I am not in charge

That has been the number one lesson of the last few months. It's been an exciting time, full of new possibilities and new challenges. It has also been a time of very intense and fretful waiting. A lot of decisions have been made, some of which I agreed with and some of which I didn't, and many of which were not mine to make. Oh, right. I am not in charge.

I am going to have a new job. I am excited to inform anyone who hasn't heard that the Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas, has chosen me to be their next Executive Secretary. I will attend some meetings at the end of April and then start full time in June.

Yes, my family is moving to Philadelphia. We are all very sad to leave San Francisco Monthly Meeting, the San Francisco Friends School, College Park Quarterly Meeting and Pacific Yearly Meeting. All of these groups of people have been important in my spiritual journey and my every day life. If I could somehow close the gap between San Francisco and Philadelphia, I would. But I am not in charge of geographical miracles.

I especially would have liked the announcement of this new appointment to have been more orderly. I would have liked to tell a few more people, including my mother, before they heard about it on Facebook. But I was not in charge of the communications plan.

There are huge changes taking place in the wider Quaker world. Lots of turnover in the executive roles in major Quaker institutions and many smaller ones. Huge generational shifts in leadership and communications and expectations and membership at all levels. The sheer volume of change is both an enormous window of opportunity and, honestly, frightening to anyone who's really paying attention. I will soon have a lot more responsibility for leading Friends through these changes but I know I am not in charge of anyone else's response, whether fear or fascination.

There are far-reaching changes going on in our society and all of Planet Earth. I highly recommend Joanna Macy's work on the Great Turning and Phyllis Tickle's book, The Great Emergence, to help us all to understand how we are part of a larger changing whole. FWCC has some helpful queries for examining our own response to the economic, ecological, social, political and spiritual changes in our world. Here especially, I am not in charge of anything but my own response and my children's education. I hope that, with Divine assistance, modeling awareness instead of avoidance, and integrity/consistency between my beliefs and my actions in my own life will be helpful to others, but I am not in charge.

So who is in charge of all this? I don't think God planned it all this way. I believe we do have free will and we have to live with the consequences of our decisions. And we have to live with the consequences of thousands of years of other people's decisions, for good and bad. I believe that the will of God is for us to do and be better. I believe that God sends us strength and encouragement and understanding. God gives us the ability to find meaning in what is and what happens, hope for a better future, and love. Love for ourselves, for the people we know, and for the people, plants, rocks, animals, etc. that we don't really know. Love is that of God. Hope is that of God. And this love and hope give me faith and courage. I think my theme song for this year is Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. I recommend the Iris DeMent version from Lifeline, but the words are in the public domain:

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
I am so grateful to the FWCC Search Committee and the Executive Committee for putting their faith in me. I am indebted to many, many Friends for sharing their spiritual journeys with me, in the Quaker blogosphere, in their homes, in small and large gatherings and through FWCC. Thank you. I trust that we will continue to learn how to be the Quakers together. I will write more about my hopes and dreams for FWCC in the coming months. If you have suggestions, advice or questions about FWCC, please send them to me in a comment here, to my email address in the sidebar profile, on Facebook or Twitter, or in a letter or phonecall or whenever I see you.

I believe that Quakers need the Friends World Committee on Consultation and FWCC needs you.

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Blogger Rik Panganiban said...

bu-bu-bu-but, I just got here!?!?

Congratulations, sounds like an amazing opportunity.

3/23/2011 1:44 AM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

Great post. Congratulations on your appointment. Don't think the FWCC Exec. position is likely to lead to much illusions of being in control of much! That's never been a real option for FWCC, which may be a reason why it has had the impact it has had. This is a key position within Friends, but one with very little control over the Society.

Just keep leaning on those everlasting arms, and you'll be fine.

3/23/2011 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Eileen Flanagan said...

San Francisco's loss will be Philadelphia's gain. Hope we'll have the opportunity to connect more often!

