Recognition of Friends Gifts and Leadings

This text is a draft appendix from the Faith and Practice Revision Committee for the new Faith and Practice, the book that provides guidance for Friends in New England Yearly Meeting. It will eventually be replaced by updated material as the related chapters of Faith & Practice receive preliminary approval. In the meantime, you are invited to examine and try out the procedures outlined here and let the committee know what needs to be added or clarified. Please send comments and insights to [email protected].

5A. Care of Worship Tools

  1. A few members of M&C may arrive early to sit quietly in the meeting room so others can enter into a worshipful silence.
  2. At times of particular stress in the meeting community or in the wider world, opening worship with words of comfort and assurance may be helpful.
  3. If the vocal ministry in meeting becomes discursive, with little space between speakers, a member of M&C may rise and stand in silence to return the meeting to waiting worship.
  4. If there is a singer whose frequent sung messages cause confusion about whether others are invited to join in, bring the topic up with that Friend, and hold a discussion with the meeting about sung ministry.
  5. Constructive, healthy eldering takes spiritual preparation. Good communication skills are necessary for addressing inappropriate messages or behavior in the meeting. M&C members can strengthen their skills by discussing and practicing ways to respond to such situations. They can also seek out training through Quaker organizations and through Quaker publications and online sources.
  6. If a serious concern arises about the vocal ministry or other actions of someone in the meeting, it is good practice to check with another member of M&C or a trusted and experienced member of the meeting to discern next steps together.
  7. Meetings may invite specific prayers, joys, or holding people in the Light either during or at the close of worship.
  8. Each meeting has its own style for ending worship. Most meetings have a time for announcements and introductions at the rise of meeting. Some also invite those present to share briefly thoughts that did not rise to the level of a message during the silence. Or, there may be a time and place set aside for people who want to talk about their worship experience.
  9. Meetings may wish to consider programs bringing adults and children together in worship. Such programs may have songs, a story or presentation, a query for all attenders to speak to, or worship sharing on a topic, along with times of silent worship.

5B. Safety in the Meeting Community

  1. M&C can foster ongoing conversations about how to create a climate in the meeting that encourages people to raise their concerns for physical, emotional and spiritual safety. If a concern arises, carefully consider all aspects before taking action.
  2. When a concern centers on an individual, one or two members of Ministry & Counsel listen to the individual’s perspective and share the meeting’s concerns with them. If this step does not help, M&C or the meeting clerk can write them a letter that names clearly the behavior that needs to change and how the meeting will respond if it does not.
  3. On rare occasions an individual is suspended or expelled from a meeting. While this is a difficult step, it may be necessary for the health of the meeting.
  4. Also see 5D #6 about child safety.

5C. The Welcoming Meeting

  1. M&C ensures the meetinghouse is well-lit, easily accessible, offers gender-neutral bathrooms, and provides appropriate spaces for children’s activities. Care should be taken that the meeting room is well set up for people who have hearing or visual loss. Even if hearing assistance is available, it is important to encourage those giving messages to stand as able, to project their voices, and to speak as clearly as they can.
  2. Many meetings in New England are located in areas accessible only by cars or in prosperous or predominantly white neighborhoods, which might be a barrier to some visitors. It is especially important that the homepages of such meetings signal that all are welcome.
  3. Some meetings have a reception area where a greeter can meet visitors and extend welcome and assistance to them before meeting for worship, as well as speak with parents of young children about child care or First Day School. Some visitors may prefer to go directly into the worship space.
  4. Readily available written materials in the entryway introduce newcomers to Quaker worship, to the meeting community, and its child care programs. The greeter might direct visitors to the meeting library for more in-depth information on Quakerism.
  5. Images displayed on meeting house walls should be sensitively reviewed for what impact they may have on members, attenders, and guests.

5D. Supporting Spiritual Nurture and Religious Life

Working on its own or with other committees in the meeting, Ministry & Counsel considers what kind of activities might enrich the spiritual life of the community or support it in addressing concerns carried by meeting members.

  1. In conjunction with Adult Religious Education, M&C may organize study groups, faithfulness groups, public meetings, retreats, film showings, circulation of relevant literature, etc., and promote gatherings and online programs being offered throughout the quarterly or yearly meeting.
  2. If the meeting has a Hospitality Committee, M&C can work with them to celebrate and honor community milestones, joys, concerns, and other community-building events. They may coordinate ways to integrate newcomers into the meeting and help them learn about Quaker faith and practice.
  3. M&C may become aware of possible leadings for corporate witness. They might act on their own, or confer with the Peace & Social Justice committee before bringing it to meeting for business to see if there is unity and leadership for a committed social action.

Nurturing the spiritual growth and religious education of young people from infants and toddlers needing child care through teens getting ready to fly the nest is often in the hands of a Youth Religious Education committee. M&C supports the work of involving young people in the meeting’s community life in a number of other ways.

