The Intervisitation Program of Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) seeks to strengthen the Religious Society of Friends and nurture the beloved community of Friends, especially within Friends United Meeting (FUM). While BYM’s concern regarding an FUM personnel policy planted the seed, that concern is not the program’s focus. Rather, as we in BYM faced the pain we felt as a result of that policy, we awoke to the fragility, and in some cases brokenness, of the relationships among the Yearly Meetings and monthly meetings within FUM. Thus the goal of BYM’s Intervisitation Program is to encourage, prepare, and support Friends to travel among Yearly Meetings with the faith that we can listen deeply, strengthen our relationships, and build our faith community. Our program assumes that intervisitation will be in all directions and those interested will offer and receive hospitality.
Our Committee resonates with the spiritual challenges of peace-making and building community within Friends United Meeting. Since we wrote the above mission statement, our numbers have grown as we have united with other Friends in seeking to build bridges of understanding through a traveling ministry of presence, deep listening, and hospitality. Over the years we have found that we actually become the bridges. Friends who have participated in this ministry include:
- our ministers and elders who travel to other yearly meetings,
- our own committee members,
- guests who come from FUM offices and other Yearly Meetings to our Annual Session,
- Friends who give hospitality to those traveling to and from BYM and,
- all participants at Annual Session who meet our travelers and guests and attend our many events.
Only by working together can we “strengthen the Religious Society of Friends and nurture the beloved community of Friends.”
Our Friendly outreach is spiritually challenging because we are forming relationships among Friends who are different from us in ways that are surprising and occasionally annoying or even threatening. Each of us — traveler, guest, host, and participant — risks leaving our comfort zone. We serve in faith. We ask God to send us the wisdom to heed the exhortation that George Fox gave Friends from Launceston Prison in 1656: “Be patterns, be examples, in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.”
While clearness and support committees from our Monthly Meetings and some financial support are essential, this work requires Yearly Meeting direction, outreach, coordination, and funding. Endorsement by the Yearly Meeting enhances the credibility of our invitations to guests. The hard work of staff and other BYM members ensures Friendly hospitality for our guests at Annual Session. Traveling minutes for our ministers, endorsed by Interim or Yearly Meeting, and letters of introduction for our accompanying elders, breathe new life into these Quaker traditions and highlight the spiritual gifts of our travelers. Yearly Meeting funding of this ministry means that a variety of Friends are able to travel to and from BYM — including retired Friends, Young Friends, and Young Adult Friends who are still paying for their educations.
Knowing more about who we are now, as diverse Friends, enables us to move into the future with greater clarity and to witness to our world with greater unity of purpose.
Activities from August 1 2009 – August 10, 2010
The year that ended in August, 2009 was a difficult one for our Committee. During the final six months, several key Committee members and a few guests from other FUM yearly meetings, who have attended our previous Annual Sessions, struggled with serious medical issues, some personal and some familial. These health difficulties and crises detracted from our abilities to prepare for, and in some cases, even attend our last Annual Session events. Nevertheless, by grace, we were able to host our guests and sponsor events that drew in members of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, some of whom were new to our work and ministry. Our evening sessions were especially lively and caring of one another. The Committee left our 2009 Annual Session with new and renewed members and a shared leadership who have worked together creatively.
At our first meeting in September, we began preparing for the next round of our traveling ministry. This came to include three new BYM travelers to other FUM yearly meetings in North American and seven women who felt led to attend the United Society of Friends Women International Triennial in Mombasa, Kenya in July of 2010. These were good signs! Clearness and Support Committees were formed and work on new and renewed travel minutes was begun. The Kenyan Team, coordinated by Joan Liversidge, started to meet and plan logistics.
At our December meeting we approved final copy of our invitations to guests from other Friends United Meetings to attend our 2010 Annual Session. In late January, within three weeks of the invitations being issued, our Committee clerk received an email from the General Secretary of New York YM saying they had already identified two guests for our August meeting. A few days later, she received an email from a prospective guest from Iowa YM. To have guests this early was another sign that 2010 would be a banner year for Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Intervisitation Program.
