Learnings from the 2016 FGC Gathering

FGC’s General Secretary Barry Crossno shares a summary of the actions that have been taken since the 2016 FGC Gathering to ensure that our annual summer Gathering is welcoming and enjoyable for everyone who attends.

We know there are many Friends, including the staff and governance of FGC, who have been carrying concerns related to issues of race at the 2016 Gathering. We want you to know that we have a commitment to building a more loving community. Below are some of the actions we have taken that we hope will improve the experience going forward for everyone:

  • As you know, the Minnesota site was deeply problematic for Friends of Color and a number of past Gathering sites have also felt unsafe for Friends of Color. In an effort to remedy this, the FGC Gathering site selection committee is now majority Friends of Color. This was implemented soon after the Gathering and the committee members have been hard at work securing a campus for the 2018 Gathering that, to the best of our ability, will be suitable for and inclusive of all Friends. We’re very grateful to all the Friends on the site selection committee for their dedication to help the FGC Gathering become the beloved community. (For more information, view Reflections on the 2016 Gathering.) 
  • While the reconstituted site selection committee has been on the move concerning 2018, we’re very aware that the 2017 Niagara site was already locked in. With this in mind a new member of the site selection committee, Marvin Barnes (LEYM), agreed to go Niagara University to get a feel for the campus from the perspective of being a Friend of Color. Marvin reported to us that he was very comfortable on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods that he walked. In addition, we’ve been in contact with the campus police and administration about our concerns that the campus feel welcoming to a wide range of Friends. In fact, they have agreed to allow us to do information sharing on inclusivity with some of their staff.  Based on this and other efforts, we’re hopeful that a more positive experience will unfold for Friends of Color this year.
  • Concerning FGC as an institution, Central Committee (our board of directors) has approved that we do an institutional audit concerning race. The purpose is to uncover biases in the structure and operations of FGC so that we can make changes that we hope results in a more inclusive and affirming organization that better serves all Friends. We’re grateful that a number of individual friends have volunteered their time to help in this effort and that many Friends, monthly meetings and yearly meetings have already pledged or given funds to help support the work.
  • Also, I am aware that when, as General Secretary of FGC, I shared the distress of Friends of Color on the opening night of the Gathering, some Friends in attendance were left confused. While many of you shared that the message itself from Friends of Color was clear, powerful and needed, it was not clear from my remarks what had happened that led to the sharing of the message that night. This confusion was distressing for a number of Friends and created some problems and rumors that took days to sort out—even after written clarifications were shared with the Gathering community. The Gathering team and I are clear that if something like this occurs in the future (and we hope it won’t), every effort will be made to give more framing and details so that the community can better understand what has happened and be better equipped to be caring allies to one another.

We know how special the Gathering is for you and so many Friends. We celebrate that it’s an important week of renewal and affirmation for thousands of Friends. It’s why there are dedicated staff and many dedicated volunteers who work year round to create this special week long community. We also know that you and everyone who attends wants the Gathering to be a week of renewal and affirmation for all Friends. That’s why, when we fall short of creating that renewing and affirming community for everyone, we want to do our best to steer directly into the issues. While it can be difficult and we sometimes make mistakes, know that we are committed to the work. Facing challenges and doing the work that needs to be done is how we are transformed as individuals and as a community. After all, to be held in the Light sometimes means seeing things that are difficult to see and feeling convinced in our hearts that we must change.

So let us hold each other in compassion and in love. Know that we are doing everything possible to co-create with you the beloved community we all long for and we look forward to the possibility of embracing you in Niagara.

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