This reflection was featured as an update for the Institutional Assessment Implementation Committee in the December 2019 issue of the Vital Friends eNewsletter. As you read, consider incidents of systemic racism that were happening in the world at the time, and think about the query approved by Central Committee in 2018 as it relates to Regina Renee's reflection - how did the decisions made at each of these Gatherings help FGC in its goal of becoming an actively anti-racist faith community?
After spending a week at Grinnell College in Poweshiek County, IA, I took some time to reflect and reached the conclusion that the 2019 Gathering was one of the most intentionally impactful in my memory. I say this after having attended both the 2013 and 2016 Gatherings. It is important for me to mention here that these Gatherings, more than all my other Quaker experiences combined, have shaped my understanding of Quaker community, particularly Quaker community for people of color. If it hadn’t been for the 2013 Gathering at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO, I don’t believe that I would still consider myself a Friend.
FGC Gathering 2013: At the Growing Edges of Our Faith - June 30th to July 6th, 2013
What was so powerful about the 2013 Gathering? It was the first Gathering where there was a Pre-Gathering Retreat for People of Color and their Families! This retreat changed my life, and my relationship with Friends, in ways I could not have imagined at the time. It was described as “an opportunity for People of Color and multiracial families to come together to share their Quaker experience and create a supportive community in preparation for and throughout the Gathering.” Mission accomplished! The relationships formed at that very first retreat have sustained me through challenging times in the United States and within the Religious Society of Friends. Learn more about why FGC creates special spaces, workshops, and worship opportunities for Friends of Color only and how this contributes to building a multi-racial community here.
Shortly after the 2013 FGC Gathering, on July 14, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.
FGC Gathering 2016: be humble, Be Faithful, Be BOLD - July 3rd to 9th, 2016
For a full understanding of what happened during this week, I encourage Friends to read Learnings from the 2016 FGC Gathering. It is important to note that having the space for the Pre-Gathering for People of Color and their Families was an integral part of the timeline that ultimately led to the Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism.
On July 6, 2016, as Friends gathered at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN, Philando Castile was murdered by a police officer less than 80 miles away in Falcon Heights.
FGC Gathering 2019: Peace in Our Hearts, Justice in the World - June 30th to July 6th, 2019
I began my Gathering experience with People of Color and their families [during the Pre-Gathering Retreat] on a Friday evening. We had come together over the course of the weekend to share our spiritual journeys, lived experiences, and to create community. We did so through stories, through music and dance, through love and support, all of which we shared with one another graciously and respectfully.
I was blessed to spend the remainder of the week beginning each day with the Bible Half Hour led by Jessica Easter, and communing with People of Color who signed up for the workshop Spiritual Self-Care for People of Color: An Act of Faith. Combine this with the community building that was created during the retreat, the events hosted by the Ministry on Racism at the People of Color Center, and the time set aside for People of Color only at the healing center and we have the most impactful Gathering in my memory. The Tuesday night Becoming an Anti-Racist Faith Community event replaced the traditionally-held Tuesday night interest groups.
These program offerings - Pre-Gathering Retreat for People of Color and Their Families, the Bible Half Hour, the “Becoming an Anti-Racist Faith Community” presentation on Tuesday night, Ministry on Racism Program and People of Color Center events, a Gathering Workshop designated for People of Color, and designated People of Color time in the Healing Center - helped create the most Impactful FGC Gathering in my memory.
Regina Renee Ward is a public librarian and former public school teacher. She is passionate about social justice, intellectual freedom, books, and labyrinths. She identifies as a Christian Friend and attends the FGC Virtual Meeting for Worship for People of Color. Her favorite book in the Bible is James and her life verse is Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
You can find her online at A Friendly Journey and on Twitter and Instagram: @FriendRsquared.