What influences does your faith have in your job today?

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

How much if any, influence did your faith have in how you responded to applying for the job?

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

I think a lot. I realized there was potentially something there for me, and that part of following a path of faithfulness would be just allowing myself to be there, to be a candidate, and if I didn’t get selected, then that was okay. I had worked on housing and homelessness ,and I felt like the lobbying work I’d done was in the same vein: not being partisan, trying to talk to everyone, and really being open to who would support these initiatives. To do that with Friends at the federal level was definitely a different order of magnitude, and a different range of issues. It seemed like a good opportunity to test what I understood about my Quaker faith in a political arena.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

Mostly, I suppose, in the process of seeking clarity to proceed. Also knowing that because I was applying to a Quaker center, I needed to ask myself, “Am I ready to be a voice of Quakerism for people unfamiliar with the religion and coming to visit?”

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

It continues to affirm the work I’m doing, that I’m in the right place, and that God helps me through it. It is a tough job, because I’m the only full time person in the office and I’m traveling around a good bit of the time. I intend to be in it for the long haul. In order to do that, I really do take off the weekend. I am committed to doing a good, hard, working day every day that I’m there, and going home at six or so. I don’t work long hours, but I work hard when I’m there, and that’s my survival strategy. God’s presence every day is where I gain my strength and my optimism. It’s really important to me to rely on that.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

My faith got me in the door of the organization back in 2004, and having a lifelong experience of relationship with the organization. Friends Journal was on my parents’ coffee table when I was a kid, it was something my meeting sent to me when I was in college. I had a story with it that was strong by the time I came to apply for the Executive Director role. I still have that story, and it has grown over the years. I think being an active, practicing Quaker was an important piece of my role – I don’t think they would have hired someone who wasn’t-this is an organization where you need to have a Quaker at the helm. I knew if I was offered the job and decided to try my hand at it, that I would really have to be more deliberate about practicing Quakerism. I was going to burn out if I didn’t have some specially Quaker spiritual uplift coming from an active practice. I also knew I would feel like a phony if I was trying to lead an organization that was dedicated to this and I was not in a relationship with a practicing spiritual community. I was very lucky that I found that. Doing this work and trying to be a good monthly meeting Quaker at the same time has really been a mutually supportive thing to those two parts of my life. One of the joys of doing this work is getting feedback from people who read the articles, or see the issues, or watch the videos. Hearing with my own ears that what we do as an organization has a positive effect in the Quaker world is one of the real perks of the job.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

It was all about my faith. It’s about integrity. That’s how I felt. It’s the same thing–when I took the job at Russell Byers Charter, it felt like, “If you really believe this stuff, you should do this job. Turning it down means you’re turning away from yourself.” That’s why I’m here. It’s a real challenge to live up to your own standards. I’m fortunate, on the one hand, that I get a chance to try to do that, but on the other hand, I had to sort of heed the call, “This is what I’m supposed to do.”

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

During the search I was living in New York, and I was a member of 15th Street Meeting in New York. I really didn’t have a circle of people there that I thought could be helpful to me. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say, and I talked a lot about Earlham’s Quakerness through the search.
For more of Doug’s story, click here

 

How did you come to apply for this job?

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

How would you describe your current position?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

There’s what it is, and then there’s what I hope it will become. It’s an interesting position: I’m the hierarchical head of staff in an organization that makes its decisions through Quaker process at the board level. It’s fascinating to go back and forth between those two worlds constantly. There is a community of both staff and governance who are very well practiced in walking those two worlds simultaneously. A lot of my work is spent trying to guide the mission itself, fulfill the mission, imagine how the mission will evolve; trying to shepherd the resources necessary for the fulfillment of that mission; and trying to make sure that the right people are in place to make all of that happen.

Where I would like the job to go over time is that I would love to have a little more public role than I’ve had. I had imagined there was a larger symbolic role for the General Secretary of Friends General Conference (FGC) to play in the broader Quaker world, in addition to the world at large. Since I became General Secretary, there’s been a lot of shifting here, which has really required me to be in the nuts and bolts of making the organization work—that the money was raised, that we met the budget. We will see in future years if I can have the opportunity to be more of a public figure. In some ways, I view it as fairly important, because there’s actually not that many Quakers who try to function as public figures in the broader society and yet those who do have really helped many seekers find transformation through Quaker practice.  I find myself thinking of Parker Palmer among others. In trying to be a public figure there’s a delicate line to walk. What can the General Secretary of FGC really say in the public sphere about who we are, what we’re doing, and where we’re going?  It has to be thoughtful and done with accountability.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

My current position as Executive Secretary of FCNL is to head up a staff of 43 people who work primarily lobbying Congress to influence them on legislative priorities that are set by Quakers around the country. My job is a mixture of administrative work, development work, fundraising work, and being a public face for the organization. This is an organization that has a lot of expertise and people who represent FCNL in lots of different ways, so I would say I’m probably the most visible face to the Quaker community, and to some degree in Washington, D.C. I see my role as being the person who clearly has responsibility to our governing body. And, different people staff committees, but I’m the “buck stops here” person.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

My job description’s spot-on for administration in this setting. If we wanted to boil it all down, it’s about being a good listener to the needs of the community, including not just the staff, but board and wider associates, alumni, formerly deeply-involved people. And listening for Spirit’s nudge, so that we don’t do things only because it’s tradition or because we did it last year. If it’s something we’re called to do because it’s going to effectively lead to beloved community, then let’s do that. Let’s be responsible stewards. Listening to where there’s a loss of energy on any level is important. Listening for the voice of those who aren’t yet here, and the ghosts or the presence of those who were here a long long time ago, but need for someone else to recognize their cautionary tales about equity. Because if you look far enough back, there are always marginalized and oppressed people. So listening for Truth, listening for the hints that there’s always more to do, and any gains achieved in that regard are fragile and precarious. They need vigilance and constant re-working. I’m still learning to do this well.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

Well, to be essentially the chief executive in an international organization, one major role has to be keeping the organization going financially. You have to do fundraising. And to do fundraising, you have to love and understand and be inspired by the programs, so that you can sell them with integrity to the people that you’re asking to give you money. I do love our programs, I am inspired by them-that isn’t to say they’re perfect but there’s always good things that are happening.