- The clerk assembled an introductory packet for new committee members.
- A yearly calendar of tasks and events was created; a calendar of FUM-YM Annual Sessions with their locations was created.
- Reports were made for the Interchange and Interim Meetings. Travel minutes were forwarded for endorsement by IM.
- Anticipated expenses for 2010 and a budget request for 2011 were forwarded to the Stewardship and Finance Committee.
- Invitation letters for guests to our Annual Session were revised and an attachment was assembled, “Shared Reflections on the BYM Intervisitation Program.” Our goal was to paint a more experiential picture of our Program by quoting from reports and comments written by our travelers and guests from as early as 2006.
- The Biblical Vision of Peace, by Georgia Fuller, a pamphlet written for and distributed at the 2008 FUM Triennial in North Carolina, was redrafted for an African audience and plans were made with Ann Riggs to co-publish the revised pamphlet with Friends Theological College in Kaimosi, Kenya.
- Touchstones for Clearness and Support Committees, by Georgia Fuller, was drafted, edited, and distributed at our Training Workshop.
- March 28 Training Workshop, coordinated by Joan Liversidge and Meg Meyer, was presented at Langley Hill Friends Meeting. The event was open to everyone in BYM with special attention to our travelers and members of their clearness committees. About thirty people attended, including Ann Riggs and presenters Mary Lord and Chloe Schwenke.
- After the USFWI Triennial, Joan Liversidge, Babs Williams, Mel Snyder, and Rosemary Davis will travel to Friends Theological College. Rosemary will help in the library and Joan, Babs, and Mel will offer a short course in pastoral care.
- At the request of the Program Committee we asked one of our guests to lead the morning Bible Study and another to lead the afternoon Bible Study.
- We have prepared two workshops for Annual Session and we are sponsoring two others. We are planning several activities where BYM members can meet our guests.
- Because we anticipate the largest number of guests ever, we plan to pair each one with an elder or companion.
Travel Plans for BYM Ministers and Elders as of May 31, 2010:
- Southeastern YM: Jean James (Richmond), Maria Bradley (Sandy Spring), and Tim Bradley (companion), March 31-April 4
- Great Plains YM: Linda Coates (Little Britain) and Maria Bradley (Sandy Spring), June 3-5
- United Society Friends Women International Triennial: Sharon Knox (Patapsco), Mel Snyder & Babs Williams (Langley Hill), Jolee Robinson (Adelphi), Joan Liversidge (Sandy Spring), J.E. McNeil (Washington), and Rosemary Davis (Patapsco), in the company of FUM Board members Mary Lord and Rich Liversidge, July 1-4
- Wilmington YM: Jolee Robinson (Adelphi) and Meg Meyer (Stony Run), July 22-25
- Western YM: Ken Stockbridge (Patapsco) and Martha Gay (Adelphi), July 30 – August 2
- Canadian YM: Jean James (Richmond) August 13-21
- North Carolina YM: Ken Stockbridge (Patapsco) and Erik Hanson (Takoma Park), September 3-6
Anticipated Guests to our 2010 Annual Session as of May 31, 2010:
- Southeastern YM: Neil and Phoebe Anderson (returning)
- New England YM: Minga Claggett-Bourne and Deana Chase (returning)
- FUM Office: Sylvia Graves (returning and leading morning Bible Study))
- North Carolina YM: Tony Lowe and Betsy Blake (new guests: Tony is leading the afternoon Bible Study and Betsy is a Young Adult Friend)
- Wilmington YM: Betty Johnson (new guest)
- Great Plains YM: Aaron Fowler
- Kenya: Henry Apencha (new guest)
- New York YM: Gabe Obermayer and Risa Pomerselig (new guests, both are Young Friends)
- Iowa YM: Kevin Mortimer (new guest, and presenting two workshops)
- We have a few more invitations outstanding and are waiting to hear back.