For everyone who was at the convergent Friend/blogger dinner, thanks for your patience with my dog. He gives me many opportunities to remember that I am not in charge:)

3/23/2011 10:15 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Rik, it was such a pleasure to see you here in the Bay Area last month, one more thing to regret about leaving. But thanks to technology, we don't have to be out of touch...

Bill, thank you. Your encouragement means a lot to me.

Eileen - it was awesome being at your house last Saturday. I will call you later this week to follow up. Dogs and kids continue to break down our illusions of being in control.

3/23/2011 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Suzanne Fischer said...

Many congratulations, Robin.

3/23/2011 1:10 PM  
Blogger csaxton said...

Dear Robin--
Congratulations on your new ministry! I will look forward to opportunities to connect with you.
Colin Saxton
NWYM & soon-to-be FUM

3/23/2011 1:34 PM  
Blogger RantWoman said...

Absolutely holding you in the Light. I love the spirit of your blog post and I think your gifts will be well used!

3/23/2011 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Raye said...

I am glad thee will be taking up this work, Robin! And that thee will be a bit closer.

3/23/2011 7:01 PM  
Blogger Will T said...

Congratulations Robin,
Welcome to the East Coast.

Will T

3/23/2011 10:11 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/24/2011 1:56 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Sorry about above deletion-- bad HTML on my part:

Is it too early to invite you to my part of the country for a presentation to Friends... maybe about surrender, humility, and not being in charge?

I'm serious.

Not to mention, i'd love to see you again. And Chris could be your companion in ministry, and the kids could just hang out at a lake....

Blessings, my fellow blogger!
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

3/24/2011 1:58 AM  
Anonymous Franz Schneider said...

Congratulations, Robin. I believe you, FWCC, and all the rest of us will be the better for this.

3/24/2011 2:02 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thank you everyone for your kind words.

Colin - I don't know if you remember me introducing myself to you on a muddy camp sidewalk when the FWCC annual meeting was in Oregon a couple of years ago, but I do. I look forward to connecting with you further, and congratulations on your new ministry!

Liz, that sounds lovely, but I don't know when it would be possible. I will keep it in mind though!

3/24/2011 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Jay T. said...

Whoo hoo! I think FWCC has been led to a wise choice. May this new adventure be good for you and your family as well. I'll be remembering you in the years ahead.

3/26/2011 1:04 AM  
Blogger juju said...

Now I'll have TWO lovely families to visit in Philadelphia. My son and his wife live in South Philly, and they enjoy the neighborhood.

Blessings... from paula j.

3/28/2011 12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an immense journey for you all. Having lived in 38 houses in 50-mumble years, I know moving house is always a multi-part journey. To the best of my ability I will hold you and yours in the Light.

Thank you for all the blogging you've done from SF: I've learned a great deal and am grateful.

Vinaigrette Girl

3/28/2011 4:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Congratulations, Robin. I look forward to following your tenure as Executive Secretary. FWCC is lucky to get you.
Dorsey Green

4/09/2011 9:45 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for the scope, wisdom and courage of your post. As one who lives in Florida, has children/step children in Georgia, California, Colorado, and Oregon, and a sister in England, I give thanks frequently for the modern miracles of Skype and so forth that connect us coast to coast and across oceans. I also know first hand that it is not the same as being down the road from your loved ones. As you are transplanted, may you and your family be well watered and kindly tended. You will bear much fruit!

4/10/2011 4:51 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks everybody!

Juju - I hope we'll see you in between your time with your grandkids, or maybe we can connect with all the kids.

Dorsey, I look forward to connecting with you in your role as well!

The moving is the hardest part. So many details all in a rush. But we're taking it one piece at a time. We will be closer to some family and farther away from others.

I hope and plan to continue blogging as time permits and as inspiration strikes. I may start a new one for my work related writing, or I may continue to post it all together. It's not like I'm going to become two different people, after all.

4/14/2011 10:19 PM  

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