  1. The committee may support intergenerational gatherings such as picnics, game nights, weekend retreats, work days, and community service projects to bring Friends together in settings outside of Sunday morning.
  2. Under the guidance of M&C some meetings schedule periodic intergenerational worship, which is likely to include singing, reading, dramatizing a story, etc., and perhaps reflecting together on the experience.
  3. The safety of the meeting’s children is always of urgent importance. The meeting’s child safety policy needs to be widely known and rigorously observed. The Yearly Meeting’s child safety policy is available on its website.

M&C or a youth education committee keeps families in the meeting informed about Yearly Meeting programs such as youth programs at quarterly and yearly meetings, Friends Camp (a Quaker camp in China, Maine), youth weekend retreats, and other activities.

5E. Confidentiality and Openness in Group Sharing

Both confidentiality and openness are valuable in the meeting community, yet there is a potential conflict between them. Both are important in their place, and Friends need a shared clarity about which situations require confidentiality and which thrive on openness.

In a pastoral care situation, a small group participates in a conversation where the purpose is to help one or a few people better understand and cope with something in their lives. Usually, this work is carried out with an understanding that the intimate details discussed will not be shared beyond the small conversation. This aspect of pastoral care is discussed in detail in Chapter xx. (See Advices A, below.)

Sometimes Ministry & Counsel handles other concerns affecting the larger meeting community that may need to remain within a small and discreet group. Determining how much to share with the meeting is an important part of their deliberations, as openness, when possible, benefits the community. (See Advices B, below.)

Conflict transformation may also be part of Ministry & Counsel’s work. When people are in conflict, it is hoped that they might meet each other with openness, listen closely and tenderly to each other, and find acceptance and compassion for one another. They are expected to try to resolve their differences between themselves as Friends in a community (Matthew 18:15). If that fails, however, these Friends are advised to ask M&C for help. One or both people may need a separate elder or support committee. At times, the issue may be so deeply personal that the need for openness involves pain and a sense of invasion of privacy; it is important that each person feel heard and supported by the meeting members involved. If the needed support and trust is not in place, a Friend may be unable to participate in the process with a feeling of safety and with openness. When trust is able to be established, we can ground ourselves in the Spirit. (See Advices C and D, below.)

In gatherings that involve a larger number of people, the need for openness based on trust becomes imperative. These gatherings are usually meetings to discuss a topic or to work together towards a decision, or worship-sharing groups in which the focus is on better understanding one another as individuals. Meetings for worship and for business are also open to the community and have community-building as one of their aims. In these situations, the meeting members who are not present are still involved. They may hear about what took place and ask for details of what was said. Later conversations with them are often part of the process and a meaningful way to participate in a spiritual community. Confidentiality is not an expectation in these circumstances. The conversation in these gatherings is limited to what people are willing to share with the entire community. There does need to be an understanding and expectation that we will be gentle with each other. Truthful, but gentle. (See Advices E, below).

Advices on Confidentiality and Openness

Let worship be the core of your time together.

A. The following advices are offered to individuals in a pastoral care setting in which tender concerns and vulnerabilities need to be addressed by a small group of Friends—with an expectation of privacy and confidentiality when possible:

  1. Explain ground rules involving confidentiality and the reasons for them at the beginning of a meeting.
  2. Know that a pastoral care committee is free to call on any support or counsel needed in order to provide care with more confidence. Let the Friend know you may seek such help as long as confidentiality will be maintained.
  3. Respect an individual’s desire for privacy while at the same time making sure they know the meeting is ready to offer further support.
  4. Know there are times when confidentiality must be broken to ensure the safety of those involved, for example in cases of child abuse.

B. The following advices apply more generally to building a tender and open life in the community to the extent that, when necessary, privacy is protected:

  1. Respect requests for privacy, while also inviting openness and vulnerability.
  2. Seek an appropriate balance between confidentiality and openness, listening in each case for the Spirit’s guidance.
  3. Be aware of the danger of groups meeting in unnecessary confidentiality and creating pools of secrecy within the meeting.
  4. Hold in your heart openness and vulnerability, so you may know each other in the life of the Spirit.

C. Advices for Friends working through a tension or conflict:

  1. Listen with openness and hold what is shared in confidence; you are working to build a place of trust with the other.
  2. Honor the difficulties the other person is facing.
  3. Share openly, as non-defensively as you are able.

D. Advices for Friends supporting those resolving issues:

  1. Be aware of the special need for tenderness if the conflict brings up other painful issues.
  2. Listen openly to each of the people involved, without judgment.
  3. Know that the clerk may need to ask for support from inside or outside of the meeting, or for an elder. This support will honor confidentiality.
  4. Remember to hold Friends and the situation in love and tenderness. This caring support may be remembered in the future, even if no resolution is reached at the current time.
  5. Be aware of the difficult truth that support efforts may end without a clear resolution to the conflict. Each person may continue to need pastoral care.

E. The following advices are addressed to individuals involved in meeting-wide conversations:

  1. If you are responsible for clerking a discussion or worship-sharing occasion, explain that what is said will not be held in confidence by those attending.
  2. Share only what you are comfortable having repeated.
  3. When telling others about a meeting you have attended, tell how you understood what was said. Remember that your understanding of another’s sharing is always partial.
  4. Be careful of one another’s reputations.

