Quaker Leadership Conference & FGC Fall Online Consultation

by Barry Crossno

Earlham School of Religion (ESR) recently held the Quaker Leadership Conference at their campus in Richmond, Indiana.  With many Quaker meetings and churches discerning how to live into a COVID endemic age, bringing Quaker leadership together to talk about this and other issues was timely and important.  There were Friends from across the branches of Quaker practice and from a number of different Quaker organizations.  The General Secretary of Friends General Conference, Barry Crossno, was in attendance.  Many thanks to the staff of ESR for creating this space.

It opened with an address from Parker Palmer who expressed concern that the number of Quakers is falling, that Quaker spirituality is important, and that we must work together to offer our spiritual tradition more widely.  For the two days that followed, the presentations and discussions were wide ranging.  There was a very healthy questioning of current structures and processes for both Quaker meetings and Quaker organizations.  In particular, some Friends lifted:

  • The possibility of some very small Quaker meetings merging with other very small meetings (in areas where there are multiple meetings) so that services like childcare, religious education, and building maintenance could be better supported by a larger group of Friends.  Robin Mohr, Executive Director of Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas, had important things to share on this topic.
  • The need for parents to be alleviated from childcare organizing and staffing while at Meeting, especially in the wake of COVID where many parents went without consistent childcare support.  Emily Provance spoke and has some important things to say about this.
  • The possibility that a number of Quaker organizations band together to work with meetings to provide Quaker experiences for newcomers that might draw and retain more new Friends.
  • Concerns about the accessibility and efficacy of traditional Quaker business practices.  Some Young Adult Friends were especially concerned about this issue.
  • Ways to better serve teens and young adults.

And so much more.

A week after this conference, FGC’s Executive Committee approved the formation of a special working group to explore issues of outreach and visibility.  It has been several years since QuakerQuest, the New Meetings Project, and the Welcoming Friends project.  It’s time for a new look at this important issue.

In many ways, this conference affirmed the need for shifts in our meetings and churches so we might thrive in a new time.  The hope is that these types of conversations will be happening in your meeting.  To help with that, FGC will be holding a special online consultation this fall to explore the many issues and opportunities we face.  Friends have the opportunity to complete a survey about this consultation now. Please stayed tuned for additional information in the coming months.

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