Traveling in the elder-y?

I had another clearness yesterday. But this time it was to see if I was clear to travel for religious service. And joyfully, we were clear that I am clear. I plan to visit Indiana Yearly Meeting, and perhaps another, in addition to my now-home-base at New Engand YM. Here are some excerpts from the letter I wrote to the committee to explain myself:

".... I am considering traveling to various Quaker events this summer. I want your help in discerning whether this is a leading. And the reason I want your help with that, is that in proper Friends’ practice (and in proper Friends’ theology, I might provocatively add), a Friend does not declare his/her individual idea to be a divine leading, but seeks the concurrence of his/her spiritual community.

"What are the dimensions of my proposed travel? What kind of leading am I feeling? Well, I would like to foster increased dialogue among the different branches of the Religious Society of Friends. I would like to participate in making the branches feel less alien to each other. I have been following currents of increased dialogue like this among Friends for some time. Some of it is stuff I read on the Internet: the blog website quakerquaker.org, the “movement,” also really a collection of bloggers, calling itself Convergent Friends (ConvergentFriends.org). Some of it is news I hear from young adult Friends such as friends of mine who went to the World Gathering of Young Friends, and the gathering of Young Adult Friends from all branches held in New Jersey this February. Some of it is conversations I’ve had over the years at SAYMA, at Celo, at the FGC Gathering, and at NEYM. They all express a yearning to know more about the other branches, and a yearning that the other branches would wish to know more about one’s own branch. ...

"What about a label for this leading? What’s the correct terminology? I think it’s best labeled as “intervisitation.” Other possible labels include, traveling with a concern (for... dialogue?), and traveling in the ministry. ... This last category –what some refer to as “the free gospel ministry” to distinguish it from, say, teaching high school as a ministry– is much too weighty and august for me to feel it’s what I’m doing. More to the point, I haven’t been feeling lots of clear urgent leadings to speak messages in meetings for worship recently... that’s what I call ministry, and while I’ve had periods of my life where I spoke more frequently in meetings than I do these days, they’ve never bubbled over into an urgency to travel to somewhere else to speak.

"I’ve also sometimes joked that while others may travel in the ministry, I should be traveling in the elder-y (elder-ship?). When I’ve looked over the categories of the traditional gifts and offices in old-time Quakerism –four: the gifts of ministry and eldering, the offices of clerking and oversight– I’ve often felt that my strength is in eldering: helping to identify, draw out, and develop others’ gifts. That’s what a good teacher does, after all. Elders also check bad ministry... and encourage discipline, a role they became unpopular for in the late 19th century, but a natural role at a boarding school. Elders also have a role of encouraging healing and unity in a meeting. [I once served on a yearly meeting committee] whose task when it was created really was to heal suspicions and divisions among different segments of the yearly meeting which weren’t talking to each other about their assumptions and concerns. So visiting meetings seems like a way to participate in this movement of dialogue –and spread it– through face to face contact."


  1. Hi Frederick: Traveling in the eldery?, yes, that sounds good. And very needed.

    I'm wondering if the divide between elders and ministers is more in the context of a settled community like a monthly or yearly meeting. When traveling one need to be alert to any role that the Spirit might be handing us: be it ministering, healing or even just listening. I say this not from any deep reading of old Faith and Practices, but from experience, as I've felt led to different roles at different times.

    Let us know if your travels do take you out and about and let me know if you come through the Philadelphia/South Jersey region, it sounds like it would be fruitful to have some conversations together. Good luck and God bless,
    Martin @ Quaker Ranter

  2. Bless thee, Friend. The Lamb's army is gathering. I am glad to be aware of yet another valiant co-laborer.

    Micah Bales
    micahbales AT gmail DOT com

  3. I hope we will see you in North Carolina this summer. Our YM sessions start next week.

    And, yes, elders travel too. We have appointed elders in our YM and I'd say the elders do a bit more intervisitation than the recorded ministers do.

  4. Frederick, did you tell me you had a blog when we met in March? How did I miss this until now? I'm so sorry.Anyway, it's good to find you online, since New Hampshire and California are pretty far apart geographically.

    This leading to intervisitation seems to be growing widely this summer. The renewal movement/conversation, called convergent by some, is gathering steam among unprogrammed Friends. I hope our paths will cross again soon.