I think you also have to try to set up the internal workings of the organization to really align with Quaker values, and to figure out how you’re going to connect to the Quaker roots of the organization and to Quaker meetings. When I came, I was pretty afraid. A lot of meetings had, for different reasons, fallen out of interest in AFSC, didn’t know about it much, or were upset about something we were doing. So one of the things I have done to set up mechanisms for having all of our staff, all around the world, understand what Quaker values are and what it means to be an organization that’s guided by those values.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

My job description is funny. I have done a good bit of discovering what it is. There are five or so areas. One is administrative, keeping the office open and staffed, reviewing staff performance, and all that. Then there is the element of working at FWCC where we work to connect the four Sections and see where there can be collaborations. It’s really supporting those other four Sections’ secretaries. I view myself as a peer, but bringing those ideas together, since every section has different Quaker traditions of worship, and every section has multiple languages.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

I think the most important part of the job is to be really clear about what the vision of the organization is and reminding people about it – reminding people and repeating oneself more than one ever thought one would. I’m the person who holds that out there. I like to be a shameless cheerleader for what we’re doing and why it’s important. Cheerleading the work is such a big piece of being an effective organizational leader and that was something I learned on the job. No job description could quite put it that way. I had the great fortune of having a former board member to the organization who was an executive coach who offered as a gift to work with me as much as I wanted when I was starting out as executive director-just to have somebody to talk to and coach me on all the things I hadn’t learned yet. I would not recommend that anybody take an executive position without an executive coach. It was one of the most valuable things that happened. I’ve also learned about the importance of delegating. I like to help if people have a problem I could help solve, but my team has been really helpful at letting me know: let us work through this. You might be able to swoop in here and solve it, but let us work with it, because learning happens by solving problems. The team is good at solving problems on their own and asking me to be involved at the right level. It’s good to work with people that care about the organization and take pride in their work.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

That’s probably a really different question for me than for most of the other people you’ve interviewed. First of all being one of the founders-but also QVS is such a new organization that it feels like it’s changing every minute. In the very beginning, which was four years ago, I was called the executive director, which is funny because there wasn’t any other staff. It was the board and me. But in a way, we intentionally chose that title because that was the organization that we wanted to grow into. A lot of my role has always been about relationship building, whether it’s with a donor, with an older Quaker, or someone out of college who’s interested in doing QVS. I feel like all of our staff have to relate to people of all ages really well. We have local support communities in all of our cities who or give time and energy to QVS. Some of my work has been inspiring them and helping them understand our mission, and working with them when they have conflicts with each other or with the organization or they should be doing something different than they are doing. We work with a diversity of Quakers in terms of theological branches of Quakerism, particularly in Portland, Oregon. Some of my work has been conflict mediation for lack of a better word: helping people communicate better and navigating conflicts, helping folks get to the other side. A lot of my work is relationship building and communicating the vision and mission of QVS.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

Friends Council on Education is the member organization of the 80 Friends Schools in the United States. Half of those schools are in the Delaware Valley, in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting area. We also have affiliate schools around the world, and we’re also affiliated with Quaker colleges and universities. Our job is to strengthen the Quaker nature of Friends schools, and to serve as the national voice for Friends education. I think that the most important single thing that we do is offer a two-day program for new educators that introduces them to Quakers. In fact, it hasn’t been since I taught 8th grade social studies that I’ve felt like I’ve had that kind of deep impact on groups of people. Most people are unaware of how influential Quakers have been in challenging people to think deeply to end slavery, to allow women the right to vote. They’re just completely unaware of how influential we’ve been, and again, consequently influential in the way that they’re able to live their lives. So that’s what we do right now. And I get to travel around all over the place and tell people what to do and then go away. It’s an interesting job.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

I’m not like Fred Calder, but Fred did leave me strongly inclined to think that if you’re not the chief strategist, no one will be. You need to be incredibly focused on what the biggest opportunities and the biggest challenges are. The only way you’re going to do that is to leave a lot of the rest of the doing to somebody else. It also seems apparent to me that you wouldn’t want to be a president who isn’t also present to the students and a member of the faculty. It was important to me to be a member of the faculty, so I insisted to the search committee that, especially following my Reed experience, they appoint me as a member of the political science faculty and tenure me, so I’d be seen right from the beginning as a professor of political science with the intention that I would teach a course at least every year. That was so I would be with that among students in a way that a faculty member was-so that the president was like a member of the teaching faculty serving in another capacity. What there was to know was probably not immediately knowable and only ultimately knowable by doing the job and committing to being part of it. I don’t know that much else was a surprise.
For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

I would define it as about building connections. How do you help this group of 34 Yearly Meetings be in fellowship with each other, and to be meaningfully connected? It’s not just some sort of organizational affiliation. It’s a real relationship that’s actually making a difference in the lives of meetings, churches and yearly meetings. A concern I bring to the position is just that: “How does an FUM umbrella organization actually serve its constituency, rather than being served by the constituency?” Because I don’t think the latter has any future. I think that if these organizations do have a future, they have to be actually touching the real lives of people who live out their Friends’ faith on the ground each and every day. So part of my role is to help us think organizationally about that. How does our vision get fleshed out through our programming, through the relationships that we establish, through the way we spend our money? Part of my work is listening, paying attention to what the community says is working and what we think we need and want from FUM. I think part of my job is peacebuilding, to help Friends who are across the aisles from one another sometimes, or along the spectrum in ways that feel very far apart, to stay connected to each other.

For more of Colin’s story, click here

Have you had trying times in your work, and how did you work your way through those?

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

I’ve never felt like I couldn’t find work. I’d been a waitress at one point when I was in high school, so I felt like, “Well, there are things I can do. I can always go wait tables. I can do something.” So I’ve never had that sense of, “Oh my God, how will I live?” I’ve also had family and others who would be able to support me. So that hasn’t been a struggle. There are times now when I look back and wonder, “What if I’d stayed in teaching?” I’m pretty sure I would have been a principal. I might have had another kind of administrative job, but I think I’m definitely drawn toward leadership positions.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

Yes. By talking to people who’ve had similar experiences. By talking to people with different life experience than I have. And not giving up. Persistence is a key quality in moving through life changes, be they career or otherwise. It’s natural, for me at least, to want to escape at times or give up. You can usually find a way to move or shift, to no longer be in an unsatisfying situation. But I find that “standing in it” has been a huge teacher to me, when I’m really challenged. I’ve experienced a range of tests here at Pendle Hill. Sometimes when I don’t know what to do, just knowing that someone does, or that a group coming together and sitting with the question will, is all I need. Knowing that I can ask, and that the wisdom is out there, is what makes it possible to stand there not knowing what’s coming.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

