FWCC 2008 Report: better late than never
The Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas Annual Meeting.
This was not my first time at an FWCC gathering, and I hope it will not be the last. Actually, this was my first year as an official representative of PYM, and my term lasts three years, so the chances are good that I’ll be there again. Next year, the Section of the Americas will meet in the Pacific Northwest, apparently near Portland, OR. I’m looking forward to that. Then the Section plans to meet in Honduras in 2010. I’ll have to finally get my passport renewed!
I said to a few people afterwards that the annual meeting wasn’t as amazing as last year. It didn’t feel like a mountaintop or peak experience. It was more like business, more work-like. It was good work, work that I feel called to, and life-giving, but not breath-taking.
I have organized this by topic rather than any attempt at a chronological report.
Regional gathering- We’re thinking of having a Southwest Regional gathering in late 2008 or spring 2009. This would be for members of Pacific Yearly Meeting, Intermountain Yearly Meeting and Evangelical Friends Church Southwest. Current speculation sounds like it might be held in Arizona, but it’s too soon to tell.
Wider Quaker Fellowship – I am now on the committee for the WQF. This topic deserves its own post, but I’ll say that I think this will be interesting work, and that it is a chance to rethink the vision of the program and to help bring the FWCC into the 21st century.
Rachel Stacy gave the keynote address. She gave a powerful speech about her own spiritual journey and the support she needs and receives (or not) from Friends. She spoke about her experience growing up in a monthly meeting and organizing the 2005 World Gathering of Young Friends. She spoke about her work as a new public high school math and chemistry teacher and her participation in an emerging church group in Baltimore. There was a lot of tears and laughter and prayer in the audience. Rachel was a good choice for the annual meeting.
Young (and older) mothers – it was good to connect again with my generation of mothers who are also ministers, and to get to know some older women better as well.
Intervisitation interest group – this topic is dear to my heart, because it has been so important in my spiritual journey over the last few years. One of the key points I took away from the interest group was hearing adult Friends talk about how important it had been to have visitors in their home when they were children – how they still treasure those memories. I hope my children will eventually have that same feeling. I think that now they mostly treasure the pie we often have for dessert when we have company, but maybe they will remember some day that we had Vanessa Julye over for dinner one time or that Melissa L.-A. spent the night here when she was in town. In any case, it is important to me to be a hostess as well as a guest sometimes.
Convergent Friends interest group: Shawna Roberts and I were asked to lead an interest group to follow up on the workshop we co-led last year with David Male and Wess Daniels. It was small, only about six people, but it was good to work with Shawna again. (We were also cabinmates and had some good time with our other cabinmates Rachel and Ann.)
Worship sharing in Spanish was a stretch for me. I can speak superficial Spanish pretty well, but I don’t know a lot of the Quaker jargon. It was hard to go deep in my soul and to express it well in Spanish. There are cultural differences, and there are personal differences in expectations of worship sharing. But it was good practice to be on the minority side this time.
History skit – the local arrangements committee put together a funny skit about the Quaker history of the midwest. It was cute to see all the yearly meetings, each represented by a person with a sash/label, popping up, splitting, dying, snubbing each other. I didn’t catch all the dates, but I sure remember more than I would have if it had just been a lecture on the history.
Budget Realism – like many Quaker organizations, FWCC is facing a different financial future. It was good to see an organization facing its financial crisis a couple of years before the reserve funds all run out. Taking the hard steps of cutting programs and staff in order to live within their means, but phasing them out rather than waiting until the last minute and then declaring bankruptcy and in the process ruining 70 years of good will and good works.
Kenya in 2012 – part of the tradeoff of financial and environmental changes is balancing the need to meet face to face with the costs of doing so. FWCC has decided not to hold a triennial world gathering in 2010 but instead to meet in five years in Kenya. I think they’re still considering sites, after the terrible violence and destruction recently. I would look forward to this opportunity, should my Yearly Meeting choose to send me…
What I learned about me.
Right before I went, I had a meeting with my spiritual director. These insights came out of that session:
My gift of enthusiasm is best used when tempered by calm at the center.
It’s not about me.
I am not in control.
I am not alone.
How am I letting my light shine?
How is my life a testimony to the power of God and the teachings of Jesus?
I wrote those down, but I’m still learning the lessons.
I always think I’m going to do better next time, but then I don’t.
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