4. Visiting and Visitation Among Meetings
The importance of visitation among Friends cannot be overemphasized. New voices are needed in local meetings to broaden viewpoints and introduce fresh insights into truth. Over a wider area, visitation can help keep the balance between the differing interpretations of Quakerism and increase understanding between members of the various meetings, regions, and branches of the Religious Society of Friends.
LETTER OF INTRODUCTION. Where visiting among Friends is merely incidental to travel for some other purpose, a monthly meeting may issue a letter of introduction for a member in good standing. Such a letter requires no further endorsement. Quarterly or yearly meetings may originate similar letters as occasion warrants.
MINUTE OF TRAVEL. Where a member proposes to travel under the weight of a concern, the monthly meeting may issue a minute of travel releasing the Friend for a particular service. The minute of travel is a certificate endorsing the Friend’s concern, indicating that the meeting is in unity with and in support of this venture.
The service undertaken may include arranging public addresses, informal conferences, visiting in families, appointing meetings, or making group visits, prompted by a desire to deepen the religious life of the Society or promote a specific form of social action. At the business meeting where the proposed minute is taken up, and in advance of that meeting, where possible, Friends should give counsel and sympathetic consideration to the individual and the concern.
Discretion and sensitivity to divine guidance, as well as to the conditions of those who will be met, are vital qualifications for visitors. A minute of travel should not be granted lightly, and the monthly meeting’s preparers should so phrase it that there can be no doubt of the purpose for which the monthly meeting issued it or any basis for confusion with a letter of introduction.
When a monthly meeting approves a minute of travel under specific concern that involves visitation among non-Friends or Friends outside the limits of the yearly meeting, the monthly meeting clerk should forward the minute of travel to the next succeeding session of the yearly meeting for further consideration and endorsement before delivery to the traveling Friend. Similar treatment should be accorded a minute of travel originating in a quarterly or equivalent meeting. The yearly meeting may originate minutes of travel at any of its sessions.
It is desirable that Friends traveling under a concern to other yearly meetings consult the Friends World Committee for Consultation, Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, and the office and appropriate committees of this yearly meeting (where their scope is related to the purpose of the visit). Helpful suggestions and literature are also available from the Friends World Committee for Consultation. Persons who have been granted minutes of travel should return them to the issuing meeting within a reasonable time after the service is completed. Minutes for an extended period of service should be considered to have expired after one year unless renewal has been requested and granted.
Friends are advised not to let the prosecution of any proper spiritual concern of a member be hampered by lack of funds. The meeting issuing or endorsing a minute of travel should consider whether it is under obligation to aid in the accomplishment of the service and contribute toward the expense, if necessary.