FGC is committed to pioneering new initiatives that share Quaker faith and practice with newcomers as well as new meetings and worship groups through methods that will both deepen the spiritual lives of Friends and allow them to share meaningful journeys together. This commitment is evident in the work being done through two of our newest programs: Spiritual Deepening and the New Meetings Project.
During the first weekend of February, FGC held its second consultation for the Spiritual Deepening program in Hampton, Georgia. We welcomed representatives from just about every FGC-affiliated Yearly Meeting. Many of the attendees from the first Spiritual Deepening consultation in 2014 returned to this year’s consultation, and we were thrilled to be joined by new faces as well.
Important work was done by all the groups, and in particular we were most interested in the efforts of the online learning working group and the newcomers working group. Among the highlights for the online learning working group was a presentation led by British Friend Simon Best on the web-based learning program he devised with the help of Britain Yearly Meeting. Online learning represents an important opportunity to create deeper community with Friends who live in small towns or remote areas that are unable to experience the Quaker way as part of a monthly meeting. We were delighted by the different parties convening at the same table to look at possibilities for mutual learning, including FGC, Pendle Hill, and Britain Yearly Meeting.
The working group focused on newcomers examined what topics made the most sense to consider when introducing individuals to the Quaker way for the first time. This group looked at what type of experience transpires for newcomers, from the moment they come into the door of a Quaker meeting house to the moment they decide to become members. The members of this group were completely engaged throughout the consultation, which was an exciting observation to behold. When people are engaged in the task at hand, it's obvious that important work is happening.
At this point in time, the Spiritual Deepening program is ready to launch a pilot program that will prioritize the newcomer experience. When the pilot launches in Spring 2015, we are hopeful that it will reveal to us what works well, what needs to be revisited, and draw inspiration from the diversity of Friends' spiritual experiences.
Like the Spiritual Deepening program, the New Meetings Project wants to impact the experience of those looking to enhance their understanding of the Quaker way, this time through the creation of a new meeting. The program aims to nurture new meetings in North America and connect them with resources that help establish a lasting foundation for worship.
Since its inception in 2012, the New Meetings Project has received over 80 inquiries from Friends in the United States and Canada interested in organizing new Quaker meetings. FGC is pleased to report that, as a result of the program’s resources and guidance from New Meetings Project Coordinator Brent Bill and his team of mentors, 17 new Quaker worship groups are now meeting.
As the program continues to mentor new meetings and guide prospective meetings through their process of discernment, the New Meetings Project is eager to add more resources to help acclimatize new attendees with Quaker process in both worship and business, and to engage families with children.
We look forward to the continued progress of these programs and will share updates along the way.
This article orginally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of FGC's Vital Friends. Click here to read the full eNewsletter.