Central Committee, the governing body of FGC, gathered virtually from October 16th to 18th, 2020. Over the course of three days, representatives from FGC-affiliated Yearly Meetings and Monthly Meetings, as well as members of staff and observers from Quaker communities across North America, met to discern major decisions and review program accomplishments over the most recent fiscal year.
Initiating the Practice of Noticing
For this year's sessions, we initiated the practice of asking Friends to notice patterns of oppression and lift up things the group did well during our meeting sessions. This practice, also known as Noticing, invites Friends to acknowledge the assumptions and patterns of oppression that we may unknowingly perpetuate with the words we use to describe our work and share our feelings. Our designated Noticers tracked their noticings in a Google Doc throughout our Central Committee meeting and shared their noticings at the beginning of each session. The Noticers were helpful in furthering our work of becoming an actively anti-racist faith community.
The goal of Noticing is not to shame meeting participants or call out any individuals, but to acknowledge that these patterns are happening so we can interrupt them. As one Friend pointed out, receiving feedback, especially when we engage in oppressive behaviors, is a gift. Feedback helps us grow and move away from behaviors that harm the people around us.
The status of the 2021 FGC Gathering
A major decision to come out of our time together involved next year's FGC Gathering. After careful consideration, the body approved approved the recommendation of FGC’s Long Range Conference Planning Committee for the 2021 FGC Gathering to be held virtually. Making the decision now to move forward with a virtual Gathering will permit Gathering staff and volunteers to focus on planning a rich and spiritually-grounding week-long online event, building upon what we learned from this past summer, and developing new offerings.
Discussing our Strategic Priorities
During our 2017 Central Committee, we identified four strategic priorities as an organization. As a refresher, here's what they were (reprinted from our 2017 report):
- Continuation of the FGC Gathering and fellowship opportunities that ground and transform lives
- Ministry on Racism - This program is doing important work (including the Institutional Assessment on Race) and we expect to build upon that work as FGC respond to the recommendations coming out of the Assessment.
- Clearinghouse/Yearly Meeting Connector - FGC should step more fully into being the vehicle through which yearly and monthly meetings learn from each other, which includes cross-yearly-meeting fellowship and sharing.
- Religious education (an umbrella for Spiritual Deepening, Welcoming Friends, Outreach, Faith & Play) - We heard quite a bit about the importance of religious education, excitement about the Spiritual Deepening eRetreats, and a hope that the Spiritual Deepening eRetreat platform might be a tool to connect Friends across yearly meetings in a multitude of ways for sharing and learning around a variety of topics.
After our 2017 meeting, Youth Programming was added to our priorities list as well.
A major part of the 2020 Central Committee meeting was set aside to discuss these five priorities and how we might expand FGC’s work in these areas. In particular, we spent a significant amount of time talking about FGC's anti-racism work and its importance to current and future Friends. FGC's anti-racism work was named by Friends in Central Committee as spiritual work. It is vital to creating a world that affirms the reality that there is that of God in everyone. The anti-racism discussions were not easy, and that underscored that there is more work for Friends, especially of European descent, to do around these issues. There were some ways forward that were named, and more about this will be shared publicly after additional work and discernment.
FGC's Programmtic Impact and Communications in Fiscal Year 2020
Central Committee was also briefed on the impact of FGC's programs and communications strategy for the previous fiscal year (October 2019 to September 2020).
Program Highlights from FY2020:
- 1,008 people participated in the 2020 Virtual FGC Gathering, including 55 children & high school participants
- 42 people participanted in the Virtual Pre-Gathering Retreat for Friends of Color & Their Families
- 20 people participanted in FY20 Retreats for People of Color, including 11 at the in-person Fall 2019 event and 9 in the virtual Spring 2020 event
- 3,086 people visited the online Spiritual Deepening Library
- 275 participants in Spiritual Deepening eRetreats
- $60,825 in sales was generated by QuakerBooks (eventhough there was no in-person Gathering bookstore or Yearly Meeting book tables)
- 1,070 visitors to the Conversation on Grief, Death, & Dying Podcast and Web Resource
These numbers may be related to an encouraging trend - our engagement is up across the board compared to Fiscal Year 2019:
- 190,728 FGCquaker.org visitors (Increased by 22,618 visitors)
- 70,380 QuakerFinder.org visitors (Increased by 14,764 visitors)
- 26,133 QuakerBooks.org visitors (Increased by 6,019 visitors)
- 12,309 Email Subscribers (Increased by 1,470 subscribers)
- 64 Marketing emails sent via MailChimp (Newsletters & Program Updates, on par with FY2019)
- 6,073 Facebook "Likes" (Increased by 211 Likes)
- 2,732 Twitter Followers (Increased by 407 Followers)
- 808 Instagram Followers (Increased by 384 Followers)
The last important piece of news we shared - in 2021, FGC will have a new website! FGC has formed a working group to oversee the process, and under the guidance of its members, FGC has hired web development firm YIKES Inc.
Gratitude for our Outgoing Clerks and Rising Presiding Clerk
We recognized the dedication of outgoing committee clerks David Bantz (Communications Policy, Strategy, and Infrastructure Committee), David Haines (Long Range Conference Planning Committee), Carolyn Lejuste (Institutional Assessment Implementation Committee), Connie Lezenby (Property Committee), Laura Lockledge (Naming Committee), and Frank Perch (Finance Committee).
Central Committee members also showed their appreciation for outgoing Presiding Clerk Frank Barch, and welcomed Marvin Barnes as our new Presiding Clerk at the rise of our weekend meeting. Marvin is a member of Birmingham Friends Meeting in Lake Erie Yearly Meeting and served on the Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism Task Force from 2016 to 2018. He also served on the Site Selection subcommittee for the Gathering and the Communications, Policy, Strategy, and Infrastructure Committee.
This report originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Vital Friends, FGC's monthly eNewsletter.