5F. Conflict Transformation in the Meeting Community

When a meeting is faced with a complex or potentially contentious matter, the meeting may want to hold called meetings at which issues are raised without any pressure to make a decision.

Such called meetings may take several different forms, as described below. These types of meetings can give Friends the time they need to reach as clear a vision of the issue as possible and can create the opportunity for Friends to listen to each other and to the Spirit. Ministry & Counsel may not be responsible for an issue under discernment by the meeting, but it has spiritual care of the meeting throughout the process, prayerfully helping to keep the meeting centered through what may be a challenging time.

Informational Session

The meeting will need a clear and balanced overview of the facts related to the issue at hand. Usually, a committee or working group is responsible for presenting a topic for consideration or for drafting a proposal. The issue is presented neutrally, along with all relevant information, possible options, and known ramifications. The meeting has an opportunity to ask clarifying questions.

Listening Session

A listening session may be called after informational opportunities have taken place, or after the meeting has had a chance to read any relevant documentation. It is a time for each Friend to speak from the heart and for the community to listen with open hearts and open minds. Friends do not discuss or argue for their points of view, or rebut other’s contributions. Each Friend present is given an opportunity to speak before anyone speaks a second time.

No formal record is kept of what is said. The meeting ends with Friends having heard each other. Sometimes one Listening Session is all that is needed on a topic. If there appears to be no emerging unity about a proposal at this time, Friends know they have time to hold and season what they have heard, and that there will be other opportunities to explore the topic together.

Threshing Session

A threshing session is focused on determining how the meeting can move forward on a sensitive topic about which the meeting has been learning and listening to each other over a period of time. All relevant information is current and options are laid out clearly. If needed, an experienced Friend from another meeting may be invited to clerk the threshing session.

After a straightforward presentation of the question at hand, the meeting hears all the concerns about the issue that Friends are carrying. The clerk listens for what the meeting can say in unity and identifies where Friends hold divergent points of view. This time a record may be kept of some of what has been said (without giving names of Friends), especially if Friends appear to be getting clearer about how to proceed. Again, no decision is made at this time, but the recording clerk for the session writes a minute, in neutral terms, that records the main ideas that were raised, aspects of the issue that will need to be explored further, and places of unity. The threshing session may recommend to the business meeting that it create a minute of exercise based on the minute created at the threshing session.

Minute of Exercise (sometimes called a Process Minute)

The meeting may wish to approve a minute of exercise in the absence of full unity. A minute of exercise is intended to mark a point along the way towards a decision. Such a minute records points on which the meeting has reached clear unity and states plainly the concerns that are still under discernment. It acknowledges that the meeting is under the burden of a concern, has not yet reached a decision, and is continuing to seek a way forward. It should state the issue and the range of responses to it in neutral terms. It gives the meeting a record of the issue, the date(s) it was discussed, and the various approaches or objections. Such an articulation may prove transformational to Friends as they continue to discern God’s will.

5G. Guidance for a Clearness Committee for Personal Discernment

A clearness committee for personal discernment meets with an individual, a couple, or a group of people questioning how to proceed in a keenly felt concern or dilemma. The clearness committee clerk facilitates the meeting. Trusting that each individual can access the Inner Teacher for guidance, the Friends on the clearness committee seek to draw out the Spirit's guidance from and for that person. The committee members’ purpose is not to give advice or to “fix” the situation. Their task is to set aside their own prejudices to listen, to ask open-ended questions, and to provide emotional space for an individual to seek the truth and recognize the right course of action. The clearness committee works best when everyone prayerfully approaches this time of searching, which need not exclude an element of playfulness. (Reminder: not all clearness or support committees go through M&C if no action or attention is required by the meeting.)

Organizing the clearness committee

  1. The person seeking clearness always initiates the request to form a committee, though a Friend may ask, “Would a clearness committee be helpful?” The request is brought to Ministry & Counsel, which forms a clearness committee. Usually, at least one member of M&C serves on such a committee. The person may be invited to suggest people they feel believe may be helpful on the committee. M&C appoints a convener of the first meeting. It is strongly advised that the clearness committee name a clerk and a scribe before the first meeting.
  2. In advance of the meeting, the person seeking clearness may describe the matter in writing, articulating the question as clearly as they are able and giving relevant background information. This information is shared with the committee members ahead of time, or read or voiced at the beginning of the meeting.

Conducting the clearness committee

The clerk opens the meeting, and affirms the guidelines to be followed. The clerk is also responsible for keeping a right sense of order and for closing the meeting. Any member of the committee may intervene if necessary to ensure the guidelines are followed. The scribe writes down the questions asked and perhaps some of the responses and after the meeting gives this record to the person seeking clearness.