The hardest times for me were finding summer jobs in engineering, when I was an undergrad. I definitely had experiences like showing up for an interview and having the interviewer say, “Oh, Shan Cretin, we thought you were a man,” and that was the end of the interview. I had a couple of those kinds of experiences. A friend of mine at MIT, a grad student when I was an undergrad-I was looking for a summer job and she was looking for a full-time job at Xerox, and she sued them! I watched her go through that and thought, “She’s doing the right thing,” but it so diverted her from everything else, to be engaged in that. I was actually more interested in a field like public health in many ways, and also I wasn’t interested in trying to fight my way into a position. My colleagues were supportive, my fellow students were supportive, but my faculty advisors didn’t really know what to do with me, and I think didn’t take me very seriously. I was not interested in being the token woman in the mechanical engineering department, having them give me an office with a window on the first floor so everybody could see they had a woman.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I think one of the biggest struggles for me happened when I had what I thought was my dream job, which was working for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). This is not a criticism of AFSC, it’s just where I was in my life. If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I graduated from college, I probably would have said my ideal would be to work for AFSC. I started working for AFSC as a full-time peace educator for the Southeast region, here in Atlanta. My college self would have looked at that and said, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do, it’s the perfect job for me.” I did it for just a couple of years, and it felt increasingly like… I was burned out, I was kind of depressed, I didn’t feel at all like I was bringing my full self to the work. It felt like this one piece of me was being utilized but all this other stuff that was important to me, including faith and Quakerism, was not at all part of the job. It felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. It felt like good work. I believed in the work I was doing. But it just didn’t feel like what I was supposed to be doing. That was a struggle because it was like, if this—what I always wanted to do, the dream job that anyone I know would love to have—if this isn’t it, then what the heck am I supposed to do? It was at that point that I decided to go to seminary—in part because I felt like there had to be some other way to be engaged in social justice work that would be sustainable. Most of the people from the Catholic Worker and other places I was working, people I really admired and wanted to be like for some reason, had gone to seminary. That theological education had been part of their formation and it felt like there might be something there for me. I’d been interested in religious studies and theology already. It was more like, “Well, I’ll apply and see what happens.” I only applied to one place here in Atlanta – Emory – and it was like, well if it works out then I’ll do it. Doors kept opening, and it was really important shift. QVS isn’t a total shift from AFSC in some ways, but in terms of my leading and calling, and feeling like it’s what I’m supposed to do at this time, it’s kind of night and day. And in terms of how I feel engaged in the work. That’s not at all criticism of AFSC, it’s just me and where I was. The person who took over for me is absolutely doing what he is called to do. That was a good lesson.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

This is about me and my spiritual struggle, not anyone else, because there are always plenty of human interactions that are struggles and cause concern. It’s sort of “What does your faith call you to do?” The conflict that I have is that a significant part of my job is supporting institutions that aren’t helping a lot of kids who need it most. What I’m doing about it is this: I was very clear with my board, my bosses, that if expanding the role of Friends schools in the education of all children isn’t an important component of this job, I can’t do it. It’s a challenge to me, and to all of the schools, both. My challenge is to find the right people in Quaker education, find the right people in public education, the right people in government, to try to see ways in good conscience that we can make this happen. I’m working with a couple of Friends to figure out if it’s possible to translate the spiritual version of the way that we describe ourselves normally–is there a way to describe it secularly?–and to begin starting schools that we would consider “in the manner of Friends,” but that we can with integrity say, “This is not a religiously-based school.” Can we actually do that? We’re going to try that experiment. And in some cities, like Philadelphia, it’s possible for anyone, with the support of the local public schools, to reimagine their curriculum, to add things like mindfulness, and be a true partner in the management and running of the school. So if we can pull these things off, I’ll feel really good about taking this job.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

I’ve never been out of work since I’ve been an adult. I’ve worked bi-vocationally a couple different times, sometimes working two or three jobs because that’s what we felt was right at the time and what we needed to do to survive financially. In terms of opportunities, they’ve sort of presented themselves. I guess I’ve tried to be open to opportunities as they’ve come. For me it’s been helpful to try each one on a little bit, just imagine myself in that role, and  in the process of doing that, that’s where I get a clear sense of, “Does this fit who God’s made me to be, and the things that I feel like I’m actually called to do?

For more of Colin’s story, click here

How would you describe your career path?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

My interest in design has never left me. I’ve really come to rely on what I would consider systems thinking or design thought, because I look at design as being about cohesive systems. It’s very much allied with my interest in history. History is a record, not so much of the past, but of what’s possible in the future. It gives a record of human possibility. The history and design pieces are very much interwoven for me, and so is the spirituality. When I was in graduate school, I worked for a special collections library which took me into a curatorial role part time. I was the assistant to the curator for photographs, and then assistant to the curator for manuscripts. I then jumped to museums and became a fundraiser for the arts. All the while, my love of politics had never subsided, and I found in my late twenties I was exploring a run for county commissioner in Dallas.

However, my life was about to take another detour. I resigned from my fundraising position to start a company, thinking about making this run. I went on a vacation in New Mexico with my then girlfriend, who is still a good friend, and had what I call “the accident.” This is where spirituality and career really started to collide for me. I was in the desert, and I had some sort of health event. Stroke? Heat stroke? Don’t know exactly, but it was life-altering. It was a year’s recovery, punctuated with really severe panic attacks. It really opened an existential can of worms for me. I ended up doing a very unexpected reevaluation of my life, while I was incapacitated. Realizing that, at the time, I didn’t know if I would ever hold down full time work again, whether I would actually ever be fully functional again. It was also a time where I started to have my spiritual openings become much more intense. Mystical experiences were happening more frequently, sometimes in my waking life rather than mostly in dreams as before—and I realized I had to make a massive life change. I went to work for my cousin, and found over time I could hold down a full-time job again. It actually was a really wonderful transition for me, and I am very grateful. He didn’t expect any more of me than I could do as the year was progressing. It allowed me to slowly get back into the world, and it allowed me to use a lot of the skill sets I had built up. That was great until we outran our cash flow and had to let go of the business.  I learned a lot from that experience about judicious growth and planning.  While he very successfully started another company, it was at that juncture that I decided to go to New Mexico to explore the spiritual leadings that were growing in me.

I ended up working for Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and that experience was extremely Spirit-led. When the company went out, I was looking for the next thing to do, and I had gone out to see my best friend Scott Affleck. I had spent a great week with him and was getting ready to go back to Dallas, because I had been admitted to get an MBA at University of Texas, Arlington. Scott looked over at me and said, “Why are you going back?” It was crystal clear in that moment. I thought, I don’t know why I’m going back. I sat there a while longer, and I said, “You know, I’m going back just long enough to get my things together, and I’ll be back.” And he said, “Ok. Let me know what I can do.” I went back to Dallas and started getting my things together. It really felt like Spirit was intervening over and over. Even though I didn’t have a job, I knew I would still leave Texas for New Mexico. I ended up getting a job at the Buddhist Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. That’s when all the various pieces around career and spirituality really started to plug into each other. It’s also when my Quakerism really took root. It was when I was working for Lama that I became a committed Quaker and was receiving a lot of direct guidance from Spirit. This was my path and where I was getting my energy. There was purpose in serving the Dharma at this juncture. Those experiences of serving the Dharma for those four years really set the stage for my walk now as General Secretary.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

I think the idea of teaching is a theme. Even as I’ve gone from teaching to working in nonprofits- and I guess I’ve really gone from teaching to running nonprofits-I also think about the teaching element of engaging people. I think that has applied in the work that I’ve done leading organizations, it’s not just, “Oh, I’m in charge and I make all the decisions,” but “All right, I’m willing to put myself in this place where I will help manage and organize and provide a voice and a front for it.”

