Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference
I knew that Bruce Birchard was retiring, and the thought had gone through my mind a couple of times, but not seriously. At the time I was in service at Pendle Hill, and was looking. I really thought that I might be moving to North Carolina after that. Then I received a phone call from a member of the search committee, Byron Sanford, and it was a really important call. Byron knew how to engage me, to talk about what matters. I love and appreciate Byron. He asked me if I had considered applying for the position, and I told him that thought had not occurred to me. And… he chose his words carefully. “Your spiritual community needs you to prayerfully consider this.” And I just went,“Oh. Ok.” I really felt taken to accountability by those words, especially by it being Byron. I took it very seriously, and brought it to my Anchor Committee, and we spent two months in discernment around it before I decided to apply. I was not clear that what I was asked to do was best fulfilled through being General Secretary. I really had a thought in mind to try and create what at the time I called a path within the path. I wanted to create a set of practices, to design a form of Quaker practice that was within the FGC tradition, but for people who were wanting a more intensive spiritual experience. Something that would be relatively transformative, pack in, very front loaded, very much in the tradition of what I had experienced among Buddhists, in terms of people having a really intense experience of Buddhism over a relatively short period of time.
So I really had a long debate about whether I should be pursuing that project, which I called the Clearlight Project, or apply to become General Secretary. Ultimately, my anchor committee was able to ask questions and guide me in a way that it became clear I should apply. It was interesting, because I started to have doubts. I applied and found myself a finalist. Then I found out who the other finalists were and decided that this was a stellar group of human beings. I was not needed. So I went to my Anchor Committee and shared with them that I thought it might be possible for me to withdraw from the process, because of the strong candidates who were in it, and we went into worship. One of the members of my anchor committee broke the silence, and the words that came through her were, “This is no longer up to you. This is between our community and God. You will not short circuit the process.” It was one of those moments where I very clearly knew the truth had been spoken and that I was simply to submit, and so I stayed in the process. I actually didn’t believe that I would get the job. When they offered me the position, I have to admit, my reaction was I was sick to my stomach, because I kind of understood what went with this. That this was going to stretch me in ways I couldn’t imagine. Friends General Conference (FGC) is an institution that’s really important for Friends, and really important to the renewal movement. There are many friends who have deep hopes for the continuation and growth of the Society of Friends. I knew that if I said yes to the position, I was going to be making myself in some ways a vehicle to carry all of those hopes and aspirations, and that was not something to carry lightly. But it did become clear over the next twenty four hours that I was to say yes. That’s what brought me here.
For more of Barry’s story, click here
Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:
When Joe Volk, my predecessor, was retiring, a friend of mine who was on the committee said, “You should really look at this job. You could be good at it,” because I’d done advocacy work. I kind of dismissed it, really, because I was in Connecticut at the time. Then somebody else from my own meeting said, “Oh, Diane, you should consider this, they’re really trying to build the pool.” I thought about it a little more, and then Ernie Buscemi, had agreed to serve on the search committee, called me. She didn’t know me, but she said in a very compelling way “We hope you’ll really give this some consideration, some prayerful thought, and consider whether you want to apply.” I think it was that call, really. It was like being asked, somebody wants you-and it wasn’t saying “Oh, this job is for you,” it was saying, “We want you to consider whether this is the job for you, and we want you to consider putting your application forward.” I liked that process.
When I did a phone interview, and then when I went for the in-person interview, it felt like, “This is the right thing to do,” and it felt good. When they asked me to come be interviewed as a finalist, I thought, “Okay, this will be great, I know Quakers.” But, it was really different, being in a Quaker organization. But they offered me the job. I was pretty clear that if I had the offer, I would take it, and so I didn’t need to take a long time to think about it.
