What is (Callid’s understanding of) the Function of an Anchor Committee?
The Role of the Anchor Committee
Given that it is my intention to ground my practice and service within the Religious Society of Friends, and that my Monthly Meeting is my spiritual home within that body, the Anchor Committee serves as a kind of corporate liaison, simultaneously nurturing and holding me accountable to Right Order under the Meeting’s Discipline while keeping the Meeting abreast of my actions. In other words, I would like to know, and be known by, the Anchor Committee to such a degree that they know how Spirit is moving in my life and can help me stay true to that guide.
In traditional language, I understand the Anchor Committee to be the body charged with the Oversight of my Ministry. If I am outrunning the Guide I would hope that someone would be aware enough of my work in the world to know that this is the case, and to speak plainly to me, asking after my sense of things. So too would I hope that this would be the case were I “under-run” the guide, not living up to that which I have been given. On my end, I have voiced a desire and commitment to remain in communication with the committee, keeping them alerted to large shifts and invitations in my life, as well as Openings and Leadings that I experience regarding the ministry I carry. When we meet, it is my understanding that these things are considered as well as whatever else Committee members see as well-ordered to address.
As I try to live under the Discipline of the Meeting, the Anchor Committee, as appointed by Worship and Ministry, serves as a voice of accountability and an extension of the Oversight for which Worship and Ministry is responsible. I understand the person serving as the Clerk of the Anchor Committee to be charged with attempting to regularly call together the Committee to worship to consider the above. It is my responsibility to make myself available to worship with the committee when it is available, significantly prioritizing that commitment in acknowledgement of my attempt to live under the discipline of the Meeting. Regular worship of the Committee is better than sporadic meetings just “when I need it,” as scrutiny and support may both be needed precisely when I don’t think I need it. Just as I believe that Spiritual Gifts arise within an individual in the context of a community and are for the service of others, not the individual who stewards them, so too do I believe those Gifts are to be tended by that Body as a whole. My personal preference would be to meet monthly for worship.
As endorsements for my Minute of Travel are returned to the Meeting they are to be forwarded to the Clerk of the Anchor Committee who will then pass them along to the rest of the committee to review. At least once a year, the committee will draw up some report of how things have been proceeding: a kind of “state of the ministry carried” report as it were. This report will be given to the Worship and Ministry and presented at a Monthly Meetings with a Concern for Business. It should help to clarify more concise statements about my work and condition and allow members of the Meeting an opportunity to read about, consider, and be in Oversight of, how I have been of service, enabling them to stay aware of my path in a way that does not require as much time as would direct service on the Anchor Committee.
Additional Information from Friends General Conference’s Program on Travelling in the Ministry
An anchoring committee has several major functions:
- accountability of the traveling Friend for the right use of gifts, for carrying forward the leading;
- care and nurture of the traveling Friend as the leading is carried forward and when challengesc arise; see “Roadblocks,” below;
- guidance, particularly with respect to the challenges of ministry; see “Roadblocks,” below;
- support, including help with home or family issues that interfere with the ministry, help
- interpreting the ministry to the meeting, and perhaps help in identifying or arranging financial support; see “Financial Support,” below.
The specific tasks required to carry out these functions may differ as widely as the variety of Leadings among Friends. While committee members keep a prayerful watch on the ministry, their work will be shaped in part by the nature of the individual’s leading, the type and number of opportunities to travel, challenges encountered on the road, and the personal situation of the traveling Friend. The committee must see that the traveling Friend is faithfully exercising the gifts of ministry and at the same time also nurturing her own spiritual life.
Like the clearness committee, an anchoring committee session begins with silent worship as Friends seek Divine guidance. Out of the silence the traveling Friend will speak as led, sharing experiences and raising concerns. Committee members listen prayerfully and with open hearts, holding the speaker in the Light. The committee then proceeds by asking questions to help all present discern how the Spirit is at work through the traveling Friend.