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

Unfolding. I don’t feel like I’ve known where I’m headed far in advance, but I like to be tested and I really want to be well used. I never want to have a job that just has me doing functions to perpetuate status quo. I want to be doing something that leads to the kind of change that I value and feels important to me. If I’m not feeling as though my contributions are leading to that on different levels, then I will be stagnant and poorly used. I like what I do with others when there’s excitement and a big goal to accomplish. I feel like there’s “unstoppability” when excited, creative, talented groups get together. One of the best mindsets that I’ve ever enjoyed is loving the mystery of what’s coming next. If you can’t retain a sense of mystery around vocation, where you spend the bulk of your waking hours every day and every week, that’s sad! I don’t want that! I don’t want to know what I’m doing next.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

I was always looking for something that I thought was a good and moral and right thing to do that I would feel good about doing, and that got me into public health. I liked teaching. I thought that being a mentor to students was a very comforting kind of thing to be doing with your life, you could feel good about that, and then the research that we were doing in public health seemed good. But every year I would sit at yearly meeting and think about my career. From pretty early, I thought it would be great to work in a Quaker organization and actually work on things, have that be more integrated in my life.

A good friend of mine, Joe Franko, who was a math professor somewhere else, took a leave of absence and he was the AFSC Regional Director for 3 years. He really had never intended to stay that long, and he asked me whether I would apply. He felt like he had fixed some things, improved some things in the office. Around that time, September 11th happened, and that really pushed me. I had been in Seattle, doing work at a meeting, and was at the Seattle airport when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get a plane back. I had a rental car, and I drove it back to California. It was a very weird drive, very quiet. There were no airplanes in the sky. The radio stations were muted, and it just was a time when I really reflected. I thought, “Yes, I really need to work on peace more than I need to work on health.” So when I came back I applied for this Regional Director job.

Another draw was to think about trying to run this region of the AFSC and apply the things that I thought I knew about how to work collaboratively and how to lead through what the Japanese call “playing catch-ball.” That leadership is seeing things from a high level, but you also need to check it out at the bottom, because the people at the bottom see something that you don’t see, and there needs to be a conversation back and forth that lets you understand whether you’ve heard the right things, whether the leadership you’re trying to provide is in the right direction.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

Out of college, I was doing social work in Chicago, in the projects. I think that I learned lot of empathy and what the reality of life for many people is. It only begins to scratch the surface, when you think of the millions of people who have lived in poverty and are displaced. Then I went to graduate school and came out doing training and group work, which I’ve always loved. I went on to do board development: gathering a board who has great passion and expectations for an organization, helping them move into where they want the organization to be in a way that is effective, appropriate, and collaborative. Then I worked for Quaker organizations. When I had kids, I was committed to being at home with them, which was lovely-but I could continue with some of the consulting work. Then I worked for Friends General Conference and I worked for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

One of my big leadership experiences was being the presiding clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. As a young person I remember a particular moment when I was aware that I was happy to step in and provide leadership if the group needed it. But I’ve never really felt like I have to be the leader of this or that. Leadership is always in service to the group or the organization. So when I say now that I’d like to work for FWCC until I retire-that’s only if God continues to call me to it and it continues to be useful to the organization. We’ve all had experiences of people who push being the leader, and that’s very different from serving.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

My first job out of college was for a small internet startup based out of Bryn Mawr. I was working out of my boss’s apartment. He was a physicist turned investment banker turned entrepreneur working to build a different kind of search engine than existed at the time. After three years it was clear that it wasn’t going to take off. At that point I was going regularly to Merion Meeting, so I decided to see if there were jobs at Quaker organizations where I could do meaningful work that was not for nefarious purposes, feel good about about myself, and learn some things. I applied to a few Quaker jobs, and there was one at Friends Publishing Corporation, the institution that publishes Friends Journal. The job was project and database manager. I spent a lot of time working in the mentorship of my boss Susan Corson-Finnerty, who was the publisher and executive director who hired me. I learned a lot over time. I was at various stations on the business side of the organization, so I got to work on marketing, I got to work on fundraising-especially things that involved writing, computers, and technology systems. I credit Susan for being willing to move me around and let me learn these things. I think that was tremendous.

In 2010, my boss decided she was going to retire, and I decided that I would throw my hat into the ring for the position. It was being refined as executive director, taking the editorial piece out of the job, because it was really too much to expect somebody to do both things really well. There’s been tons of learning on the job, but I really feel well used, like this work is making good use of all my attitudes and talents. I feel very blessed to be able to do something that is so engaging. It doesn’t leave me totally drained, so I get some work/life balance too.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I always say this to people, especially QVSers, who are at the beginning of their career journey: I think looking back, I can see how a lot of things I did over the past ten or so years make sense, and helped prepare me for what I’m doing now. But at the time, it didn’t really feel like that. I would say more or less everything I’ve done has had something to do with the intersection of social justice, faith, and spirituality. Those have been the common elements, but it doesn’t feel like there was a clear linear path. It was just like, okay, this is what I’m doing now and this is great, and that led to something else, which led to something else. A lot of it was about the people I met along the way, the relationships I built, and the passions that deepened through the things I was doing—but all of it was social justice related to some extent.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

I was going to be a lawyer when I left Earlham, but I thought, “I don’t want to go to law school now. I’ve had enough of school. So I’ll be a teacher at a Friends school for a little while!” I ended up getting a job a couple days after I graduated, at the Friends school in Mullica Hill, being a middle school social studies and language arts teacher, and very quickly realized that 13-year-old people were my wheelhouse. I feel like a lot of my career is “right place at the right time.” When I was 27, I became the the middle school director, not knowing what I was getting myself into. What it means to be a leader of peers hit pretty hard the first year I did that job. What I learned as soon as I took this next position was that, although you can be influential with people or you can be charming and friendly and maybe they’ll do what you’d like them to do or maybe you can exercise some leadership, there’s a discipline about leadership that didn’t occur to me, some thinking that I needed to do about myself.

The next move I made was to be the head of a charter school for five years, here in Philadelphia. My hope was to try to bring some of the things that we Quakers know and practice pretty well to a different setting, where Robert’s Rules of Order was the way the board operated, and people were very used to having adversarial relationships with one another. I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface as Quaker institutions in our thinking about what we’re obligated to offer back to the world. Part of the reason I’m in this job now is, I think that Quakers have a lot more to offer to the world than we’re currently offering, and we really need to get good at leading in the world.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

I was deeply involved anti-war efforts right through graduate school. It was a bit of tension-it was hard to be a focused graduate student and involved in it. I went off to Temple-I wanted an urban, public place. It has just unionized and I was fascinated by the possibility of a unionized faculty to stand up for more faculty control of the university. I taught at Temple from 1973 to 1987, and was tenured there. For most of that time, I was hell on wheels towards people in positions of importance. I was trouble incarnate.

I spent a year at Swarthmore College working with the Provost as a part of a Fellows program for the American Council on Education, and doing intensives with the 30 fellows a couple times during the year. The fellows program requires you to go back to the sponsoring institution for at least a year, so I went back to Temple as an Associate Dean. Later that year, I was nominated to become Provost at Reed College, where I worked for four years. They were tumultuous years with a lot of learning-I wasn’t hired with tenure, and the president who hired me left after my second year. The new president came in and told me it would be my last year, he needed to do a clean sweep.

