The Committee also encourages more formal, carefully planned visits. Such visits may be initiated by a concerned individual wishing to visit, perhaps with a special concern; they may be initiated by a Friends’ organization such as the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), The Friends Committee en National Legislation (FCNL), the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), the yearly meeting, a monthly meeting, or the Brinton Visitor Program. Or, the initiative may be taken by a meeting or worship group, requesting a particular kind of visitor. The Web site [npym.org] has a list of resources for programs focusing on particular concerns.
Experience suggests that each group or meeting
waits for someone else to
take the initiative for visitation,
SO WE ENCOURAGE ACTION!
While some visits need extensive planning, many do not. While expectations should be clear, we encourage hosts and visitors to be open to where an experience may lead.
The following ideas and suggestions are specific, hopefully to help Friends get past a vague and foreboding sense about visitation, which can inhibit experimentation.
The Outreach Committee has found the 1956 FWCC publication by Ferner Nuhn, Visitation Among Friends useful. While fewer Friends now travel under concern, these comments seem helpful, especially the idea of testing a concern in one’s meeting. (Passages from the pamphlet have been slightly edited in an attempt to remove the non-inclusive language of the time.)
Isolated Friends also enjoy and appreciate informal visits. Some can provide hospitality easily; some can provide camping spaces; others do not have either facilities, but would enjoy a chance to talk and explore ideas and hear about Quaker activities. In all cases, advance notice is not only considerate, it is essential, to determine whether schedules can be meshed and a visit’s timing is feasible and welcome.
Some people may enjoy simply stopping for worship with a meeting or worship group while traveling. Such an unannounced visit can be stimulating and warm and lays no burden or expectations on hosts or visitors. Some of the worship groups meet in people’s homes, so a call to the contact person listed is usually necessary to determine the location of a particular day’s meeting. Worship groups usually do not meet every week, but if they know a visitor will be in the area, they can often arrange to meet, and welcome the opportunity. The Outreach Committee urges all Friends to consider the above variety of informal visits, and to explore and develop other ideas.
Our Faith & Practice encourages all Friends with leadings to share a concern to form a clearness committee to season their concern before taking it to their Meeting. [see Concerns and Liberating Friends, p. 71. Paul Lacey’s Pendle Hill pamphlet “On Leadings and Being Led”is also helpful.] We find that a “travelling elder” who travels as a support, assistant and counselor always makes the travelling ministry more effective and easier.
VISITING AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF A FRIENDS ORGANIZATION
Friends visiting for an organization will usually have specific experiences or resources to share, which may stimulate or nurture a group. These visitors may well be responding to a request from a Friends group. Some people feel inadequate representing Friends. Yet we believe that all can offer their own experience and perceptions, humbly recognizing their limitations. Ferner Nuhn notes: “Most of all, [a visitor] needs to have a sense of the inner significance of all religious activity.” This is derived from direct experience. His pamphlet also included useful concrete ideas for visitors
Every visitor will have a special way of inducing participation. A question period following a talk is a common way, and if the visitor has “spoken to the condition” of the hearers, there are sure to be vital be vital questions. Another method that has been found helpful in small new groups or meetings, and even in older ones, is to begin the meeting with introductions around the circle in which each person has the chance to share personal things: background – especially religious background – reason for being there, and concerns of interest. None should be pressed to speak. The visitor may well set the tone for such a round of speaking first. The depth, candor, and creativeness, as well as the conciseness and point of expression will call out like qualities in others, and often very deep centers will be touched. Out of such an exchange may come the subjects most vital to the persons present and to the stage of development of the group. A “floor” will have been laid, so to speak, upon which any further structure can be raised. Sometimes, a considerable part, even the major part, of an evening may be profitably spent in such an exchange.
In NPYM a number of people are experienced leaders in Quaker Dialogue with worship discussion queries, another method to promote in-depth sharing and searching within a Friends group, heightened by silence and active listening. AFSC, FCNL and FWCC visitors often provide an opportunity to explore how Friends testimonies and concerns are addressed in relation to our local, national and international communities.
A visitor, as an outsider to a group, may usefully listen to and reflect upon problems of an individual or of the group. A visitor, however, can neither engage in extensive counseling with individuals, nor salve group problems. Perhaps the greatest gift a visitor, as an outsider to a group, may bring is to usefully listen to and reflect back problems discerned of an individual ...