The search was happening, as you may know, as a part of this big transition five years ago. So one of the questions was, “American Friends Service Committee is looking for a head, and Friends General Conference is looking for a head. Why have you applied for this, and are you going to apply for those?” And I was just like “No! No! I wouldn’t want to apply for those jobs!” Because this was about advocacy for me, about public policy work, and that felt like it was what I wanted to do, because I really believe in systems change. The idea of working for a Quaker organization, to come here and be able to do that with Quakers, was a thrilling idea. But it wasn’t that I just wanted to work for a Quaker organization. That was certainly compelling, but I never had an aspiration to be the head of a Quaker organization.
For more of Diane’s story, click here
Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:
My predecessor, who was very inspirational to me, who hired me and taught me a lot, suffered a car accident six months into my tenure. So, due to the nature of my then-role as Dean, being technically considered the “second in charge,” I sort of de facto became acting Executive Director. After several months, and a transition to being interim director, the Board opened up a search for a new permanent director. I met with a range of people whom I trust, to get clear to make the application, and when I did, it was with a disposition to say, “I’ve been doing this work for close to a year now, so I feel quite familiar with what’s needed, and what the routines are. If there’s somebody who can come in and do it better, that’s the person I want to work for! I will throw the weight of my support and any training I can pass over to them. Meanwhile, if they really do a wide search and become clear to hire me, then I’ll feel as though I earned it and it didn’t just fall to me through these circumstances.” It was a really testing process. I felt vulnerable, because I knew that the staff knew that I’d applied. I knew that the process would be long. I felt sort of “out there,” not knowing what would come. But I felt so honored to have been selected, in the end. I definitely made a clear decision to apply, and would have been happy for Pendle Hill in any event. I also knew that it was a size too big for me. I knew that I would be trying on practices and skills that I had experimented with, but never frequently used in combination, and that there would be some things, like providing leadership during a capital campaign, as a staff person, that would be new to my experience and would help me grow. I’ve felt honored and excited, all of these years, to be able to keep learning through a position, but also being of service while I’m learning.
For more of Jen’s story, click here
Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:
I almost didn’t. A lot of people asked me to. It was in 2009, and the organization had laid off 50% of the staff as a result of the crunch. We were in terrible financial shape. People who were on staff and some outside of the organization were worried that an outside person would not be able to come in and understand things well enough to keep the organization from dying. So I was asked. I knew that I didn’t want to move to Philadelphia- my husband had a job and didn’t want to move-so I decided to apply, and I think I said in my application that the process needed to be a discernment about whether this was the right thing for me to do. And it was! It was really good. The search committee was very good. My husband and I worked with a clearness committee in Santa Monica Friends Meeting, and we thought about whether this was what we could do and how long we could do it. It was very much a spiritual decision to take the job, and in the end, it just felt right. The search committee was very clear that they thought I would be the right person, and I felt that I should do it. Sometimes you’re called to do things that aren’t the most comfortable things for you, and you need to do them! I do feel like I was the right person at that time because we are in much better financial shape, we’ve repaired some of our relations with Friends, I feel like I can move on and somebody else can come in.
For more of Shan’s story, click here
Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:
Well, I didn’t apply for the job. The whole process of starting QVS was a ten year process. All that time I was telling you about, jumping from job to job, working at the American Friends Service Committee, and going to seminary – all that time QVS was something I was working on, talking about and thinking about. In the years before we started QVS in 2012, there was a group of people who were working on this and eventually became the board. I was the person who was the driver of that group – the person who was consistently saying, “We’re not going to just let this drop.” It was just constantly pushing to make sure meetings happened, that we were taking notes, and inviting people into the group – leading and organizing it. By the time we got to the point of feeling clear that we wanted to start our own organization and program, I was the person who had spent the most time and energy on it, and was the person who was at a point where I could do this as my focus, because I was just finishing seminary. It wasn’t an application process. We decided to do it in Atlanta because I was in Atlanta and was willing to do it. The board was confident that I had the skills, knowledge, connections, and relationships: that if anyone could do it, I could. They made the official decision to appoint me as Executive Director after many years of working and building relationships. Definitely not your typical “apply for a job” situation-sort of a create your own job, I guess.
