Travel in Ministry

At the 2005 PYM annual sessions, we minuted our approval that Friends traveling to gatherings on PYM business will carry a statement asking Friends to consider the ecological damage imposed by their travel and to consider ways to minimize this damage.

I don’t have the exact wording, but that was the spirit of the thing, as I understood it. On the surface, this seems like a good thing. Yes, Friends should consider how to minimize the ecological damage we cause in any way. But I am concerned that the minute did not include any statement that we see traveling and seeing each other in person as an important part of our work in the world. I think it is imperative to do difficult business face to face. To be able to feel where words come from, a la John Woolman. This was mentioned in the introduction of the minute, but it will not be in the statement that our Friends will carry with them.

I actually think we need more traveling in the ministry, more face to face, personal communication among Friends of all stripes. But perhaps we need to travel more slowly, to pass through or even stop in more places, to use the less energy-consuming but more time-consuming methods of transportation. How would giving more time to our Friendly travel affect our ministry? Our worldly pursuits? Would this give us more time to prepare for our in person communication? Would we be more aware of our effect on the Earth? As in

“It would go a long way to caution and direct people in their use of the world, that they were better studied and knowing in the Creation of it. For how could [they] find the confidence to abuse it, while they should see the Great Creator stare them in the face, in all and every part thereof?

from William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude, 1693,
as quoted in PYM’s Faith and Practice,
Advices and Queries on Harmony with Creation

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Blogger Liz Opp said...

Robin, you write:

I actually think we need more traveling in the ministry, more face to face, personal communication among Friends of all stripes. But perhaps we need to travel more slowly, to pass through or even stop in more places, to use the less energy-consuming but more time-consuming methods of transportation.

You touch on my current thinking, as I consider traveling to visit among fFriends across the country. So many things are in the balance, aren't they--

routes of public transit
etc etc etc.

My hope is that if I am called to travel far and wide, I will be able to understand how it is that I might travel and be in right order with all that is needed.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

8/15/2005 11:46 PM  
Blogger Joe G. said...

It's almost as if a person traveling in the ministry needs to plan it out like a sabbatical or something. I actually think this is what Friends in earlier times had to do anyway. Who will take care of the ranch, the business, the kids, etc while I'm gone? Where to go and when? Hmm.

8/16/2005 11:55 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Really, Beppe? I always imagined that Friends in earlier times being so unencumbered that when the Spirit said "Move," the Friend got up and started walkin'. Seriously.

Maybe I have that impression because I don't recall George Fox or John Woolman or David Ferris writing about being worried about "who's gonna mind the store while I'm gone?"...

Interesting thought, though.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

8/16/2005 10:09 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Liz, I think they just didn't see the mundane details as worthy of writing about in their published journals. I think that part of the discernment with their Meetings was whether they were released to go, and that meant, in part, figuring out who was going to take up their burdens at home. Which is why I am soooo amazed that women in the 17th and 18th century were able to go.

Has anyone else read Walking My Belief by Scott Savage? It's nominally about his week-long walk to the Ohio state capital to give up his driver's license at the DMV headquarters. (Forever committing him to a smaller range of travel, by horse and buggy, mostly. Methinks he takes himself rather seriously.) But in between, it's about all these things: modern transportation, building community, real family values, faith, Quaker leadings, technology, vegetarianism, and the Sermon on the Mount. I like his dry humor and the example of someone taking their beliefs and acting on them to their logical if extreme conclusions.

8/16/2005 11:31 PM  
Blogger Joe G. said...

I guess I was thinking of Lucretia Mott and her husband: they set up a "system" (my word) for how to cover her duties while she travled in the ministry. But, maybe their times wasn't as fixed or rigedly conceived?

I'm sure when GF went about he was pretty unencumbered. OTH, I can't imagine Margaret Fell just dropping everything. I think her kids and (first) husband covered for her a lot. But, I'm speculating here.

As to Scott Savage: no, I haven't read his book. If he is who I think he is, he did strike me as sometimes taking himself too seriously, although I'm sure that no one would ever use such a term to describe me. {ahem}

8/17/2005 12:55 PM  
Blogger Gil S said...

Robin I agree that we need more travelling in the ministry both within my yearly meeting [Britain] and between YMs in different countries, but I think it is very important that we only do this when we have had our calling tested by our meetings and have their support.

I would also commend the practice of travelling in pairs, often one more experienced and one less experienced friend, as was the norm in previous centuries. Of course it is more difficult to do this when we don't have a pool of recorded ministers to draw on, but this is definitely an area where we can learn from the past.

10 years ago when I was a Joseph Rowntree fellow I was given the opportunity to travel throughout my YM giving workshops on spiritual autobiography. The fellowship covered my salary for 15 months and I got unpaid leave from my job [my boss was a Quaker!]. I had a small support group, most of whom were from my meeting, and I had the backing of my MM, but I travelled alone.

As I can't drive a car I travelled everywhere by train and that was a wonderful experience in itself. I had time to look around me, to read and to think. When I stayed overnight it was almost always in Friends houses and that led to many oportunities for conversations about spiritual autobiography, Quakerism and what was happening in their meetings. As an outsider I heard a lot about problems.

At the time I resisted calling what I was doing travel in the ministry, but now I think that it was.

As to women travellers in the past I've got quite a bit to say and I may well put something in my own blog rather than make this comment much longer. There's a lot here to consider. Thank you for getting me started.

9/03/2005 5:34 PM  

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