Gathering Anew Background: Why did all this happen?
There is a lot of background which helps in understanding why we are looking at new ideas for the Gathering.
The Gathering is both a program and a community. It is a space for spirit to move and Friends to minister, grow and be nurtured. It is complex depending on spirit, volunteers, staff, community, and event site/location to create each event. The Gathering faces numerous challenges today . Some are external and some internal.
Becoming an antiracist faith community
FGC has made a commitment to becoming an actively antiracist faith community and we know that the Gathering is a place where Friends of Color have encountered racism.
The Gathering has had diminishing attendance for several years pre-COVID, including a significant decline in the number of children and teens attending. There are multiple causes – some of it is due to simple demographic shifts. The baby boomer generation had children well above the replacement rate, creating a population increase. So, in the 1990’s and 2000’s we had a corresponding large number of children at the Gathering. Current birth rates for GenX and Millennials are much lower. Overall, fewer children are being born, the boomers are aging, and Gathering attendance is dwindling.
University and college campuses are becoming increasingly more expensive, using summertime conferences as an income source. Other types of venues are often even more expensive. Long Range Conference Planning Committee’s Site Selection team faces an ever-increasing challenge to find a campus that can meet our current needs and still be affordable. Costs of attendance and affordability are key for attenders.
Covid Pandemic and Infectious Diseases
We continue to deal as a society with the ongoing Covid infections. As the interface between animals and humans increases, there is also a steadily growing potential for new diseases that transition from one to the other. There will be more epidemics and pandemics. In 2020 the Gathering pivoted to being virtual due to Covid. This opened the door virtually to many Friends who had not been able to attend due to distance, cost, and physical accessibility.
Earth Care / Climate Change
Climate change has continued to impact our world, communities, and members in ever increasing ways. We are experiencing floods, wildfires, tornados and changing weather patterns and events.
Political changes in the US
Political changes in the US are creating an increasingly hostile climate.
Times of change
It is clear that our world is changing and the Gathering needs to change as well.
In times of change, the FGC community values the space for spirit to move and Friends to know and feel their connections to one another. How can the Gathering address these needs and changes and what would that look like in the future?
External and Internal combined:
Personal income has become even more inequitable for many over the past few decades, and the current unstable economy leaves many Friends, especially young adults and People of Color, with less job flexibility and less disposable income.
Financially, the reality is that with costs increasing and registration numbers decreasing, the Gathering has not been able to pay for itself over the past 7 years, relying on a net draw from FGC’s reserves. Some outstanding issues require more investigation such as whether and how pay-as-led can be viable going forward (we’ve encountered serious financial losses in two of three pay-as-led attempts).
Earlier in 2022, FGC put out an RFP for a consultant to help us look at our organization including the volunteer, staffing and governance structures, sustainable management of our resources, and the Gathering. There were some responses, but the Executive Committee felt that none of them would meet FGC’s needs and decided to move forward internally for the time being, placing the Gathering as the first item to address.Ruth Reber was asked to convene the conversations about the Gathering, which grew into the Gathering Anew project.
Gathering Anew held fourteen focus groups, including ones for friends of color and adult young friends, along with a number of “deep dive” groups. These began at the 2022 Gathering and ran through early October. The “deep dive” groups focused on specific issues like the environment, anti-racism and centering Spirit.
More detail is available:
See the focus group and “deep dive” notes and jam boards
Read the written Gathering Anew report
If you have thoughts you would like to share on whether these experiments or variations on these experiments might be useful Please email your responses to:
Marvin Barnes, Presiding Clerk at email@example.com
with a cc to Michelle Bellows at firstname.lastname@example.org.