Ministry takes many forms. Not to be overlooked or undervalued are those gifts that are not expressed vocally in meeting for worship. Ministry is teaching First Day school, writing and mailing a meeting newsletter, silently holding others in the Light, praying, attending to the care of the meeting house, washing the dishes. Other, more traditionally recognized, forms of ministry include the following:
- speaking in worship in a way that is generally recognized as helpful to most people
- active caring for members' and attenders' spiritual and practical needs
- carrying concerns from worship out into the local community and the world
- writing and other creative disciplines as outlets for spiritual leadings and insights.
Friends may well consider prayerfully whether it is desirable that these and other kinds of gifts be formally recognized in writing by Friends, and if so, by what body and by what process.
Our ideal is that we all be ministers one unto the other. Yet, there may be times when a meeting wants to bring to the attention of others that a Friend has served it powerfully and acceptably. Minutes of travel make reference to a Friend's desire to share a concern with others or to that person's helpfulness in ministry. Such minutes, as distinguished from letters of introduction, were at one time given only to recorded ministers and their traveling companions. This is no longer the case. A monthly meeting today may wish to recognize for itself and call to the attention of other meetings a person's gift in ministry, without conferring a lifetime status. Or, because the person's service has up to that time been local and not to the wider body of Friends, it may wish to commend a person to the notice of others without requesting recording at the Yearly Meeting level. A travel minute is the usual form of such a commendation, but a meeting need not limit its recognition of a person's gifts to a particular occasion of travel.
A meeting may also recommend a person for specified service among Friends: for example, Quaker Volunteer Service, work in missions, or peace and service concerns. Such a minute would be for a specified term and would normally be an action of a monthly meeting, although some minutes could be forwarded to the quarterly meeting and Yearly Meeting for endorsement.
Similar minutes with specified terms are those recommending to a nonFriends' group a person with a special gift and concern, such as in prison or hospital ministry. This would be understood to be an action of the monthly meeting, although it could be forwarded for endorsement to the quarterly meeting and Yearly Meeting in a few cases.
The traditional form of "recording in the ministry" requires initiation by the monthly meeting and approval by the Yearly Meeting on Ministry and Counsel. Such a minute has no specified term, is transferable to other meetings with transfer of membership, and is ordinarily for life, unless the minister is judged to have lost his or her usefulness in ministry.
If the local Ministry and Counsel feels that one of its meeting's members has a special calling, it may begin the process of granting formal recognition in one of the ways mentioned above. Even before that, Ministry and Counsel can be of great help to a member in discerning and encouraging true leadings. To those who are experiencing and testing an unusually deep calling to minister, it can suggest reading and workshops or other training, offer sensitive feedback about vocal ministry, explore fears and hesitations that the person may have, assist in reconciling any conflicts or grievances which are acting as barriers to greater growth, act as a sounding board for ideas and convictions, provide experienced Friends as companions for travel and visitation, and help other Friends understand the changes happening in the person's life.