For more of Christina’s story, click here
Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:
I didn’t apply. Four years into my job at the charter school, I was called by the search firm that the Friends Council was using to replace Irene McHenry, and I actually remember laughing at first. “Would you be interested in applying for this job?” I said, “No! I love my job! Why would I apply for this job? I didn’t even know it was open.” After talking to that person, who I’d known before, I agreed to come over and talk to the search committee from the board at Friends Council. I remember saying to the guy, “Tell them to make it good,” because I didn’t think in a million years I’d leave. And they made it good. I think it’s time for Friends schools and organizations to think about being a much louder voice than we have been, finding ways to collaborate together instead of seeing each other as competing organizations orbiting in different ellipses. It’s time to actually start thinking about us as “a thing,” because I think we’re wasting an opportunity to make the world better. They were on board with this crazy plan of mine to do this. I’m in the process of challenging Friends schools to be a little bit more clever in the ways that they think about how they might offer what they know and what they do to kids who don’t have the opportunity, for a million different reasons, to attend a Friends School full-time. So those were the big two hooks for me. I think if the board here wanted to “stay the course,” I wouldn’t have come.
For more of Drew’s story, click here
Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):
I knew I would apply. I needed to clear it with Stan Katz, remind him of our deal be sure I don’t blow myself out of this job along the way. I also knew that somebody doing due diligence in a search would call people at Reed who would want to say terrible things about me. It helped reassure me that Earlham ended up hiring the same search firm as Reed had-Academic Search Consultation Service- and a woman named Christine Young was the lead on both of these searches, and so she knew what I had dealt with at Reed. I felt like I would at least get a sympathetic hearing about what had gone on. Also, by then I knew some members of the Earlham faculty, largely through Friends Association for Higher Education (FAHE). I’d gotten to know John Punshon and he’d become somebody of importance to me — he taught me a lot about Quakerism, and he heard me give a presentation at the FAHE conference. While I was at Reed they had one of the conferences at George Fox University, and I talked about the idea of character formation and why that was consistent with a Quaker understanding of higher education.
For more of Doug’s story, click here
Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:
There’s an annual gathering called “Supes and Secs” that happens every year, superintendents and secretaries. About four years ago, Margaret Fraser was leaving Friends World Committee for Consultation, and there were a bunch of us in that community that were about to retire. Margaret at our retreat says, “I think we shouldn’t retire. I think we should just change jobs,” and so she wrote all the Quaker organizations on a piece of paper in a hat, and we went around the circle and pulled out different organizations. So it comes around to me, and I pull out FUM. I was the superintendent of Northwest Yearly Meeting at the time, and one or two people said to me, “That’s prophetic.” And I said “Nooooo, it’s not prophetic!” Later I was told by the person who was then the General Secretary that actually, my name had come up. She told me, “Don’t be surprised if you get called and asked if you would consider applying for the job.” About a year later, I got a phone call and they said, “Would you apply?” and my initial response was, “No.” I was really interested, on some level, because I really like what FUM intends to be, and what it does. But I couldn’t imagine my wife being interested in moving, and I wasn’t sure that I was. I had a sense that FUM really needed somebody who was going to be able to spend a lot of time and energy on building relationships. I didn’t know most of the people at FUM, and it seemed like that was a real deficit. Anyway, the search team called back and said, “We really would like you to consider this.” So we talked about it as a family, and I asked a couple other friends for their discernment, and it became clear that at least I ought to apply. So I did, and the first interview happened, then I came away from that thinking, “That went really well. I wonder what that means.” Two days later they called back and said, “You’re the person we would really like to take this position, if you’re serious.” So they flew us, me and my wife, out here to visit face-to-face, and that’s how it came to be. The other thing I’ll say, because this was really important to me: I was starting to feel released from my other work. I felt like my time was done there. I was coming to a place of completion. I wouldn’t have applied if I hadn’t felt clear to let go of the other.
For more of Colin’s story, click here