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Travelling in the ministry: sharing joy and community

Travelling to visit and worship with Friends in other Quaker meetings can be one form of ministry. Matt Rosen shares his experience so far.

I believe that the travelling ministry is a vital witness to our connectedness as a yearly meeting. Photo shows Chris Stern (elder for travel), Matt Rosen and John Miles (Nailsworth Meeting).
I believe that the travelling ministry is a vital witness to our connectedness as a yearly meeting. Photo shows Chris Stern (elder for travel), Matt Rosen and John Miles (Nailsworth Meeting).

A year ago, I started to feel led to travel in the ministry among Friends. I had read about earlier Quakers who travelled between meetings, carrying a message of hope and light, but I also knew that this had become unusual in Britain.

My initial response to the leading was to tell God I was not interested, but thanks anyway. I felt I was too shy to speak in front of groups, too young to be taken seriously, and I reminded God that the travelling ministry had died out in Britain. I spent a lot of time in prayer, but God wasn't moved. The prompting persisted and I started to experience it outside of worship. I knew that I needed to find a way to listen and be faithful.

Led by the Spirit

My meeting was a tremendous help. Friends in my meeting sat with me, worshipped with me, and discerned with me. They felt clear that the Spirit was leading me to undertake this travel and that I shouldn't refuse to be faithful just because God's plans don't make sense to me.

My meeting wrote a travel minute, which travels with me and explains my calling and my meeting's discernment about this. They also put together a committee to anchor me in my ongoing discernment. There's no way I could have said yes to this leading without my meeting's encouragement.

Since then, I've been travelling in the ministry throughout Britain Yearly Meeting. I'm called to fellowship with Friends, especially in smaller or more isolated meetings, who are anxious about the future of our Religious Society. I'm drawn to a ministry of comfort and encouragement, and to carry a message about the presence and power of our inward Teacher. So far I have visited ten meetings and there are more visits planned. I'll travel until I'm released from the leading.

Joy and community

Matt Rosen underneath a sign saying Friends Meeting House at Leighton Buzzard Meeting

My ministry takes different shapes in different meetings, in response to the discernment of local Friends and the movement of the Spirit. In some meetings, I simply join Friends for worship and minister if and as led. In other meetings, I lead workshops about Quaker renewal, care of the earth, or Quaker Christianity, or I speak about my convincement, community among young Friends, and travel in the ministry. In all of this I feel that the real ministry to which I'm called is to be among Friends in joy and community.

Since Friends rarely travel in the ministry in Britain, part of the ministry has to be explaining this practice. That's a joy for me, because I believe that the travelling ministry is a vital witness to our connectedness as a yearly meeting and a live option in the twenty-first century.

Faithfulness in ministry

In my travels so far, I've received more than I've been able to give. I've learned about being faithful in ministry, the challenges facing local meetings, and how the Spirit is moving among us and gathering us together. At times, this has felt daunting. But the sense of an opportunity to share in hope and friendship – to share the delight I find in worship – has persisted. And the yoke has felt easy when, even with all the challenges they're facing, meetings respond openly and vulnerably to the message I'm carrying: that we have a Teacher in our presence, whom we can know inwardly and personally, without the need for any hierarchy or institution, and that this Teacher can guide and empower us.

Yielding to this calling has been a joyful thing, a chance to grow and be worked on by God. I'm learning that we aren't always led according to our strengths and ambitions. God's strength is perfected in my weakness, my inability, my puzzlement at the promptings I feel. My work is to open myself to the surprising things being asked of me and to trust that words and strength will be given. So far they have been, and I've been gladly surprised at every turn.

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