I’d helped build a library consortium in the Pacific Northwest, and I became its executive director for a short period of time. I moved on to the American Council of Learned Societies. The board wanted a 6-8 year commitment because they knew they had a lot to fix about their operating procedures, finances, and fundraising. I said yes, but with an odd caveat: there are a couple of Quaker colleges that if they were president looking I’d want your permission to apply for them. The president, Stan Katz, wanted me to name them so we had a clear deal, and I named three, and Earlham was one of them. When I came into his office three years later and said “Stan, there’s something I need to tell you,” he said, “I think I read the ad this morning.”

What was that process like for you, since it’s very clear that it was because they were Quaker that you made that exception. What did your faith have to do with that decision?

Doug: There is a divide that opened up in the liberal arts in the first part of the 20th century between a concept of liberal arts that talks about knowledge for knowledge’s sake, which became the dominant view and an older idea that knowledge and the pursuit of a liberal arts education is character shaping. Almost every liberal arts college, you read their material, and you will hear lots of talk about character shaping if you read the front matter of the catalog. But when you read their curriculum, you’ll find that drops out. I had a strong orientation to character shaping as the purpose of education. Oddly, the only places that really are comfortable with that kind of character shaping are three kinds of institutions: Roman Catholic, evangelical, and Quaker. So independent of my being Quaker, if I was going to be president of an institution, it would be one that had a taste for character shaping.

For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

My joke is, I’ve been demoted consistently. My career path has surprised me. I would never have imagined myself working in the roles that I have. I’ve been really blessed to have these wonderful opportunities. After college, I worked with kids in prison and kids who were in the juvenile justice system, and it was during that time that I felt this call to pastoral ministry. I was a pastor for about 17 years, and then felt this other call and encouragement to think about, what does that look like on a Yearly Meeting level? How can you provide that sort of pastoral support and  leadership and service within a larger community, so that you’re building a sense of a gathered people, and an empowered people? It felt more like, this was the unique call that God had given me, and I needed to live into it, and it was affirmed by the community. So I did that for about seven and a half years. Then this invitation came to be at Friend United Meeting, and it was an extension of that. I think of it as a community rather than an organization. How do we be in relationship with one another across cultures, across worship styles, across all the barriers that we want to create with each other? How do Friends live together in a way that’s healthy and redemptive?

For more of Colin’s story, click here

Where did you attend college? What was your major?

Part II: If you did graduate work, what degree(s) did you pursue and what were their topics?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

I went to the University of Dallas, which is small, Catholic, liberal arts college in Dallas, Texas. I majored in History. I then immediately followed up by going to graduate school and earned a master’s degree in Modern European History.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

I went to the University of Nebraska at Omaha and I studied teaching. I actually wanted to be a health teacher, so I studied health and English.

I did a little graduate school, but never finished. I don’t have a lot of regrets, but that’s one. I really wish that I would have done that. And there was a time I looked at divinity school. I looked at both Harvard Divinity School and Yale Divinity School when I got out to Connecticut, and almost went through the process of applying, and then it just felt like, “Well, what would I do with this degree?” In retrospect I think, “Oh, well of course I probably would have done what I’m doing right now.”

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

I went to Elon College, in North Carolina. I majored in journalism and electronic communications, and I minored in psychology. I really wanted to be a journalist who would travel, and embed with rebel factions and community groups, and see the real story of what was happening beyond what is shown through normal news channels. I have a sense of heroism for what I’ll call “true journalists” that are led to follow that path and reveal the real pan and beauty of the world. I never really lost my wanderlust.

I did master’s work in environmental education with a focus on community-building. I did doctoral studies in the Bioresource Engineering department of McGill University, but my topic was  related to education, and how what’s known from the field of complexity thinking has relevance for education, culture, and how we conceive of ourselves as a part of a web, an ecosystem. My academic career, sort of similar to my vocational career, has been less a matter of deciding at an early age what the final chapter would be and writing the book to get there; it’s been more like swinging on a vine in the jungle and grabbing the next interesting vine that comes by, because it’s interesting.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

I studied mechanical engineering at MIT. I was the first woman in seven years to major in mechanical engineering, and the only woman in my class when I was there.

I went from MIT to Yale, and I got a Masters in Public Health, and I was working with people who were health care managers and designing healthcare systems. I was interested in how one got the best research from medical research into practice. Then I taught for a year at Yale, with a man who was rather unusual. He was a professor at Yale, a nurse, and he didn’t have a doctorate. His wife was a surgeon, and in those days that was not a usual connection. He wanted me to go into academia, and he said, “You better get a Ph.D.” So I went back to MIT and got a Ph.D. in operations research, which is kind of mathematical modeling and decision making, models of decision making and probability. I then went on and worked in public health for about 15 years, taught at Harvard and then at UCLA, and did research on a number of things: lots of work on clinical practice guidelines, errors in medicine, and a big project on rural health care systems in the People’s Republic of China.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

I attended Haverford College, and majored in English. I was aiming for pre-med, but at the same time that I found the college level sciences very hard, I was learning the study and appreciation of literature and what was going on beneath the surface of written human culture. Culture was fascinating to me, and I was making connections there that I thought were interesting. I worked as one of the editors for the bi-college newspaper, which was another way to stay connected to journalism. I also did work-study in the academic computing center, and spent a lot of time learning the craft of troubleshooting, which is a really useful practice that has served me well: isolating problems, understanding systems well enough to know what to check when, and following an algorithm to a conclusion with the goal of helping people solve something they need solving.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I was a Religious Studies and Spanish double major at Guilford College.

For my M.Div, I officially had a concentration in Church and Leadership Studies, or something like that. But before I started my M.Div, the idea and leading for Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) was already in the world. I wasn’t sure where, coming out of the M.Div, that was actually going to happen. But it was what I was carrying in, something I was really passionate about and engaged in—so if there was any real focus, it actually was in preparing me for that. I wrote my M.Div thesis on the history of Quaker service and service as a religious practice, trying to answer some of questions that I had for myself about why past iterations and experiences of Quaker service were so important in and how they shaped people. Getting to have some focused intellectual time to look at some of those questions was really, really good. But I also, in this three year program, just took some time to do things I had never really done before: took preaching classes, New Testament, Old Testament classes-things I didn’t have a lot of knowledge or focus in, which was really, really wonderful.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

I went to Earlham College, and my major was United States history. Earlham was awesome. I think at the time I was there, I felt like, “This is probably the most truly living Quaker place I’ve ever been.” It felt like a place that was really trying to live into those values, as ugly and messy as it sometimes could be. I felt like most of the professors were deeply interested in leading us along an alternate path that was deeper and more connected with human hearts than my classmates at high school experienced. I felt it while I was there. It was a great place.

I went to the University of Pennsylvania and did graduate studies in Educational Leadership about 15 years after I graduated from Earlham.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

I went to Haverford, where I majored in Political Science.

A Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale with a dissertation that was a deep mistake. I got drawn down a Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole of wandering. There are explanations in the social sciences that look at why human beings do what they do, and there are explanations that give reasons for why people do what they do. Those two are not easily bridged. Social scientists don’t like to talk about that, but it’s a profound problem. All this time I was aware that I was off on a pointed headed intellectual problem and not addressing issues of war or race or inequality that I was also interested in pursuing. As I left graduate school, I had a predicament of casting myself differently than my dissertation made me look, if I was going to stay in a college professor, to get tenure publishing things that were publishable in ways that are recognizable in my field.

For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

I did return. I went back to school, almost right away, and did an undergraduate degree in psychology at Portland State University. Later on in life, I went back and got a master’s degree at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in theology and church history. Later on, I went back and got a doctoral degree from George Fox University in spiritual formation and leadership.

For more of Colin’s story, click here

When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

When I was fifteen years old, I wanted to do a few different things. I wanted to be a politician. I wanted to be an industrial designer or design engineer, preferably designing cars. And I wanted to work for a Tibetan Buddhist Lama.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

Oh, a teacher-and I was a teacher. I taught English for four years in public high school outside of Omaha, in Millard Public Schools. I left there to go work for the Nuclear Freeze Campaign-wanting to take a leave of absence, but just assuming I would go back to teaching-and then went from one kind of nonprofit to another. But I really felt a calling to teaching. My mother was a teacher, and we talked a lot about teaching and learning, we talked about motivation and what makes people want to learn.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

It was always challenging to me that you were supposed to pick one thing. I always wanted to be able to be everything. When I was 15, I wanted to be free of others’ expectations of me, and at liberty to travel, explore, experiment, get into mischief. I really, frankly, as a teenager, wanted to hit the road and just explore and travel, and I did a lot of that in my teens and early 20s. I didn’t have a “this is what I want to be.” I wanted to be everywhere and see everything and taste everything and leave no stone unturned.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

I probably wanted to be a scientist of some sort, and I think about the time I was 15, that was probably also when I toyed with being a doctor. My parents did not go to college, but I was pretty clear I was going to go to college. I really liked math and science, and was very inspired by Marie Curie. Actually, around that time, I was also considering being a nun, and I subscribed to the Maryknoll missionary magazines. I was impressed by these pictures of women who were working in slums in Latin America and Africa, among people who were really in need of help in various places around the world, so those were kind of my directions. But I applied to a 6 year MD/bachelor’s program at the University of Texas, and MIT, Rice, and the University of Alabama, and when I got into MIT it was clear that that’s where I was going to go, so that’s what happened.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

When I was 15, I lived in Iowa, on a farm. I remember sitting on this hill that was my favorite spot – my thinking spot, my meditation spot. I was sitting there, and I remember thinking, “If I died tomorrow I would feel like I’ve already lived a good life.” At that age, it was remarkable because you know, I hadn’t lived much at all. I think I’ve always sort of filled my days and my life with things that I love doing. I’ve always had sort of an enthusiasm for life.

I never really had a clear direction. I’ve always loved people, and had social skills that have taken me to certain places. My college degree was in human development and social relations. It was an integration of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and human biology. I love that sort of integration of things. My masters degree was psychoeducational processes, which was basically social psychology. What I like to do is bring people together, get clear about what they want to do, and help them do that. It’s really about gathering people and their energy, and using what they have. When I was at Earlham, I had the idea that I might work internationally on behalf of the Planned Parenthood movement. I didn’t do that, but now I get to do international work in what I love doing, which is gathering Quakers, which is another thing that I love doing. That’s probably why I’m so enthusiastic about what I’m doing-it brings together those elements from a younger time of gathering people, working internationally, and gathering Quakers.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

I was interested in two things when I was 15: science and writing. I thought maybe I wanted to be a journalist, or a scientist, or a doctor, or a journalist who wrote about science -they all did a lot of reading and interpretation.I was interested in two things when I was 15: science and writing. I thought maybe I wanted to be a journalist, or a scientist, or a doctor, or a journalist who wrote about science -they all did a lot of reading and interpretation.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I was always interested in doing something to help make the world a better place. Pretty cheesy and vague, but I think that that’s probably where I was when I was fifteen.  My parents were both peace activists and involved in different forms of social justice work, so I think that’s what I assumed and expected I would do in some way. I don’t think that I had a specific career path that I would have said I wanted to be on at that point.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

When I was 15, I wanted to be an archivist. I ended up being a history major in college, and I was giving tours at the Shaker village. I wanted to work at the National Archives, and read through and categorize the letters, papers, correspondence of all the famous people we’ve read about in history, and catalogue and put them away. Part of it was the passageways and the places I imagined where these things went and were stored, kind of a peacefulness to it. It was sort of corresponding with history, but also the peace and quiet of what I imagined archival storage to be, like the warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they wheel the Ark of the Covenant in.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

A college professor or perhaps administrator. My senior year in high school we had to do a guidance project in which we did research on a future career, so that I wrote about those. My dad was a chemist for Eastman Kodak. He should have been a college professor; he was a natural born teacher. That was the image that I went off to Haverford with.

For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

When I was 15, I wanted to be a journalist. I started working for the school newspaper then, and I thought, “That’s what I want to do. I want to write, and I want to be a reporter.”

For more of Colin’s story, click here

What struggles do you have with being faithful? Where do you find renewal?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

I think in asking the question, “Do you have challenges around being faithful?”, the question for me becomes, faithful to what? I feel like what Spirit has asked of me is multifold; I have been asked to make the Quaker way more visible and accessible for people who are seeking God, the deep well, or whatever you might wish to call it. I have been asked to make a connection between the spiritual practice and the witness that so many Friends are engaged in. In particular, I have a concern with the environment and I feel like I have been asked to engage on that topic.

I also feel in that some ways I’ve been asked to witness around the mystical reality of Spirit. So what’s challenging in being faithful to those pieces is, how do you go about doing those things? What does it look like in lived practice? When I became General Secretary, I had a particular vision of how that might look through this position. I also knew that it was going to be service of spirit and the body, and that what I ended up doing might not look like what I’d imagined. Overall, it’s been a little bit of what I expected, and also a number of things I didn’t. The faithfulness piece, for me, is around asking myself, over and over again: is this what it looks like? Am I properly engaged? Am I walking a walk that has a godly outcome, for the benefit of others? One of the challenges of asking that question is the answers aren’t always clear. In particular around making Quaker faith and practice more visible and accessible to seekers—are we actually doing this? I feel it’s important to keep asking questions and really have faith that there’s guidance. That where I need to be and where others need to be will be revealed, and we will walk it together. And maybe at the end of the journey I can look back and say I was faithful.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

Well, that starts to get into the realm of being the Head of a Quaker organization, and marrying what’s a faith practice and what’s a daily piece of work. In terms of being faithful, I think just creating the time for God, creating a time to both listen and pray. That’s been something that I’ve found increasingly important, because this work requires a level of stamina that I’m not sure that I thought about before I took the job. Now that I’ve been doing it almost five years I see that there’s a certain level of physical stamina, but there’s definitely a spiritual stamina that’s necessary, too.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

