Friday, May 02, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 214 - I for Intervisitation

This is a long word for a simple practice. I first heard it used by an elderly Friend in my former meeting who was concerned that members of larger meetings in our area meeting should sometimes visit smaller ones in order to encourage them. Another older Friend from Reading, Richard Schardt, was in the habit of visiting meetings around the country and he asked for and was provided with a 'travelling minute' from the area meeting. He brought back an annual report and his intervisitation is explained by him in QFP 13.31

Neither of these Friends saw what they were doing, and encouraging others to do, as 'travelling in the ministry' and in fact Richard quite vehemently denied that this was any part of his concern. They both wanted to support and encourage through friendly contact, to remind meetings that they were not isolated but part of a larger network.

I have visited other meetings when on holiday but my main intervisitation has been alongside the workshops and talks I have given about spiritual autobiography and other subjects over the years. I have travelled all over the UK and often stayed with Friends, attended meeting for worship and built up contacts and friendships.

Another kind of intervisitation can happen at different kinds of gatherings - Area Meeting, Regional Meeting and Yearly Meeting all give us the opportunity to 'see one another's faces', to meet a wide variety of other Friends and talk about our different situations. Woodbrooke too acts as centre where Friends from different meetings, countries and cultures can come together. After all the word intervisitation implies a two-way process. I visit you, you visit me and we both expect to benefit.

Personally the experience of intervisitation which has probably influenced me most has been through my involvement with QUIP (Quakers Uniting in Publications). Not only have I learned a lot about Quaker publishing but I have encountered Friends from a wide variety of Quaker traditions and this has certainly broadened my horizons. I am glad that while I cannot always visit the friends I have made physically we can still keep up our contact through Facebook!

It is good to get to know one another in the things which are eternal and I like the definition of intervisitation given in the Faith and Practice of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting -
'Friendly intervisitation, whether formal or informal, has for more than three hundred years provided an important opening for understanding and cooperation in the affairs of Friends and for mutual ministry and spiritual growth.'

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