Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference
The influences are from a few different directions. One is around how we choose to interact with one another as colleagues. Friends General Conference (FGC) is at a challenging moment in its history: we have lots of support, we’re doing lots of good work, but there are not the financial resources that we might wish. We’ve been in the process of cutting back, in terms of the number of programs we offer and our staffing levels. In the midst of this, we’ve had to really carefully consider: what does it mean to be letting go of staff as a Quaker institution? How do you do that in a way that is, we pray, s loving, compassionate, and rightly ordered? I’m not going to say that we’ve done that exceedingly well, but we’ve had the intention to do it as well and as thoughtfully as we can. Another aspect is around, what does it mean to be Quaker? What does it mean to live a Quaker life, especially in a work environment?
On a larger level, the faith tradition informs me in terms of mission. The part that gets me up in the morning is the recognition that there are people seeking for a different way forward around Western spiritually. We have something that I believe is compelling, so fulfilling the mission really means something for a lot of people. Having a spirituality that is trying to affirm that of God in everyone, trying to affirm basic tenets of equality, in a world that still denies equality to many people—to have a spiritual tradition that attempts to talk about stewardship and attempts to understand our place in world around the environment and around science and the intersection of ethics and development issues—is really important. There is so much good work being done by secular activists on these issues, but I think there’s also a real need for people of faith to be engaged there. There are sometimes particular, important pieces that people of faith bring to these incredibly important worldwide issues around climate change, social justice, and economics. To provide a faith tradition that people can use, not only to transform their personal life, but to consider how it is that they are going to live in the world as a personal witness, is really important to me.
We talk about the prophetic tradition among Friends. There’s been a long standing discussion and understanding around how personal transformation transforms a society. I’m intensely interested in how the spiritual practices actually result in changed lives and a changed world.
For more of Barry’s story, click here
Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:
I think about it all the time. We have this wonderful vision: “We seek a world free of war and the threat of war, a society with equity and justice for all, a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled, and an earth restored”-also known as the Kingdom of God vision. It’s emblazoned on the wall downstairs, it’s on the little markers outside, it’s on a lot of our materials. We talk about it. That’s an active conversation. The Quaker perspective isn’t the whole faith perspective, but it is a perspective that’s important and useful and offers something. We were the first faith-based lobby in Washington, D.C.: so we’ve been here 73 years. So I am well aware of the grounding that we have from those Friends who started FCNL in Richmond, Indiana in 1943. But I am also aware of those Friends who signed petitions to King George, and who throughout history felt called by their faith to speak truth to power. That is awesome, and sometimes daunting, but it’s also just like being, as Daisy Newman wrote, a procession of Friends, being in the living stream of Friends. I feel that so strongly. But again, not me as a leader, but this organization and all the people that pick it up, are all part of that.
For more of Diane’s story, click here
Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:
In Quakerism there’s an allowance for slowness that’s not mainstream. I can take a pause and choose to act with greater thoughtfulness over time than I might be able to in another workplace setting. That’s been hugely valuable on personnel issues, or issues regarding fairness at the individual level, but also at the structural level. There are some things for which being able to make a quick executive decision is needed and valuable, and being able to trust in your leadership to make a decision that through the lens of time you’ll feel glad about. To be in a place where I can speak of Love as that which should inspire and bind our work here. It’s really magical to have to ask myself, “Do I pass that test? Am I coming from a place of love right now? How much of this is ego? How much of this is about crafting a sense of reputation for the staff that I need or want to have, rather than being of service and doing what’s best for the greater good?” Getting to play with those questions openly in the workplace is an incredible gift. It’s tempting for me to want to give the right answer, or to reply with clarity, when often, the true answer is, “I don’t know.” Even if you don’t utter those words, just to say, “I’d like some time to think about that,” or “Can I get back to you Monday?”-what a gift, to feel okay asking for that!
For more of Jen’s story, click here
Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:
In a very fundamental way, this organization wouldn’t exist if I and others didn’t have a deep belief that the Quaker faith is worth investing in and worth saving, or at least revitalizing. It’s a tradition that is useful for many people who don’t yet know about it. Part of the role of QVS is being a doorway to Quakerism for many young adults who otherwise wouldn’t have a doorway in. As much as I have criticisms of Quakers-as we all do, because we’re not perfect-if there wasn’t a deep belief that there was something valuable and important that we offer the world, none of us would be putting any of our energy into this. There’s plenty of other great service organizations out there. We didn’t need another service organization; but there wasn’t a Quaker service organization in this particular way we are doing it. I would say as an organization, Quakerism essentially is at the heart of what we do. It’s something we’re always wanting to come back to, making sure that we’re not getting too far off of our message. It’s easy to do that when you’re just off and running trying to get things done.
For more of Christina’s story, click here
Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):
I don’t know how to answer that except, as a person of some spiritual seeking, I don’t know that I do anything that doesn’t have something to do with thinking about what’s the right thing to do. It’s not a question I can separate myself from. I don’t know how to think about that except in the context of myself as a spiritual seeking person who has a deep well of selfishness within him that is inescapable.
For more of Doug’s story, click here
Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:
It has everything to do with it. It’s the motivation for the work. It’s the source of whatever good I may actually be able to accomplish. I believe that. It’s a job that feels overwhelming to me often, and so it’s like, “Okay, God, if anything good is going to happen, you’re going to have to somehow make it happen.” I see that at work in me. I think part of the way that my faith has been really instrumental, has also been a sense that it’s not my job to fix all the problems in the Quaker world, FUM’s or anybody else’s. All I’m called to do is be faithful.
For more of Colin’s story, click here