When I think of faith, I think of trust in an ability to believe beyond evidence, and to rely on that during times where there’s confusion, or the path or the end-state is not known. The nature of faith work is to be in the confusion and reliance at the same time. I’m not a master of that. I also have long felt like, when it comes to faith, I’m “doing it wrong,” because I’ve always assumed that my conceptions of Spirit or relationship to holy traditions are not conforming to set orthodox practices. It’s taken me a long while to come to feel self-acceptance as well as comfort in talking about my own spirituality with others. As someone who has a job in a center defined by its religious tradition and commitments, I’ve never wanted to feel inadequate to that work. Also, realizing that I’ll never be able to be everybody’s conception of what Quakerism is, and so the decision to simply be one’s own, and make peace with knowing that that won’t be something that certain people relate to, has been really helpful and good work for me. It’s hard to know what it means to be faithful-and I think some people use that word with a definition that feels clear to them and unclear to me. When I need renewal, it’s helpful to remind myself that all things change.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

I worked at Pendle Hill for a year, which was really amazing-but before, that I had been unemployed. I had been working for a large non-profit 350 employees and part of my job as chief organization development officer was to reduce the staff by 30%. I was flying all over the country telling people they were losing their jobs. It was a difficult job at best, and people often appreciated my thoughtfulness. I lost my job after I did all that letting go. All my life, jobs always fell in my lap and it was easy. I don’t think there was ever a time before that when I had ever had a heavy discernment, other than, “Should I go to graduate school or have a baby?” kind of questions. I was unemployed for a couple of years, and it was a really long time of wondering, Gretchen: “Oh God, what is next for me?” and “Can you help me?” I often think our prayers are either prayers of thanks or prayers of “help me,” and during that time there were a lot of “help me” prayers. It’s hard when we have an idea of what should happen and God’s time is just so different. I didn’t get either of those jobs, and I was really struggling, thinking maybe I just shouldn’t just work for Quakers, maybe my time with that had run its course. Then I remembered that I had met my predecessor at a fundraising meeting in New York about a year before, and she had said “I’m leaving the job, just so you know.” I really believe that God put that idea in my head, because it was the day before the application was due. So I just started cranking away on the computer, and sent it in at 2am. Then heard that I was invited to London for an interview. The other job interviews were hard. I had to work hard at them. This one-even though I had to fly to London, the interview was two days with five people that were from all parts of the world, I had to give a talk, I had to meet with staff, I did some email responses, all of that. It wasn’t an easy interview by most standards. But it was easy. For me, the lesson was: what God calls you to do may come easy to you, even though it’s not easy work, because we walk with God. When it’s discerned well, when I feel that God has a hand on it, the decision becomes an easy one. I got the job, I sold my three-story house and moved into a two-bedroom flat in London, sold my car. It was all of the stuff that most people would say, “Why in the world, Gretchen, would you want to do this?” But it was not a question. It was clear that God was calling me to it, and I continue to feel that way. I feel really blessed to be doing this work. I feel very clear about its purpose, and feel very excited about it. It’s big work, with a tiny little staff, but it’s absolutely thrilling. I love it; everyday I feel very blessed to be doing this work.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

I have a lot of friends who are not religious, quite a few of whom describe themselves as atheist, and don’t see exploring the question of God or Spirit as something that is valuable to them at all – there’s no room for that. We have so many other things to do in our lives. I can’t say with absolute certainty that God exists and is working in the way I presume God is working. So there’s doubt, that maybe the brilliant and wonderful people who are my friends are right-there’s nothing except to be good people. That makes it a lot less work. Sometimes I like to preach about how Quakers need to be more out there about what we have and how we’re seeking God. I don’t always practice that with my friends – I’m not that guy who is constantly telling them to turn toward Christ or poking them about spirituality. So there’s a nagging feeling that at least in my personal life, I’m not always practicing what I think Quakers ought to do. I think I am successful at looking for that of God in others, but I realize I’m not perfect, and there are many ways I fall short of that. I’m not wracked by guilt or doubt about these things, but recognize that I’m not always doing it perfectly.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

Where I struggle the most is in being always busy and always doing and always accomplishing and always checking things off my to-do list. Not that those are not ways of being faithful, because I think often they are. But also I have a tendency to stay in that mode so much that I’m not taking the time to stop and recharge, listen and be still. I think one of my big challenges is not prioritizing times of stillness and renewal. Maybe because I’m such an accomplishment-oriented person, I often don’t prioritize that space, and I think that’s probably my biggest challenge around faithfulness. Because if you’re not stopping and listening, then you’re just listening to yourself, you’re not necessarily paying attention to when the call changes, or when you’re asked to do something that’s not just what, in your head, you’re thinking you should be doing. I would say I rely on other people to remind me of that, and to check in.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

The hardest part for me is partly maintaining the discipline of worship, and then trying not to feel guilty if I don’t go, because as Quakers know well–or should know well–there are opportunities every day, every minute, to be worshipful. I struggle with reminding myself that this is a thing that we’re all sort of acculturated with: things happen at certain times and it has to happen that way. I struggle trying to relieve myself of the guilt that I’m not practicing as well as I want to. Again, this Integrity Testimony, whatever the adults that I grew up with did–and I can’t exactly explain everything that they did–that one’s gone deep with me, too. So I constantly struggle with the choices that I make, and whether or not they reflect what I want them to, or what I think they should. It’s the never-ending quest to actually be the person who you believe you are and say you want to be. I’ve only ever really met one person, ever, who I felt I could just tell–it wasn’t just me, it was everybody in our presence–this is a person who’s actually figured that integrity piece out. That’s Sister Mildred Barker from the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community. Not a Quaker, but a person of tremendous integrity. So another struggle I have is: I have a person in my head who I measure myself against. If she was alive now, I’d ask her, “When you were 50, what was going through your head about this question of your struggles with your spirituality? Where did you see yourself falling short? Where were you succeeding? What were the important things?” I’m guessing that there were probably things she would have identified at the different points along the way, where she felt like she wasn’t living up to what she felt she should. But again, I knew her when she was pretty fully baked, and it was kind of incredible.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

I have what seems like a profoundly deep well of selfishness. I suspect almost all of us do. There are days, thinking about myself and what I do, that I’m kind of overwhelmed by that selfishness and its ability to let me to do and say things I wish I hadn’t. I don’t know anything to do about that except to know it and to try to develop spiritual habits to curb it.
For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

There’s a loneliness around the kind of work that I have in this season of life. I travel a lot, like I said. I’m not part of a community. Sometimes that’s just wearing on me. There are days when it’s easier to just get distracted. There’s something about being in fellowship with similarly minded and similarly kindled-hearted people that keeps one alive and moving forward in more healthy ways. So I think that probably is the biggest challenge for me. One of the ways I’ve tried to work on that is I’ve formed a virtual community of friends that I send a monthly confessional letter. In some ways, it’s like a support committee, but we don’t meet face-to-face.  I just say, “Here’s where I’m at in my spiritual life. Here’s some ways you can hold me in prayer. Here’s some stuff I’m thinking about in terms of discerning both personal issues and work issues.” That’s been helpful for me.

