Essay: Why I Work for FGC
When Marta Rusek first came to FGC as a Communications Fellow in 2014, she had never worked with Quakers before. Today, she considers her time working with Friends and Quaker meetings as one of the highlights of her Communications career.
Before I came to FGC as a Communications Fellow in August 2014, my knowledge of Quakers was limited to viewings of the 1956 film Friendly Persuasion during my childhood. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to working with Quakers, but the idea of devoting an entire year to learning as much as I could about digital communications was an attractive one. Little did I know that my fellowship would become one of the highlights of my communications career, and that it would teach me worthwhile lessons about life, faith, and community.
1. Every occasion is an occasion to sing.
Whether it’s a hymn or a Broadway tune, Friends embrace the opportunity to fill the world around them with song early and often. Singing is a great way to express joy and build community with Newcomers. It also provides, as one Friend put it, “a connection with shared traditions and other Friends.” I love listening to music every day, so using music as a bonding experience with others was one I was very much on board with.
2. There’s more than one way to pray and worship.
As someone who was raised Catholic, the concept of Meeting for Worship was vastly different than any service I had ever encountered. Central Committee was one of the first large-scale Meetings for Worship with Concern to Business I ever attended, and I was very impressed by the way Friends were able to communicate their ideas together as a body while valuing the perspective of each individual simultaneously. And thanks to the writings of my colleague Brent Bill, I learned that prayers could be expressed according to my own life experience and vocabulary.
3. Leadings are there for a reason, even if you aren’t sure what that reason is right away.
I remember hearing the word “leading” often at the beginning of my fellowship, and initially I thought “I feel led” meant “I am choosing.” As my fellowship continued and I had more in-depth discussions about what these phrases meant to Friends, I came to understand that a leading is more than something I choose to do – it is a bold, relentless feeling that compels me to take action. While I am not a Quaker, I do believe we are all influenced by forces greater than ourselves, and leadings happen when we pay attention and embrace them, even when we don’t know for sure where they will take us.
4. Diversity is an essential part of a healthy, loving community.
While I had worked for other organizations that encouraged a diverse workplace, I was amazed by how ingrained the idea of welcoming individuals from all walks of life was in Quaker meetings and in FGC’s day-to-day operations. From organizing potlucks that provided delicious dishes for everyone’s enjoyment regardless of dietary restrictions to encouraging conference attendees to write their preferred pronouns on their nametags so that a person’s gender identity was honored from the get-go, Quakers strive to ensure that everyone who seeks to be part of their community feels safe, welcome, and valued. And that feeling of safety has allowed Friends to engage in dialogues that some would shy away from, including defeating racism at the meeting level and promoting an organizational structure where Friends from all racial, ethnic, economic, sexual orientation, and gender identity backgrounds are represented in major decision-making processes.
5. There is “that of God in everyone”.
George Fox’s idea that we are all loved by and capable of having a direct relationship with God made the biggest impression on me then, and it continues to inspire me now. It’s a belief that has forced me to rethink how I interact with people I don’t know or agree with. For me, being loved by something so mysterious and powerful elevates all of us to the status of people with feelings and fears that deserve recognition. I don’t always get that part right (especially when my own feelings and fears get the better of me), but I do think that when we start looking at each other as people who are loved and needed in this world, it’s easier to find common ground and create sustainable solutions to long-term conflicts.
As I return to FGC as its Communication Manager, I’m eager to learn more about the Quaker faith and practice and to be shaped by the wisdom of Friends, at the FGC office and beyond.