kenyan Quaker outlook on the international family of Friends.
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?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.
• How do we provide financial support for outgoing BYM travelers?
• How do we provide financial support for incoming visitors from other Yearly Meetings?
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.