New ideas for recording and recognizing ministry

In my last post, I said that recording gifts in ministry is a tradition which goes back to the earliest days of Friends. Recording is a kind of a passport which allows Quaker ministers to travel and serve outside their own local meeting. It’s a sort of “permanent letter of introduction” which says that this person is a gifted minister, and that we feel he/she has our blessing and is worth listening to.

Most yearly meetings want to be sure that recorded ministers are stable people who aren’t likely to teach wild or unacceptable ideas, and for the last 80 or 100 years Friends have asked that recorded ministers meet certain minimum educational requirements.

Recording isn’t the only way to recognize gifts and recommend ministers. Recording among Friends is normally for life, and many people only feel a call to short-term or limited service. There are a number of alternative ways meetings can recognize people as leaders and ministers.

If the meeting feels that one of its members has a special gift in and a special calling to the ministry, it can provide formal recognition in one of these ways:

  1. A traveling minute, which is a letter of introduction and recommendation for a Friend who feels called to visit other groups. A traveling minute is for a specified period. It briefly describes the person’s interest or concern, identifies the person as a member or attender of the meeting, and recommends the person to the attention and hospitality of all Friends wherever he/she visits. A traveling minute is presented and read, and the meetings being visited may wish to endorse the minute or send their greetings in return. At the end of the period, a traveling minute is returned to the issuing meeting and read at a business meeting, and a copy is kept in the minute book. Travel minutes may be endorsed by a larger body, such as a group of local meetings of a Yearly Meeting.
  2. A minute of service among Friends. This is similar to a traveling minute – it describes a particular concern, often involves travel or service outside the local meeting, and is returned at the end of the work or travel for which it was issued. Examples might be for work as a volunteer or staff person in missions, peacemaking, witness or other service. Such minutes are normally an action of a monthly meeting, although some minutes may be forwarded like travel minutes for endorsement by the Yearly Meeting.
  3. A minute of recommendation or service to a non-Friends group for carrying out of a special concern. An example would be prison ministry or hospital chaplaincy. This type of minute can take the place of a professional credential or ordination certificate where one is needed, and can describe the training, professional status or experience of the person, in addition to recommending him or her for service. This is an action of the monthly meeting, although it could also be forwarded for endorsement to the Yearly Meeting in a some cases.
  4. A monthly meeting minute giving thanks for and recognizing the ministry of an individual Friend. It might be appropriate as a way of recognizing a new or emerging minister, a youth worker, teacher, music minister or visitor in a hospital or nursing home. This is a local action of the monthly meeting, not requiring further approval by another body of Friends. This kind of recognition is local, and is not transferred if the individual moves to another meeting.
  5. A minute by the Yearly Meeting recording gifts in the ministry. Such a minute has no specified term and is for life, unless the minister leaves Friends or is judged to have lost his or her usefulness in the ministry. A recorded minister should be broadly acceptable among other Friends meetings, since recording is transferable if the person transfers his or her membership. Many Friends pastors are recorded, but not all recorded ministers are pastors.

Recording or recognition doesn’t grant any special privileges or status. These Friends are leaders, but certainly aren’t the only leaders. Rather, recording and recognition are ways of saying that we expect much of these people. We believe God has called them, and we expect them to devote their thought, time, prayer, energy and effort to building up our branch of the Christian movement. As Jesus said, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)

Recording isn’t a “one size fits all” thing. There are many creative ways to recognize the ministers among us. Let’s start using them!

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4 Responses to “New ideas for recording and recognizing ministry”


  1. 1 Joan Liversidge April 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you, Josh, for this clear presentation of how to record and recognize gifts of ministry. In Baltimore Yearly Meeting we have been faithful at assisting our travelers to other Yearly Meetings to go to their monthly meeting for a travel minute. We found that many Friends in BYM did not know how to do this within their monthly meetings. Maybe when we stopped recording ministers we also stopped other forms? That is a question for the historians. I have not seen some of the other forms such as the one for service – maybe we call it by different names? In BYM, we coined the term “released Friend” a few years ago when we were stuggling with how to support and nurture some who were called to ministry among Friends and non-Friends (e.g Mary Lord, Pat Kutzner, Pat Loring). We have much to learn from each other about Friends traditions and to discern, together, which of these allows us to be faithful to the measure of the Light given to each of us.

  2. 2 Steven Davison April 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Great post, Joshua. Very clear and thorough, especially for a blog. I plan to post this on the New York Yearly Meeting website and Facebook page.

    The September 2012 issue of New York Yearly Meeting’s newsletter Spark (http://www.nyym.org/?q=Spark_November_2012) featured articles on recognizing gifts in ministry and I wish we had had this little piece to summarize things so nicely.

    Currently in New York Yearly Meeting, I do not believe there is any consideration of education as necessary for recording gifts in ministry, unless perhaps the Friend is being considered for a pastorate. I’m not sure about that.

    I believe that meetings should be much more proactive in recognizing gifts in ministry, actively seeking to name them, starting with the catalogs of gifts of the spirit in Paul’s letters and expanding them and connecting them more directly to Friends’ modern experience.

    Not that everyone would be recorded, but Friends should know each other well enough to know each other’s gifts and ministries, so they can provide the kind of discernment and support and oversight God-given gifts and leadings need.

    This, I suspect, Is especially Important in pastoral meetings, in which Friends may tend to rely on their pastors overmuch and neglect their own gifts and callings. For I believe that the faith and practice of Quaker ministry is the very soul of Quaker spirituality–actively waiting for and listening for God’s call to service and living a life of preparation for faithfully answering the call, which could be of any sort, as you have pointed out. And it is the central mission of a Quaker meeting to nurture these gifts and callings.

  3. 3 Bill Rushby April 30, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    My perception is that being recorded as a minister in Conservative yearly meetings often becomes an item on one’s vita (note biographical write-ups to confirm this), and that it does confer special “status”. Too often, church politics are involved in who does and who doesn’t get recorded.

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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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