I mentioned recently that my local Quaker meeting approved my Travel Minute and that I would post the minute here for you to see. Yesterday we presented it to Quarterly Meeting (basically all the local meetings in the state of Connecticut) and has it been approved there as well.
Here is how it works (at least in my case). Soon after I began to present my play Doin Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, I asked my local Quaker meeting for a Clearness Committee. This is a group of people that I selected with help from the meeting who sat with me to help me get clarity about the work I had begun. I submitted a written report weeks in advance, they prayed about the issues raised, then they met with me. In the Clearness Process they mostly asked questions in order to help me to find clarity about what I should do. They also gave me some feedback. It was VERY helpful.
Once I began to do the work in earnest, my local meeting organized a Support Committee (sometimes called an Anchoring Committee–helps keep you anchored and not just flying off in a million directions) of three people who have met with me about every six weeks. These are the folks who regularly pray for me, listen to me when I have questions or concerns on the road, give me rides to the airport, lend me their cars, comforted me when my mom died, and help me stay focused on my mission.
When I have doubts about something or before I make a major move, I talk it over with them. This gives me an opportunity to process my nutty ideas before I launch into lunacy. They also provide the spiritual support and direction I need with the work that I do.
After three years of that process with many more opportunities open to present to other Quakers throughout the US and internationally, we decided that it was time to draft a travel minute. Most of the time Quakers approve things through consensus after listening to all sides. So for a minute to get approved pretty much everyone present has to agree. At both the local and quarterly meetings anyone who attends the meetings can share their opinions on the matters discussed, so approved minutes carry the weight of the entire body of people.
I love the old-fashioned language of my Travel Minute along with the reference to this blog. Bill, one of the members of my Support Committee, wonders if it is the first Quaker Travel Minute to mention a blog. Hmmmm.
Here it is:
To Friends in New England and elsewhere:
We commend to you our beloved Friend, Peterson Toscano, whose leading to travel in the ministry has been seasoned in Hartford Monthly Meeting. We recognize his call to travel among Friends as the Spirit leads, to join them in fellowship, worship and prayer.
His concern is to seek truth and reconciliation through storytelling and drama, particularly in regards to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns. A Christ-centered Friend, Peterson’s own personal trial with his faith and his same-sex attractions has helped him to appreciate the struggle many people of faith have with these issues. His faithfulness to this call has been an ongoing source of spiritual nourishment for him, our Meeting and beyond. Peterson has volunteered regularly with the New England Yearly Meeting Young Friends (high school) program and has presented many of his theater pieces and talks at New England Yearly Meeting annual sessions, beginning in 2003. He has also presented widely at Quaker schools, colleges and study centers, as well as national gatherings of Friends. Peterson’s widely read internet blog has provided another fruitful expression of his ministry, allowing him to reach large numbers of people around the world, especially young people.
In all of these venues Peterson’s gifts of communication, humor, compassion and integrity have allowed him to engage with people of diverse views and helped to improve Friends’ sensitivity to and understanding of these vital issues. His ability to listen deeply and carefully to others’ concerns, including those who disagree with him, has been of clear benefit to those who have approached him seeking his counsel. Through this ministry, he continues to grow in his faithfulness to the traditions of Friends and to the guidance of the Spirit.
We encourage him in his leading to travel in the ministry, a response to what we discern to be the promptings of love and truth, trusting that, under the Lord’s hand, and with the prayers of Friends, his service among you will be faithful and fruitful.
With Peterson we send our loving greetings to all Friends whom he may encounter.
Next the minute goes to the Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting (on April 17), and should it get approved, I can then present this minute anywhere in the Quaker world. I especially love the time it takes for this process. It totally protects people from getting caught up in the moment, but requires careful, thoughtful reflection and discussion. Thanks for letting me share the the behind the scenes of my work with you.