Through careful listening and discernment, committee members may become aware of support, guidance, or nurture that may be needed to further the ministry. This might be something as simple as finding a person to drive the traveler to the airport or as challenging as helping the Friend discern the way through a conflict between the ministry and a family responsibility. As far as possible committee members avoid telling the traveling Friend what to do. They rely instead on the Friend’s ability to hear Divine guidance within while being supported by the deep listening love of the committee. Some anchoring committees include worship sharing in their meetings.
Frequency of Meetings
How often the anchoring committee meets depends on the traveling Friend’s particular situation. Some receive just one or two invitations a year to travel in the ministry, perhaps to lead a workshop or facilitate a retreat. In such cases the anchoring committee might meet only once before and once after a visit. Other Friends travel frequently. In this situation the anchoring committee might need to meet at least once a month.
As it nurtures and supports the ministry, the anchoring committee must be alert to roadblocks that might interfere with the right exercise of the traveler’s gifts. The committee will want to create an environment conducive to candid sharing. Friends who travel in the ministry have the same human failings we all possess. It is of great comfort to the traveling Friend to be able to share deeply his sense of instances when he felt he ran ahead of his guide or lagged behind. The committee will also need to be sure the ministry continues to be fueled by the traveler’s relation with God, and not by her own ego. Guidance might be needed for an individual prone to accept more requests than can be conscientiously fulfilled. The committee will also need to watch for signs of burnout. Perhaps it is time for the Friend to stop traveling for a while and replenish his spiritual energy. For some, difficult personalities encountered during a retreat or a workshop can lessen the joy of traveling ministry. The committee might take this problem into prayer with the Friend to help discern a way forward.
Should the traveler appear to lose spiritual grounding or develop new interests beyond the scope of the travel minute, an alert anchoring committee will raise a concern and if need be, help the Friend discern whether it is time to lay down the original leading or go back to the monthly meeting with an expanded or new leading. In this situation the anchoring committee assumes the function of a clearness committee.
During travel, committee members hold the Friend in the Light, praying for their faithfulness during the ministry. Following a visit the traveler should be sure to give, in timely fashion, a copy of the travel minute endorsed by the clerk of the meeting or other Quaker body visited, to the clerk of the anchoring committee.
The committee has the following administrative responsibilities:
- to review the endorsements on the travel minute and make note of any concerns reflected in the comments;
- to maintain its own confidential records;
- to keep the monthly meeting informed about the traveler’s work, including submitting a written report annually. The endorsements on the travel minute might be read in meeting for business.
- The traveler might also want to submit his or her own written report to the meeting.
- In some meetings the annual report is given first to the monthly meeting ministry and counsel committee and then passed on to the meeting for business. If the quarterly and/or yearly meeting has concurred in the travel minute, a similar report should be passed on to those meetings.
When travel is arranged through the Traveling Ministries Program of Friends General Conference, the meeting being visited will cover transportation and hospitality costs. However, when travel opportunities arise that are not under the auspices of the TMP, the traveling Friend may encounter financial challenges. Some Friends who will miss work to travel may need additional financial support to make up the lost wages. The anchoring committee and the ministering Friend must be frank with each other about needs and expectations for financial assistance. When a meeting approves a travel minute for a member, it is endorsing that Friend’s general ministry and therefore should also feel responsible for enabling it to go forward. In the past this was most often done by individual Friends quietly giving cash to the traveling Friend or helping the family that remained behind. In today’s more complicated world of charitable tax deductions Friends tend to look to the meeting to supply financial support. If the Friend who travels is going to need such support, the meeting must be aware that this is part of its responsibility, and that there are tax issues that require consultation with someone knowledgeable about current law.
The home meeting can be enriched by news and insights from meetings the traveler has visited. As part of carrying out its responsibility to keep the meeting informed about the traveler’s work, the anchoring committee might arrange occasions where the traveling Friend could speak to the meeting about experiences on the road. One meeting has found that “increased attention to calls to ministry has prompted members to be attentive to the movement of the Spirit in their own lives.” (Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, “Responding to Calls to Ministry,” Working Procedures Approved June 11, 1995 [rev. 1999].) Through mutual accountability and the sharing of Divine blessings, Friends build one another up in the faith and strengthen our treasured Quaker communities.