Vital Friends: My Experience with the Welcoming Friend Project
After Joe Rockey of Lake Forest Friends Meeting felt a leading to serve as a greeter at Meeting for Worship, he decided to participate in the Welcoming Friend Project, which introduced him to new concepts and strategies that helped him become a more welcoming Friend to new visitors.
Joe Rockey attends Lake Forest Friends Meeting in Lake Forest, Illinois, in a suburb about 30 miles north of Chicago. His leading to serve as a greeter at Meeting for Worship at his meeting was what brought him to the Welcoming Friend Project at FGC.
“I was looking forward to learning how to be more effective at greeting, and to share with others interested in welcoming people to a particular Meeting as well as to Friends in general,” Joe explained in an email.
Joe and another Friend named “Michael” became representatives of Last Forest Friends Meeting in the Welcoming Friend Working Group. They participated in monthly video conference calls, introduced new welcoming practices and made announcements about the project in their meeting, and shared their results with the Working Group. Though Joe was expecting a general overview of how to become a more welcoming Friend to newcomers, he was pleasantly surprised by a particular aspect of the work.
“I didn’t expect that the project would put quite so much emphasis on race and gender issues,” he said. “But that was fine, [it was] needed by many of us, and has opened me up to exploring these issues much more deeply that I would have without the encouragement of the project.”
As a direct result of Joe and “Michael”‘s involvement in FGC’s Welcoming Friend Project, Lake Forest Friends Meeting has formed its own Welcoming Friend Working Group. Joe and “Michael” are part of the new group, and Joe looks forward to sharing what he has learned and creating new strategies for transforming Quaker welcoming.
“[The main lesson I came away with] is that Welcoming is the responsibility of the entire Meeting, not just the Greeter,” he said. “I think our Meeting (and probably most Meetings) understand that already. On the person to person level, [Welcoming as a strategy] is beautifully simple – Always look for that of God in the other person.”
The Welcoming Friend Project was organized with the help of a volunteer Working Group between Fall 2018 and Summer 2019. A full report on the findings of the project will be shared through the Welcoming Friend email list in the coming weeks. Welcoming Friend Project Assistant Holly Baldwin completed her work with the initiative in July 2019, and now supports FGC as its Development Assistant.