Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference
It depends on the day. The greatest challenge of this position, in terms of Quaker practice, is that sometimes the days are so jam-packed that I don’t feel like I’ve actually had much time to step back and center, pray, worship—really be in a listening space. There’s a lot that happens with this job. Sometimes just the crush of: sign the contract, read the paper, go to the meeting, take the phone call, return the 50 emails. There are days when I leave that I don’t actually feel very connected to the Divine, just from the pace. Where it brings me closer is when I can step back and have an opportunity to engage, especially when it’s an opportunity to engage around what’s really driving people, whether it’s people who are volunteering for the programs, people who are using the programs, a staff member who is feeling called to a particular piece. When I can be in some sort of relationship with those movements, then I feel really connected.
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Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:
Most days, closer. There are occasions when I can be frustrated and think, “Wow, this is a distant idea.” But most times, closer. It certainly makes me think a lot about the best of Quaker practice. I’ve also spent more time recently wondering, “Who am I, apart from this role and the Quaker practice? Who am I with God, apart from this role and Quaker practice?” I’m not very far along in that. I feel like a lot of my time is spent asking “Who am I in this role in relation to God and this organization?” But that’s a good thing. It’s interesting to contemplate.
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Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:
I don’t know. It’s hard for me to separate the fact that I live and exist here from the work that I do in and for the place. They’re all so bound up together in my worshipful seeking. I take workshops here, just like other people do, and I learn and grow. I seek here. I don’t know how to find a dividing line between those two things, so I guess they’re joined.
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Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:
Mostly, the vast majority of the time, closer. Although I have been known to say that the quickest way to turn a Quaker into a Methodist is to make them the head of a Quaker organization. In my view of Quaker decision-making, discernment and seeking unity-that’s meant for big decisions. God does not care what color the curtains are in the kitchen of the meetinghouse. If you try to discern on that, you’ll discern a long time. You won’t really get a lot of spiritual guidance out of that. So I think there’s a tension between recognizing that there are big decisions that we need to look at and come to unity about, but not make everything bogged down into a six-month process in order to decide something that really is not at that level and needs to just move on. I like to try things and adjust. You can try a particular way of organizing things, and then if that doesn’t work, you can change it. Sometimes from the board, there’s this, “No, no, we have to have a working group, and it has to meet seven times over two years,” and then I think, “Things are happening! We have to do it!”
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Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:
Overall, closer, in a deep, fundamental way. The challenge can be more on a day to day, week to week, Sunday to Sunday basis. Mostly, my work brings me closer to the Quaker faith and deeper into my faith ,and makes me different by relationship with the Religious Society of Friends, even though there are challenges day to day.
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Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):
Probably closer. I used to say that I was the most fortunate person on earth because I was married to the best person I could be possibly be married to, I had the two most wonderful sons I could possibly have, and I had the best job I could have on the planet. Nobody could call me and up and offer me another job that I would want more than the one that I had. Aristotle says human happiness consists of doing well that which we have the capability to do well. When I read it as an 18 year old, I thought it was one of the stupidest things I had read in my life-it seems perfectly circular-but I’ve come to realize it is a profound piece of wisdom.
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Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:
Most every day, I would say closer, because I see the work of God through the work. I see stuff happening that would otherwise not be happening. Despite all the cruddy things in the world, I see these amazing things and amazing people that are making a transformative difference. I think that enlivens my faith most of the time. The challenge of it from the administrative role is, you’re several layers removed from the actual hands-on work. When I can’t see the connection between what I’m doing and the hands-on work, that’s where I wonder, “Am I making a difference? Is this really God’s work? Or is this me just propping up an institution that may or may not be making a difference?” That’s one of the reasons why I like to be out of the office and see what’s going on, because it gives me hope.
For more of Colin’s story, click here