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. Letter of Introduction 

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

  1. A Friend planning to visit other Friends meetings may ask the monthly meeting clerk for a letter of introduction, either for a single trip or, in the case of a Friend who travels frequently, for several journeys.
  2. As no clearness committee process or approval by the monthly meeting is required, the clerk may simply write the letter, although as a matter of courtesy the clerk may wish to inform the monthly meeting when a letter has been requested and provided. 
  3. A letter of introduction states 
    a. The name of the traveling Friend
    b. That the Friend is a member or attender of the meeting providing the letter
    c. The signature of the clerk. More detail may be added.
  4. No endorsement is expected; the letter remains with the Friend who carried it.

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

5B. Minutes for Travel Under Concern or Ministry  

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

A Friend feeling led to travel under a spiritual concern or in the ministry may find that it is helpful to carry a travel minute issued by the monthly meeting for business. The travel minute serves as an introduction of the traveling Friend to meetings that are visited to share the concern or ministry. It also provides any pertinent information about the meeting’s interest in and support of his/her concern. It may state a specific time for the Friend’s travels, or may be written to accompany the Friend for more than one trip.

  1. The Friend seeking a travel minute requests such from the clerk of ministry and counsel or directly from the monthly meeting clerk, depending on the practice of  the particular meeting. 
  2. A clearness process is required; how the clearness committee is formed and  by whom varies from meeting to meeting, but it is typically either the ministry and counsel committee or the meeting for business. The clearness committee may report first to ministry and counsel 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 committee or by the meeting clerk. A meeting may provide a travel minute in support of a Friend’s concern without having to join in that concern. 
  4. The minute includes:
    a. The name of the Friend traveling
    b. An expression of the meeting’s endorsement of the travel (as noted above, the meeting might or might not unite with the concern) under concern or in the ministry
    c. 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 of his/her quarter, then 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 of the meetings visited. When appropriate, the traveling Friend will report back to ministry and counsel any pertinent details of visit and any return greetings or information. The minute is returned to the monthly meeting upon the Friend’s return.

Sample minute for travel under a concern

[Meeting letterhead and date]
Dear Friends,
[Name], a long-time 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 to share his concern and to seek the Light among Friends. We believe him to be genuinely called to this work and that 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

(For travel outside the quarter:)

Endorsed by _______ Quarterly Meeting, [date]
[Signature], clerk

(For travel outside NEYM):

Endorsed by Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting, [date]
[Signature], clerk

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 Cuba Yearly Meeting. We have tested her leading to travel in ministry 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 centered Friend who has been an active member of the Society of Friends for many years. She has faithfully served on and been clerk of various committees within our own Monthly Meeting as well as serving as a member of New England Yearly Meeting Ministry and 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

(For travel outside the quarter):

Endorsed by  _______ Quarterly Meeting, [date]. 
[Signature], clerk

(For travel outside NEYM):

Endorsed by Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting, [date].
[Signature], clerk

Sample endorsement of travel minute from visited meeting

We have been blessed by the presence of [Name] among us. Her message was very moving and inspiring for us.
[Signature], Clerk
Monthly Meeting [date]

5C. Denominational Endorsement

A minute of denominational endorsement is given to an individual seeking professional accreditation for a specific calling; for example, to 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 that the meeting will assume the necessary oversight 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.

  1. The Friend seeking endorsement should approach the clerk or ministry  and 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 and 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. An oversight and/or support committee is often appointed 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: 
    a. The name of the Friend receiving endorsement;
    b. A statement that the Friend is a member in good standing; 
    c. An expression of the meeting’s endorsement of the specific ministry; 
    d. The date and signature of the monthly meeting clerk; and 
    e. The date and 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 Mt. Toby Monthly Meeting. We endorse his ministry as a pastoral counselor and have approved an oversight 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 an oversight committee for the Friend receiving endorsement in order to fulfill the requirements of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.)

5D. Recording Gifts in Ministry 

(See pp. 246-247 in NEYM Faith and Practice 1985)

This minute has traditionally been used for Friends who have sustained gifts in vocal ministry. It is an affirmation that the individual is not only locally helpful but also has the ability to interpret the Society of Friends to the wider community.

  1. Monthly meeting ministry and counsel discerns that a member has a sustained gift in vocal ministry and reports this to the monthly meeting.  If monthly meeting approves, ministry and counsel will prepare a minute for the consideration by the quarterly meeting  ministry and counsel.
  2. Quarterly meeting ministry and counsel will appoint a committee to  appraise the general fitness of the individual under consideration and report at a subsequent session of the quarterly meeting ministry and  counsel. If the committee reports favorably, a recommendation will be  brought to the quarterly meeting.
  3. When the quarterly meeting has acted favorably on the matter, the recording is thereby completed, and the clerk will furnish a copy to the monthly meeting of which the individual is a member. 
  4. The action should also be reported to the Yearly Meeting committee on ministry and counsel together with a copy of the minute.
  5. The minute remains in effect for the life of the ministry.

