Traveling companion or not?
It’s tricky to know what term to use for this kind of spiritual companion. I know some people use the term “elder.” Others have defined elder differently, as more of an in-house function in a monthly meeting. The FGC Traveling Ministries Program is currently using the term “traveling companion.” In any case, I didn’t really have anyone to sort this out with before I went, but I thought about it some.
I actually thought I should have an elder/traveling companion. However, getting to Providence from San Francisco is a long and expensive trip, and my Meeting was already helping with my expenses. I started trying to find out if there was anyone I knew from my yearly meeting who was also going. It took a while to find out who our current FWCC representatives are, and even then I didn’t really know any of them well. When I found out that my friend Janet L. was also planning to go, I was very pleased.
I first got to know Janet about three years ago when we served on the CPQM children’s program committee together. Janet was clerk that first year and then served as an elder to me as I was clerk the next year. I find her sheer presence calming; her thoughtful, serious questions helpful; and her humor and musical ability make it a joy to work with her. I also know her a bit through her eldest daughter, who is about my age.
Frankly, I was afraid to formally ask her to serve as an elder for me because I was afraid she would take that title too seriously and say no. And really, can I just ask someone to be my elder or should that be an appointed function through some formal body? I don’t know. We in Pacific YM are still pretty new at this whole concept.
I did feel clear to ask for her help in a few specific ways. First off, I asked her to pray for me and my workshop. She agreed, and even offered to come and sit in the front row while I spoke and hold me in the Light. As it turned out, she sat right next to me in the first workshop where I spoke and I took strength and comfort from her presence.
Secondly, I asked her advice about getting a Spanish translation of the Bible. She generously offered to loan me hers during the annual meeting. This turned out to be more important than I knew, and I will write more about that in the coming days.
Thirdly, I asked her to listen to me, over the phone, as I tried to discern what I needed to say as my part of the workshop. We set a phone date and we talked for about half an hour. I explained how I came to be invited, and what I thought I would talk about. She asked good questions and was generally encouraging about the idea of convergent Friends and whatever ministry I might be called to around that.
I also asked her a few practical questions about the annual meeting, since I had never been to one before. We agreed to help each other remember not to get too caught up in the busyness of the annual meeting: to remember to take sufficent time to breathe, to walk calmly, and to pray. This was very helpful. Every time I saw her face, I remembered to breathe and to smile.
Another blessing of her support is that I know that I will see her again and again as I return home to my usual responsibilities and involvement. She can report (informally) to others in my Quarterly and Yearly Meeting as to my conduct while out in the wider world. I will have the opportunity to discuss the experience later, after I’ve had some chances for reflection, with someone who was there when it happened, and who heard other people’s responses while we were there.
Next time I do something like this, I want to name what I’m asking for, and to be a little more transparent/formal about it. But in any case. I’m grateful for the practical and spiritual help and the boost in my confidence. Thank you so much, Janet.
Now that my anchor committee is formed, they have agreed to help me think this through, for short and long trips that I may be considering. How can we discern, not only to what traveling ministry I am called, when and where, but also who else might be called to serve in this work? How do we find the resources that will be necessary, spiritual, financial, logistical, to carry out the work that God has given us? Notice that it’s not just about me. One of the wonderful things that our TMP visitors reminded us was that we on this committee have each been given a piece of this ministry to carry.
One other thing that I learned when I got home is that it was really hard to arrive home at the airport all alone. Well, I already kind of knew that about myself. Arriving at a new airport is part of the excitement of the trip, but coming home alone is just depressing. In this case, I mean that literally. I was in tears over a minor delay in the shuttle service from the airport to my home. The concept of being spiritually tired helps me now to understand why it was so hard that night.
From now on, I need to either travel with someone, or have someone pick me up at the airport when I get back. In fact, I think what I would really like is for someone to stay with my children, at our house, if it’s late, and they’re asleep, so that my husband could come to pick me up. My anchor committee agreed to help me make these arrangements next time. They affirmed that this is not so unreasonable to ask for, and I think it would make a big difference in not being so, so, wiped out when I get home.
Maybe then I’ll be able to write about it sooner.
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