  1. The clerk reminds everyone of the guidelines and makes sure there is a common understanding of the meeting’s degree of confidentiality.
  2. All settle into a period of centering silence.
  3. When ready, the person seeking clearness begins with a brief summary of the question or concern.
  4. Members of the clearness committee hold to a discipline of asking brief, evoking questions as led by the Spirit, resisting urges to present solutions, give advice, or ask leading questions. The pace of questions is kept deliberately gentle and relaxed to encourage reflection. Committee members should trust their intuitions. Even if a question seems odd, if it feels insistent it should be asked.
  5. The person seeking clearness normally answers the questions in front of the group and the responses generate more questions. It is always the person’s absolute right not to answer. The more questions a person can answer, the more they and the committee have to work with, but this should never be done at the expense of the person’s privacy or need to protect vulnerable feelings. It is a good idea for the person seeking clearness to keep answers fairly brief so time remains for further discernment.
  6. Do not be anxious if there are extended periods of silence. It does not mean that nothing is happening; in fact, the Spirit may be powerfully at work within the person seeking clearness and in the committee members.
  7. Well before the end of the session, following at least half an hour of questions and answers, the clerk pauses to ask the person how they wish to proceed. This is an opportunity for the person to choose, if it feels appropriate, additional modes of seeking clarity. The scribe may continue to record during this time. Possibilities include:
  • Gathering into silence out of which anyone may speak
  • People sharing images that have risen up for them
  • Continued questions from the committee
  • Questions to the committee from the person seeking clearness
  • Reflection on what has been said
  • Appreciation for the Friend bringing their concern forward
  1. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Before the session ends the person may choose to share any clarity that has come to them. There should also be an opportunity to hear whether all hearts are clear and settled in the matter, or if any feel a stop—a strong “no” to some aspect of the proceeding. The person and the committee consider together whether another meeting is advisable, and, if so, schedule it at this time. The person may not need to meet with the committee again. Or, if recommended, M&C may appoint an anchor committee to help the person remain clear and/or be accountable to their discernment. Members of the clearness committee may offer to serve on such committees.
  2. The clearness committee reports back to the committee that appointed it saying they have met and the work is complete or is still in process.

With gratitude for the pamphlet Clearness Committees and Their Use in Personal Discernment by Jan Hoffman, 1996.

5H. Advices and Queries for Those Who Serve on Clearness Committees

Advices for Those Who Serve on Clearness Committees

  1. Remember that each member of the committee shares responsibility for maintaining a prayerful presence, asking for times of silence when needed, and asking questions as led by the Spirit. A clearness committee is not an occasion to provide counseling but a spiritual exercise which aims to help the person or people requesting clearness to hear the Spirit’s guidance for themselves. Don’t offer solutions or advice but ask honest, probing questions to assist them in this process. Listen deeply to all that is said.
  2. Give equal attention to each person seeking clearness when the meeting is for more than one person.
  3. Focus on the situation that is prompting the need for discernment.
  4. Remember that people are capable of change and growth.

Queries for Those Who have been asked to Serve on a Clearness Committees

  1. Is this your work to do at this time?
  2. Can you devote sufficient time and energy to this committee, knowing it may take several meetings?
  3. Do you feel sufficiently at ease with the person seeking clearness and with the other members of the committee to work with them? Can you engage with them to provide an atmosphere in which divine guidance can be sought?
  4. If clearness is being sought by two or more people, can you set aside your own prejudice or bias as you listen to each person involved?
  5. Are you ready to keep the committee discussions confidential unless those requesting the help of the committee are comfortable with a wider sharing?
  6. Can you keep an open mind and an open heart about the outcome?

5I. Support Committees

Support committees are formed to provide practical, emotional and/or spiritual care, and serve as long as needed. Committees may be formed to support a couple, a family, an individual, or a Friend serving in a particular role in the meeting or in other Quaker service. Mental or emotional difficulties, a life transition, the process of dying or bereavement are some reasons Friends ask for meeting care. The size and composition of the committee varies according to need.

Sometimes the committee’s existence is confidential and in other cases it is known to the community. When confidentiality is not a concern, the committee might coordinate assistance from others in the meeting, such as preparing meals for a family after the birth or adoption of a baby, or providing rides for a Friend undergoing medical treatment. Usually, one Friend is designated as the coordinator for managing the schedule. If no member of Ministry & Counsel is serving on a support committee, one committee member is named as the liaison to M&C. Support committees are intended to be time limited. Any serious concerns, including the belief that professional help is needed, may be taken to M&C for discernment.

5J. Advices and Queries for Those Who Serve on Support Committees

Advices for Those Who Serve on Support Committees

  1. Respect and be present to the person in need without imposing your own judgment.
  2. Listen with compassion to the Friend’s account of the situation and the Friend’s deepest concerns and needs.
  3. Be supportive without creating inappropriate dependence.

Queries for Those Who Serve on Support Committees

  1. Do you remain mindful of the spiritual nature of a support committee, whether offering pastoral or practical care?
  2. Are you prepared to assist the person in finding professional help, if this seems to be required?
  3. Are you clear how much support you can reasonably offer?

5K. Care & Accountability Committees

These committees are appointed by Ministry & Counsel to support Friends the meeting has recognized as engaged in a ministry or who are pursuing a leading. Members of Care &

Accountability committees are selected by M&C in consultation with the individual being supported. It is helpful, when possible, to have at least one member of the committee experienced in this kind of service. Members new to the work will likely benefit from mentoring by more experienced Friends or from M&C.