For more of Colin’s story, click here

Do you attend a worship service on a regular basis? What is powerful for you about that worship?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

Given the work of Friends General Conference (FGC), I’m in worship quite a bit, but it varies a great deal as to where it’s happening and with whom. There might be a longer worship that precedes committee meetings, or impromptu worship with donors. Formal worship at my own Meeting is actually more rare than I would like, in part because FGC committee meetings are often on the weekends. So I’m traveling back to Philly often on a Sunday night. Arch Street Meeting has a regular Wednesday night worship that I try to go to occasionally. I found there are anywhere from five to nine of us who are there. So it’s an intimate, quiet experience. I’ve enjoyed that. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with newcomers. Usually there are one or two newcomers every time.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

My membership is still in Hartford. My husband and I attend Langley Hill Friends Meeting, which is in Northern Virginia, most regularly. We haven’t transferred our membership there, but I like the physical space, and it’s a meeting that has good vocal ministry and good silent ministry. I’m finding it difficult to serve on committees and do that kind of work that is really important for monthly meetings. I think that monthly meetings really are both the seedbed of how we grow, and the flourishing garden of what makes our community strong, and so I think it’s really important to be present in Meeting and to participate. Participating for most of us has to be on committees, and because of the job, that’s hard.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

I have a love/guilt relationship with my meeting attendance. Living here at Pendle Hill, I’m so lucky to get to start every day with worship if I opt in. I don’t start every single day with worship, but probably 3-4 times a week. I get to begin my day grounded in stillness, which is incredible. But I feel guilty, sometimes because my monthly meeting attendance has been so sparse, and that’s largely due to wanting to balance my work life with family time on weekends. On First Day mornings we typically like to just get up and make pancakes and hang out together, and it’s rare that we decide to head into meeting. I don’t feel like I have too few opportunities for worship, but I do recognize that being part of a monthly meeting includes showing up and being part of the community. I feel well nested in the Pendle Hill community, and a little bit negligent in my longer worship opportunities.

An interesting thing about worshipping here at Pendle Hill for half an hour is that when I go to monthly meetings, and I sink into that hour, I have this mid-worship “coming out of the depths” experience about half-way in, like I’m being pulled up into my head and my thoughts because I’m so used to half-hour worship. I try to dive back down-and, when I’m able to do so, it’s in that second dive where there’s richer depth and noticing the inner teacher. I appreciate both types of worship, for different reasons. The ministry from around the world here at Pendle Hill, it teaches me so much.  It’s funny how there are days when there’s no spoken ministry at all, and other days where it’ll be bubbling with words. Either way, I get to experience the ministry and the seeking of others, and I like that. Here, it’s a continually renewing cast of ministers, you might hear words that move your thinking for a week by someone you’ll never see again. It’s a gift-half an hour daily, compared to weekly hour-long worship, or extended worship once in awhile. I’ve noticed, for myself at least, what a really different experience half an hour is.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

Since I have this job, I often have to travel on the weekends or be other places. I haven’t been able to, as regularly as I would like, be in one service. So sometimes I’m with another meeting. I like that ability to go and worship with new Friends, and see the different space. It’s a very different thing, I’ve come to understand, than being in a meeting in a more integral way. When I go back to my home meeting in Santa Monica, which I do maybe, 8 times a year, I really have that sense of coming home. There is a difference in being in a place where you really know everybody, and they know me; not as the General Secretary of AFSC-they’ve known me for a long, long time, and so it’s a different thing. When I go to these new places, even here-I’m a sojourning member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting-but even here I feel like these people only know me in this role, and it’s harder to get them to know that you have more than that. There’s good and bad about seeing other meetings, and seeing how they do business, and understanding that just because it’s done one way in your meeting doesn’t mean that every Quaker meeting has the same idea or practice.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

I get to worship with all kinds of groups. I think it is important to be grounded in a meeting, and I still feel grounded in my meeting in Doylestown. When I’m back I try to go there, because I was in that meeting for 30 years. I find it hard to get into the nitty-gritty of the meeting as much as I did in the the one I was in for 30 years: leading the young people, teaching First Day School, being clerk. It’s hard to be in at that same level, so then worship becomes the crux more than the activity of community building.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

I go as often as I can. It helps that my six year old likes to go, so I would say most months we go three Sundays.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I’m a member of Atlanta Friends Meeting and attend regularly—not every Sunday, but as often as I can. Definitely, that’s my community.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

I do, though ever since I became the head of a Friends School, one of the things that happens when people figure that out is that meeting becomes a place where they do business with you. So my meeting is a lot of different meetings. I travel around a lot, from meeting to meeting, and it’s mostly self-preservation more than anything else. I’m still a member at the meeting where I grew up, and I attend meetings all over the Delaware Valley. Like most Quakers, I still have to really practice at centering. I’d say the experience for me at meeting–I feel like it’s two halves every time I go, and I’m getting better and better at the second half. The first half is mostly just slowing down, and I feel like I open a drain and all of the things that have been swirling around in my head, I try to get those out of the way. What I find often is there are times when I’m really good and I can get to a place where I almost feel like inside I’m kind of glowing. It’s not like I’m seeing light. It’s like I’m feeling it. When worship’s over, I always feel kind of relieved about something. I don’t even know what it is all the time. It may just be from the hustle and bustle of the week. Maybe it’s a problem or a concern in my life that was bothering me. But it feels very relieving and comforting. It always has been, to be with members of your tribe. That has always felt like part of my worship.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

I’m now a member at Durham Monthly Meeting, to my surprise, having coming to Maine expecting to come back to unprogrammed Friends. I tried Brunswick Meeting, which is literally across the street-I could go in my pajamas-but there no kids and there is virtually no spoken ministry. Robbie and I became members at Durham Meeting about a year ago. My wife, Ellen meanwhile who has a lot of affection for Quakers, got her fill of Quakers at Earlham, she cheerfully joined First Parish Church at UCC Church in Brunswick, with its magnificent organ and choir, which she’s in. Some Sundays, especially when there’s singing we go to First Parish Church and enjoy it.

For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

I attend worship every week, but usually it’s different places, because my job has me traveling a lot. So I’m only at what has become my home Meeting here, every couple months. To me that’s really important discipline, the spiritual practice of gathered worship in community. What I miss deeply right now though is the sense of being connected in a community. It feels like a hole in my life. I’m a big strong advocate for worship, and it ain’t happening right now, in terms of that kind of ongoing practice.

Some of it’s the worship itself. There’s something for me that’s transformative and powerful when two or three are gathered. It’s different from my own worship, and that’s good. God shows up in some often remarkable ways, through the spoken ministry of others, through the experience of the Spirit connecting us. I also think it’s really important, because I tend to think of a Meeting or church as a laboratory of faith, where we get to practice loving one another and serving one another and forgiving one another. It’s not just the means to an end. It’s the end, too. What happens in community is core to our spirituality. That’s the piece I probably miss the most.

For more of Colin’s story, click here