During the past two months, I have felt an increasing call to travel in the ministry. What I am about to post is probably going to be unfamiliar territory for Friends of other yearly meetings, though the current process in Ohio YM is what other YMs would have recognized historically. This post is not at all intended as a critique of anyone else or a means of evaluating anyone's faithfulness. I ask thee as the reader to have an open heart towards me if something seems unfamiliar.
Sensing the call
During my prayer time lately, I have sensed a renewed call from the Lord to travel in the Truth's service. I have done this in the past on occasion, so this is not anything new. The particulars of the current call are different from earlier calls I have felt. My earlier travels were single journeys of varying lengths, but the current call is to visit certain new meetings or meetings that are experiencing new growth. Since they are geographically scattered, this travel will likely consist of a series of weekend trips scattered throughout the coming 12 months. Visiting all the particular meetings that have been coming to my mind over and over during my prayers will include some air travel and some long car travel.
Testing the Leading
Friends have always had a concern that none of us go forth in such a venture without the Lord's direction. This has sometimes been called "running without being sent" or "going forth in our own power or strength." Evaluating and testing the leading is very important. In this case, I don't want to talk myself into doing something.
Over a century ago, Susan B. Anthony questioned why some people claimed a leading from the Lord to do something that they were already inclined to do. I have used this insight to help weigh my own leadings. In the current case, though, it does not seem to apply. I am not inclined to travel - in fact, left to my own devices, I would stay home and become a hermit (with occasional forays to libraries and archives in various places).
In the past, when I had concerns to travel, I had people in my life who I would consult. Neither of them had sympathy for travels under religious concern, and having to explain my concern to them helped me to evaluate the strength of the call. Not having these people to consult this time, I spoke with some Friends in my meeting for initial advice before asking for a minute. Much to my surprise, they all believed that it was a right leading and were glad to hear about it. Ohio Friends have a growing sense today that more travelling and visiting is needed throughout the Society of Friends, which is fine but does not help to discern the rightness of this particular leading. I have to say that confirmation without deeper exploration is not the way my mind works (though I am willing to accept it).
One thing that weighs on me is the problem of expectations. The following things seem pertinent right now - perhaps others will materialize later.
What do I expect of my meeting? This is one of the easier queries to answer. I believe that the nature of the concern requires a travelling minute from my meeting. I plan to request it at our next monthly meeting. Though I do not plan to travel outside of my Quarterly Meeting, and thus do not actually need a QM minute as well, I feel that the weight of the concern would benefit from having a QM minute. Asking for a minute is very much a cross to my will. I find it very difficult to trouble the meeting with things like this. They will need to appoint someone to draft a travelling minute for me and work out one or more people to serve as companions. Since this particular concern is easily broken down into smaller trips, different Friends might accompany me on different travels.
What does my meeting expect of me? This is a valuable question that I don't have a good answer for yet. I usually give a report at the end of the travel, but is that sufficient?
What do I expect from the visited meetings? This question weighs on me, too. I once accompanied a Friend travelling under religious concern with a minute from his MM, and much to my amazement most meetings he visited didn't know what to do with his minute. I have wondered if I should draft a short statement of what I expect from them. Of course, at a minimum it would be nice if the local Clerk or another Friend would read the minute aloud after meeting and endorse it. It is also helpful if Friends are available after the worship time for a time of fellowship - but few meetings do anything like that these days. Also I'm not sure how many meetings will have someone able to offer a place to stay overnight.
The biggest thing, though, that I expect from the visited meetings is a sense that the visit was something more than a flippant excuse for a vacation from work.
What do the visited meetings expect from me? This is another question mark in my consideration. I definitely do not desire to be controversial or divisive in this travel. I don't seek to draw anyone away from what is happening locally - in fact, part of the concern is to enrich the emergence of gifts locally and thus strengthen the overall Body of Christ. To be sure, some people in the visited meetings will have no idea of what to expect from the "exotic birds" from Ohio. Maybe that's a good thing.
What do I expect of myself? This is a good question that I have considered today. I need to spend additional preparation time - not trying to figure out "what to say" but rather taking time for spiritual cleansing and emptying of myself to make sure that I am not carrying any venom that might taint what I say either in ministry or in conversations. This includes additional prayer time and additional time with the Scriptures and books with sound advice about ministry.
One last thing that weighs on me is the need to state that the purpose of this travel is not to make people become more like I am or even to become well-known or popular. I hope that if anything others will be able to sense callings of their own that may be brought forth in a new way and thus bring glory to our Creator, who does all things well.