The purpose of the committee is twofold:

  • To provide sustained support, loving guidance, and accountability for a Friend who carries a leading.
  • To help the faith community fulfill its responsibility to develop and support spiritual growth in its membership and to honor the gifts God gives the community.

The form of support should be determined by the needs of the Friend. Since the gift is given to the meeting, through the Friend, the meeting is responsible for supporting the faithfulness and spiritual health of that Friend and for helping them discern what they need in the way of preparation, refreshment and counsel. The committee and the individual consider together how best the work and service of the Friend can be supported.

5L. Advices and Queries for Those Who Serve on Care and Accountability Committees

Advices for Those Who Serve on Care and Accountability Committees

  1. Be grounded in God and open to further learning and spiritual development, both for the Friend and for yourself.
  2. Have faith in the Divine-human relationship. Keep in mind that committee members need to have sufficient shared faith understandings to be able to work together and communicate successfully.
  3. Be able to accept where the Friend is in the present moment. Maintain appropriate confidentiality, recognizing the Friend’s views and concerns may be in considerable flux during the journey.
  4. Be willing and able to devote the time necessary to prepare yourself to carry out the committee’s tasks and to attend regular meetings with the Friend.

Queries for Those Who Serve on Care and Accountability Committees

  1. Do you articulate for the Friend the ways you see God acting, speaking, and serving through them?
  2. Are you able to accompany the Friend in personal places of spiritual desolation and fear?
  3. Can you lovingly challenge the Friend to live more deeply into their ministry and gifts so they may grow in faithfulness? Are you clear in your own mind that “being more faithful” does not in itself mean “doing more” and sometimes calls for doing less?
  4. Are you participating in evaluating the process and the function of the committee with some regularity?

Queries for the Friend who is the focus of the Care and Accountability Committee

  1. Do you continually submit your gift for its use under the authority of divine guidance?
  2. Do you humbly consider the possibility that the wisdom and guidance of other Friends may be needed to develop and enrich the fullest expression of the gift entrusted to you for the benefit of the community?
  3. How are you being formed for this ministry? Reflect upon your inner life, and your struggles and joys in this work, both spiritual and emotional. Are you seeking the support you need to sustain your service?

(Appendices 5I and 5J: With gratitude for the pamphlet The Spiritual Care Committee, The School of the Spirit, 2012.)

5M. Letters and Minutes for Travel and Service

Letter of Introduction 

(See pp. 264–265 in NEYM Faith and Practice 1985.)

Friends planning to visit other Quaker meetings may ask the monthly meeting clerk for a letter of introduction. The letter introduces the Friend, telling a bit about them and their relationship with their home meeting. The letter may apply to either a single trip or, in the case of a Friend who travels frequently, several journeys. It does not request hospitality or need endorsement from the host meeting. The clerk of the home meeting signs it without bringing it to meeting for business. As a courtesy the clerk may inform the meeting that a letter has been written.

A letter of introduction states: (along with other detail that may be added)

  • The name of the traveling Friend
  • The Friend’s status as a member or attender of the meeting providing the letter
  • The signature of the clerk

Sample letter of introduction

[Meeting letterhead and date]
Dear Friends,
We send you warm greetings with our member [name].
[Name] spent many years in Ramallah, and has recently written a book about her experience there. We find the combination of her global perspective on life and her in-depth knowledge of Quakerism a wonderful asset to our meeting. We are confident you will enjoy her presence at the annual session of your yearly meeting.
We look forward to hearing from her about how the Spirit is moving among Friends in Ramallah.
In Peace,
[Signature], Clerk, _______ Monthly Meeting

Minutes for Travel Under Concern or Ministry  

When a Friend is called to travel in the ministry, their home meeting writes a travel minute commending them to the physical and spiritual care of whatever meetings they visit. Travel minutes are rooted in the history of early Friends, who often visited rural areas where accommodations were an uncertainty. The minute attests to the good character of the Friend and the quality of their ministry, and requests hospitality for the visitor as well as opportunities for them to share their ministry. The minute is approved in meeting for business by the home meeting. At the conclusion of the visit the clerk of the host meeting endorses it with a letter or note offering a sense of how their guest’s ministry benefitted their meeting. A travel minute may be directed to one specific visit or event, or written to cover a period of time.

Often travel under a "concern" or "ministry" are correctly used interchangeably (See "Sample minute for travel under a concern," below.) Concerns tend to refer to specific issues, such as right relationship with Indigenous Peoples, or environmental justice. The ministry is embodied in words and actions as the Friend addresses the concern. Traditional ministry is broader in what it includes, and is usually involved with the spiritual development of Friends and meetings.