Sample minute of recording

[Meeting letterhead and date]
At  _______ Quarterly Meeting held [date] at _______ , Friends united in recording [Name] of _______ Monthly Meeting as a minister among Friends. She has shown abundant evidence of a sustained gift in vocal ministry both in her home Meeting as well as in her wide-ranging travels.
[Signature], clerk

5E. Released Friends

Occasionally a meeting will find among its members a Friend whose specific call would flourish more fully if it had the meeting’s prayerful endorsement, support and oversight. A minute of release recognizes that a Friend has a significant leading which the meeting feels called to support in specific ways. This process frees the Friend to pursue the leading and releases them from a variety of other responsibilities within the meeting and, possibly, in other area of their lives; for example, being excused from committee responsibilities within the meeting, or relief from the need to earn a full-time income.

A Friend feeling a clear call to act that requires more than s/he can sustain individually sends a request for release to ministry and counsel or the meeting. An appointed committee will address such questions as:

  1. Is the calling genuine and clear?
  2. Does the meeting as a body feel clear that this Friend needs to be released?
  3. Is the person equipped to carry out the calling?
  4. In what ways is the Meeting willing and able to support this calling? (This may include financial or other material support.)

Ministry and Counsel or another appropriate committee proposes a minute of release to the monthly meeting. The minute of release includes:

  1. A description of the leading and work for which the Friend is released
  2. The time period and review/renewal process for the minute 
  3. What specific resources the meeting will provide, including committees of oversight and/or support and possible financial support

If the minute of release is approved, the released Friend may carry the minute with them to use in any way which supports that call. It needs no further endorsement.

Sample minute of release

[Meeting letterhead and date]
[Name] is an active member of _______ Monthly Meeting. She has shared with us her calling to work with, and on behalf of, those who are victims and survivors of child abuse. Her deep commitment has led her to work with others throughout the state and country to begin building a supportive network for the compelling needs of those victims of childhood trauma, and to work to establish 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 real leading and we release her for this service.
This minute of release will be reviewed in three years.
[Signature], clerk

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

Sample detail in full minute

The Committee o­n Ministry and Counsel will provide several forms of support for her work.

  1. Appoint a committee of two or three persons to provide spiritual and  practical support for [Name], to meet with her during the life of the work.
  2. Maintain an informed interest in the progress of the work through periodic reports to the committee on Ministry and Counsel.
  3. Prayerfully consider other forms of support as need may arise.

5F.  Support and Accountability of a Gift of Vocal Ministry.

Once an individual Friend has been found to have a gift for vocal ministry, that ministry needs to be supported. The form of the support should be determined by the needs of the Friend. Since the gift is given to the meeting through the Friend, it is the meeting’s responsibility to support the faithfulness and spiritual health of that Friend. What does that Friend need for preparation, refreshment and eldering? It may take the form of an oversight or support committee that meets regularly with the Friend with the recorded gift, or support may be offered as advice and encouragement from another elder. Discussion may consider the work and service of the individual; queries may be developed by the group, or found elsewhere. 

Queries for recorded ministers

  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 train and enrich the fullest expression of the gift entrusted to you for the benefit of the community? 
  3. How are you being formed for the ministry? Reflect upon your inner life, and your struggles and joys in this work, both spiritual & emotional. Are you seeking the support you need to sustain your service?

Queries for meetings

  1. Do you as a monthly meeting recognize the interdependence between your meeting and the vitality of the vocal ministry that arises in the meeting? 
  2. Do you regularly inquire about the spiritual condition of your recorded ministers, and all those who offer vocal ministry?
  3. Do you ask if those recorded as carrying a gift in vocal ministry continue to feel enlivened by, and faithful to the gift?
  4. Do you offer the support of an oversight committee to nurture and cultivate the gift? 
  5. Do you request regular reporting from the minister about the nature and exercise of the gift?
  6. Do you regularly ask your ministers what support or oversight they need?

5G.  Rescinding Recording of a Gift.

Remember that gifts of the spirit often lie quiescent for a time, only to emerge again with full vigor.  But in the case where the minister or the meeting finds that the gift of ministry appears to have been withdrawn, or Friends no longer feel comfortable being represented to the world by that individual, a proposal to rescind the action recording that Friend’s gift may be put forward. The proposal originates either in the Ministry and Counsel of the quarterly meeting or in the Ministry and Counsel of the monthly meeting where the Friend is a member.  In every case final action should rest with the quarterly meeting. The individual concerned, and the monthly meeting to which he or she 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 explain why they are no longer considered 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 steward his or her own gift of ministry.  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 and 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 and Counsel of the yearly meeting should be notified of the decision to rescind. 
  5. The final action rests with the quarterly meeting.