Publications & Distribution: Past, Present and Future

By Pat Fox

The Publications and Distribution Committee came together for a weekend retreat February 19-21, 2001. We gathered at the Burlington Meetinghouse and Conference Center to finish our business plan, one that the committee worked on for the past year and would use for the next several years. Our working documents reflected aspects of our work and the retreat would offer us the opportunity to focus and refine its cohesiveness.

Yet as we gathered at the conference center to plan our future, a sense of past Quaker history was with us. The Burlington Meetinghouse has stood on High Street since 1785 and it replaced a meetinghouse in Burlington, NJ dating from 1685. Our Quaker roots stretched around us, the town of Burlington was settled early on by Quakers. Through a window one could look into the graveyard behind the meeting-house and read an inscription about Chief Ockanickon, an early friend to the first Quaker settlers.

The settlers for the weekend brought all they needed. Our simplicity included knapsacks, sleeping bags, food and computers with printers. As we centered into the retreat we were aware that this was not an ordinary business plan but one that has as its core the Quaker value of service. Our focus is to combine service to monthly and yearly meetings with good business practice in the publications and distribution components of the program.

Under the direction of Fred Feitler, former clerk of the committee, we worked through and discussed action planning. We used suggested questions for each part of our long-term plan. Working in small groups we tried to define a particular problem and describe outcomes while preparing and analyzing alternatives. Also working in small groups we reviewed, then revised the working documents. Using this strategy we were able to prepare an overview, a business environment, a market analysis and suggest specific objectives for the future. Each group worked on a section, evaluating ideas, writing them down as specifically as possible, and then passing it on to another group; the next group would add their thoughts and then refine it further.

On Sunday morning, exhausted and exhilarated we met in the old meeting house for a spirit-led meeting for worship. We realized that our Quaker roots were now deeper as we had worked and shared with each other and with this place of Quaker history. One more draft, final corrections and a last minute printing may still be part of the process, but a step back into timelessness gave us a renewed commitment to our committee and to our service.

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