  1. The Friend seeking a travel minute requests such from the clerk of Ministry & Counsel or directly from the monthly meeting clerk, depending on the practice of the particular meeting.
  2. A clearness process is required if the Friend is not already in the care of a committee where such discernment takes place. How the clearness committee is formed and by whom varies from meeting to meeting, but it is typically either Ministry & Counsel or the meeting for business. The clearness committee may report first to M&C or directly to the meeting for business, again depending on the practice of the particular meeting.
  3. Monthly meeting discerns whether to approve a travel minute, which is typically written by the traveling Friend’s clearness or anchor committee or by the meeting clerk. The clerk signs all travel minutes.
  4. The minute includes:
    • The name of the Friend traveling
    • An expression of the meeting’s endorsement of the travel under concern or in ministry
    • The date and signature of the monthly meeting clerk and, if applicable, the endorsement of the quarterly meeting and Permanent Board
  5. If the Friend requesting a minute plans to travel outside their quarter, the minute must also be endorsed by the quarterly meeting. In the case of travel outside the Yearly Meeting, the minute must be further endorsed by the Permanent Board.
  6. A travel minute is presented for endorsement to each meeting visited. When appropriate, the traveling Friend will report back to Ministry & Counsel any pertinent details of the visit and any return greetings or information. The minute is returned to the monthly meeting upon the Friend’s return. A copy of the travel minute is made part of the minutes of the meeting when the Friend returns. As with all such attachments, it is included in the copy of the minutes sent to the Yearly Meeting archives.
  7. When a Friend is traveling outside the Yearly Meeting with a travel minute endorsed by Permanent Board, the Yearly Meeting Ministry & Counsel contacts the Friend to find out what support they are receiving from their local meeting. The Yearly Meeting M&C contact person may offer suggestions, counsel, and more formal support where it is beneficial. Annually, and when the travel is complete, the traveling Friend will send Permanent Board a brief, written report concerning their travel, with any endorsements that have been added to the travel minute by groups visited. The M&C contact person will receive copies of annual and final reports from the traveling Friend and work with the office staff to get the relevant information entered into the appropriate database.

Sample minute for travel under a concern

[Meeting letterhead and date of the meeting at which it was approved]
Dear Friends,
(Name), a beloved member of  * Monthly Meeting of New England Yearly Meeting, is traveling under a concern for environmental justice. Our Meeting has participated in several of his workshop presentations and has worshipfully considered his leading to travel among Friends with the purpose of sharing his concern and seeking the Light among Friends. We believe him to be genuinely called to this work and trust you will benefit, as we have, from his insights and from the experience of faithful prayer together.
Friend (Name) plans to travel in this ministry between (date) and (date). We commend him to your care and hospitality.
Approved and minuted at * Meeting for Business, (date)
(Signature), Clerk

Endorsed by * Quarterly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside the quarter)

Endorsed by Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside NEYM)

Sample minute for travel in the ministry

[Meeting letterhead and date]
Dear Friends,
Monthly Meeting of Friends is united in recommending  (Name) to your care during her travels among Friends in Bolivia’s yearly meetings. We have tested her leading to travel in a ministry of spiritual nurture and recognize her call to travel among Friends as the Spirit leads, to join them in fellowship, worship and prayer.
(Name)  is an experienced and grounded member of our meeting and active in New England Yearly Meeting. She has faithfully served on and been clerk of various committees within our own Monthly Meeting. She also served as a member of New England Yearly Meeting Ministry & Counsel where her particular work focused on spiritual nurture and eldering.
Through her call, she has traveled under a minute to Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative to better understand the office of elder in a yearly meeting that recognizes such gifts. Her own gift of eldering has assisted         Meeting during times of conflict and provided spiritual nurture to individuals.
We commit Friend (Name) to your prayerful care and nurture during her time among you.
Approved by * Monthly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk

Endorsed by * Quarterly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside the quarter)

Endorsed by Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside of NEYM)

Sample endorsement of travel minute from visited meeting

We have been blessed by the presence of (Name) among us. Her message was moving and inspiring for us. She quietly and capably pointed out places in which our procedures might be able to be improved while not burdening us with specific suggestions.
* Monthly Meeting (date)
(Signature), Clerk

Denominational Endorsement.

A minute of denominational endorsement is given to an individual seeking professional accreditation for a specific calling; for example, a Friend who wishes to serve as a hospital chaplain or a pastoral counselor. It affirms the individual’s membership in the Religious Society of Friends and states that the meeting will assume the necessary supervision for the process.

Since recognition of ministry in NEYM has historically occurred at the quarterly meeting level, not at the yearly meeting level, quarterly meeting endorsement is accepted as “denominational endorsement” by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. It is also accepted for certification by the Association of Professional Chaplains.

  1. The Friend seeking endorsement should approach the monthly meeting clerk or Ministry & Counsel, who will appoint a clearness committee to meet with the Friend to discern the appropriateness of the endorsement and the meeting’s readiness to give such endorsement.
  2. The clearness committee may report back to Ministry & Counsel or directly to the meeting for business, according to the practice of the monthly meeting.
  3. The minute of denominational endorsement must be approved by both the monthly meeting and the quarterly meeting.
  4. The monthly meeting often appoints a committee to support the Friend’s work and to provide any required reports.
  5. The minute of denominational endorsement is in effect for as long as needed. It is not endorsed by the receiving body or returned to the monthly meeting.
  6. The minute of endorsement includes:
    • The name of the Friend receiving endorsement
    • A statement that the Friend is a member in good standing
    • An expression of the monthly meeting’s endorsement of the specific ministry
    • The date approved and the signature of the monthly meeting clerk
    • The date approved and the signature of the quarterly meeting clerk

Sample minute of endorsement

[Meeting letterhead and date]
Minute of Endorsement for (Name)
(Name) is a member in good standing of (Name of monthly meeting) . We endorse his ministry as a pastoral counselor and have approved a committee which will meet with him once a year and be available as otherwise needed. This committee will provide accountability for his ministry by seeking clarity with (Name) about the nature and form this ministry takes. It will also assure an ongoing connection with his faith community.
Signed at the direction of * Monthly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk

Further endorsed by * Quarterly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk

(In this case the monthly meeting is appointing a committee for the Friend receiving endorsement in order to fulfill the requirements of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.)

Minutes of Religious Service

When ministries are of extended duration and well known to the meeting, Ministry & Counsel may write a minute of religious service for the Friend to express corporate support of the Friend and the ministry. These minutes are brief, usually a page or less. They often recognize a Friend with a specific social justice or service leading but can also be written to recognize Friends whose work is broader in scope. Minutes of Religious Service may be written by meetings that wish to recognize and affirm the work of the Spirit in the lives of their members, including meetings that do not choose to participate in the practice of recording ministers.

  1. Monthly meeting Ministry & Counsel discerns that a member has sustained a valuable ministry over time and reports this to the monthly meeting. If the monthly meeting approves, M&C prepares a minute, approved by the monthly meeting, for consideration by the quarterly meeting M&C.
  2. Quarterly meeting Ministry & Counsel appoints a committee to review the ministry of the individual under consideration and report their findings at a subsequent session of the quarterly meeting M&C. If the quarterly meeting M&C approves the minute of religious service, it is reported to the Yearly Meeting Ministry & Counsel.
  3. When the quarterly meeting has acted favorably on the matter, the minute is complete, and the clerk furnishes a copy to the individual’s monthly meeting.
  4. The action is also reported to the Yearly Meeting’s Ministry & Counsel, together with a copy of the minute.

Sample Minute of Religious Service

[Meeting letterhead and date]
Minute of Religious Service for the Ministry of (Name)
Friends Meeting recognizes that our member (Name) has been called by the Spirit into a ministry of helping Friends deepen their relationship with Scripture and the quality of vocal ministry in their meetings. His ministry includes regularly scheduled online short courses of Bible study and visits to monthly meetings to encourage programs of study and lead discussions of spoken ministry. At times he is asked by meetings to address other topics with them. His presentations are archived and available on his blog, *. Grounded in his personal relationship with God, his ministry is a joyful expression of his experience of the Divine.
We have received the blessing of his ministry among us. Through prayer and a Care & Accountability Committee we support his call to minister to others. (Name) and his committee will report to Ministry & Counsel annually and to the meeting for business at appointed times. At the end every third year, the meeting revisits its commitment to support this ministry; the next review of his ministry is scheduled for           .
Approved by  * Monthly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk

Endorsed by * Quarterly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside the quarter)

Endorsed by Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside of NEYM)

This sample is written for a Friend whose ministry is broadly defined, but a Minutes of Religious Service may also be approved for Friends who are carrying a more specific concern as their ministry:

Sample Minute of Religious Service for a Friend’s travel under a concern

[Meeting letterhead and date]
* Friends Meeting recognizes that our member (Name)carries a concern for ending the suffering caused by human trafficking. She has been led by the Spirit to lobbying for reform, to fundraising for the needs of those rescued from trafficking, and to providing spiritual and practical support to victims in New England. She has been an active speaker in Quaker and non-Quaker settings and has given plenaries and led workshops at a Friends General Conference Gathering and two yearly meeting sessions. A fund has been established in the meeting budget to support her work and travel in her ministry.
(Name) is also an active member of our meeting and serves on the Peace and Social Justice Committee of the Yearly Meeting. She undertook a long clearness process under the care of our Ministry & Counsel as she discerned the nature and extent of her leading. In (date) the meeting approved taking her ministry under its care; it is brought to business meeting every third year for approval of renewal.
(Name) is now meeting monthly with a Care & Accountability Committee which reports annually to Ministry & Counsel. She gives an eagerly-anticipated report to our meeting for business every September.
We are grateful for (Name)’s commitment and service.
Approved by * Monthly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk

Endorsed by * Quarterly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside the quarter)

Endorsed by Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting, (date)
(Signature), Clerk (For travel outside of NEYM)

Minute for a Released Friend

A minute of release recognizes that a Friend has a significant leading the meeting feels called to support in specific ways that release the Friend from various other responsibilities in their life. An example would be helping provide relief from the need to earn a full-time income.

  1. A Friend feeling a clear call to an action that requires more than they can sustain individually sends a request for release to Ministry & Counsel or the meeting clerk. An appointed clearness committee then addresses such questions as:
    • Is the calling genuine and clear?
    • Does the meeting, as a body, feel clear that this Friend needs to be released?
    • Is the person equipped to carry out the calling?
    • In what ways is the meeting willing and able to support this calling? (This may include financial or other material support.)
  2. Ministry & Counsel or another appropriate committee proposes a minute of release to the monthly meeting. The minute of release includes:
    • A description of the leading and work for which the Friend is released;
    • The time period and review/renewal process for the minute;
    • What specific resources the meeting will provide, including committees of Spiritual Care & Accountability and possible financial support.
  3. If the minute of release is approved, the released Friend may carry the minute with them to use in any way that supports their call. It needs no further endorsement.
  4. The Care & Accountability committee for the released Friend makes regular reports to Ministry & Counsel, which shares parts or all of the report with meeting for business.

Sample minute of release

[Meeting letterhead and date]
(Name) is an active member of * Monthly Meeting. They have shared with us their calling to work with, and on behalf of, survivors of child abuse. Their deep commitment has led them to work with others throughout the state and country to build a supportive network that addresses the needs of people who suffer from childhood trauma, and to advocate for children’s rights. This work addresses both the very personal needs for caring and healing and the larger need for social and political change.
Having tested (Name)’s concern, we are convinced this work is a leading and we release them for this service.
This minute of release will be reviewed in three years.
(Signature), Clerk (date)

The full minute of which the minute of release is a part needs to state the responsibilities of the meeting:

Details included in a full minute

Ministry & Counsel will provide several forms of support for the released Friend’s work.

  •  Appoint a committee of two or three persons to provide spiritual and practical support for the released Friend to meet with them during the life of the work
  • Manage the disbursement of any financial support
  • Maintain an informed interest in the progress of the work through periodic reports to the committee on Ministry and Counsel
  • Prayerfully consider other forms of support as need arises

Recording Gifts in Ministry

This process has traditionally been used to acknowledge sustained gifts in vocal ministry as exhibited in a particular Friend, and of the Society’s trust in the Friend to represent the Religious Society of Friends to the wider community. Not all quarterly meetings in New England continue the practice of recording. (See Paragraph 50 and Minutes of Religious Service, above, for information on how meetings recognize ministry in other ways.)

  1. Monthly meeting Ministry & Counsel discerns that a member has a sustained gift in vocal ministry and reports this to the monthly meeting. If the monthly meeting approves, M&C prepares a minute for consideration by the quarterly meeting.
  2. Quarterly meeting Ministry & Counsel appoints a committee to consider the general fitness of the individual under consideration. Assuming this committee determines the Friend is fit, it reports its findings to a subsequent session of the quarterly meeting M&C. If the quarterly meeting M&C approves the recording, it reports to the Yearly Meeting.
  3. When the quarterly meeting acts favorably on the matter, the recording is complete, and the clerk furnishes a copy of the minute to the individual’s monthly meeting and to the Yearly Meeting’s Ministry & Counsel.
  4. The minute remains in effect while the ministry has life.

Rescinding Recording of a Gift.

Gifts of the spirit often lie quiescent for a time, only to emerge again with full vigor. However, if the minister or the meeting finds the gift of ministry appears to have been withdrawn, or if Friends no longer feel comfortable being represented to the world by this individual, the community may consider rescinding the recording. Laboring over the possibility that the gift is no longer present can be painful. As much as possible, it is best to allow the individual to faithfully discern the status of the gift and, if appropriate, request that Ministry & Counsel lay down the recording. In the absence of a request from the Friend, the proposal to rescind originates either in the M&C of the quarterly meeting or in the M&C of the Friend’s monthly meeting. In every case final action should rest with the quarterly meeting. The individual concerned, and the monthly meeting to which the Friend belongs should be notified before final action is taken.

  1. A committee from the quarter’s Ministry and Counsel is appointed to meet with the individual to discern, with that Friend, the life of the ministry, or to explore the question of whether they are still an appropriate representative of the Religious Society of Friends.
  2. When laboring over the possibility that the gift is no longer present, it is important to allow the individual, as much as possible, to faithfully discern the status of the gift. In this light, it is preferable to have the Friend who carries the gift request the laying down of the recording, rather than having the request for rescinding be brought by the committee alone.
  3. The committee reports back to the quarterly meeting Ministry & Counsel, which then discerns the committee’s recommendation and brings it to the quarterly meeting.
  4. The monthly meeting and the Friend with the recorded gift should be notified prior to final action, and Ministry & Counsel of the Yearly Meeting should be notified of the decision to rescind.
  5. The final action rests with the quarterly meeting.

5N. The Search for a Pastor

A pastoral search committee under the care of Ministry & Counsel reviews applications from candidates and recommends to M&C those they feel are appropriate to invite for interviews. After meeting with the search committee and possibly M&C, promising candidates are invited to attend worship on a Sunday. They are asked to bring a message and perhaps arrange for other program elements for the worship such as prayer, music, readings, and a children’s message. It’s best for the day to include some fellowship time with the candidate and an opportunity for questions from anyone in the meeting. In this way the whole meeting has a chance to experience the candidate’s ministry, talk with them, and offer feedback to the pastoral search committee. The search committee reports their discernment to M&C who brings a recommendation to the meeting for business for approval. Once the selection is approved, M&C and the candidate together work out the terms of the contract to include clear expectations for both the pastor and the meeting. Meetings should expect to offer a fair wage, and contributions to health insurance and retirement. When the contract has been finalized, M&C brings it to the meeting for business for approval.