March 5, 2011

Epistle from a new committee in FGC

In recent months and during 2010, Friends General Conference has overhauled its committee structure and trimmed its gifted staff, feeling its own economic crunch. The epistle below is from one subcommittee of the new Committee for Nurturing Ministries, and it addresses how earlier initiatives are being addressed within FGC's new structure.

In addition to the epistle, at the bottom of this post, I have included links to just a sampling of related articles. --Liz

First Month 2011

To Friends Everywhere:

After months of wondering and praying, the new Transforming Subcommittee of the Committee for Nurturing Ministries has had two opportunities to meet—once face-to-face at [FGC's] Central Committee in New Windsor, Maryland 10th Month 2010 and again just this past month by teleconference. We want to let Friends know that we are under the weight of our work and excited for what lies ahead.

When Friends General Conference (FGC) undertook reorganization of our committees last year, there was much concern from Friends that the important work of many of our committees might disappear in the transition. Friends of Color and young Friends and young adult Friends who had been so hopeful with the establishment of the Committee for Ministry on Racism* and the Youth Ministries Committee* feared that perhaps FGC was creating a way to slide out of the commitments we had made to eradicating racism in the Religious Society of Friends and to creating the radical transformation needed to make meaningful space for younger Friends in the structures of our Society.

We are clear that the same Spirit which led to the formation of these committees is alive and well among us today. We are clear that the work will go on. We wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about the work in which we are engaged currently and the road ahead as we see it at this time.

First, we have heard from some Friends that the name of our group does not speak to them. Although the name may not lift up the groups we serve, it does acknowledge the nature of the work before us. We are clear that transformation is required if we are to become a community of seekers who are led by Spirit and who reflect the richness of the tapestry of our human family. At Central Committee several years ago, some of you may have heard about the need for a paradigm shift—for change at the deepest level if we are to develop intergenerational community successfully. Some of you may have heard about the profound change in assumptions required to make our meetings hospitable for People of Color. This transformational work—work which opens us to enact our belief that the Spirit speaks through each and any of us as Spirit chooses—is the work being undertaken by the Transforming Subcommittee of the Committee for Nurture Ministries. And, it is transformational work.

We know that for our society to come to reflect the blessed diversity of God’s creation will require each of us to open ourselves to the workings of the Spirit— We know that making our meetings hospitable places for People of Color and for youth enhances the fabric of the meeting and deepens our shared faith journey and we are engaged in seeking and developing those tools which will help us each move successfully on that journey to transform ourselves and our meetings.

Let us share with you some of the specifics of the work which is under way.

  • ”Build It”: The project to create tools for Monthly Meetings to build more meaningful intergenerational community begun by the Youth Ministries Committee in response to articulated need in our meetings is continuing under the stewardship of a working group of the Transforming Subcommittee. We expect that the tools will be available for Friends by mid-year.

  • Templates, workshop materials, facilitators and facilitation training: Meetings who wish to understand the history of the relationship between Friends and People of Color in this country need support; using some of the understanding which has come from how we have worked effectively with intergenerational concerns, we are continuing to support this anti-racism work and to develop other programs in addition to the Fit for Freedom Facilitators already trained to carry forward this crucial initiative.

  • Participation of Friends in the White Privilege Conference: The 12th annual White Privilege Conference (WPC12) will take place in Bloomington, Minnesota, April 13-16, 2011. We will offer a workshop in order to share some of our work on racism and some support for Friends who choose to attend including a major discount on your registration fee. If you are interested in participation in this Conference, see the FGC website for more information.

  • Opportunities for Friends of Color to gather: We are continuing to plan Gatherings of Friends of Color which are so important for mutual support and expect to hold one before the end of this calendar year.

  • The People of Color Center at the Gathering: We continue to support the Center which provides important opportunities for Friends of Color and their family members and allies to come together, rest, share and plan for the future.

  • Opportunities for young People of Color at the Gathering: We intend to build on our initial attempts last year to provide particularly welcoming space for Youth of Color at the Gathering and to explore the ways in which we may address their particular needs, a project which seems entirely suitable for this new committee with its amalgamated portfolio to serve Youth and Persons of Color.

  • Support for Cross-branch inter-visitation: We continue to seek ways to support those Young Adults who are so committed to this work. We are exploring and planning new ways to advance this important undertaking.

  • The possibility for collaboration: We continue to explore the possibilities for ways we could join with the fledgling Quaker Volunteer Services group to help “incubate” this fledgling organization for the benefit of Friends and those communities of need they would serve.

  • You can find out about activities which relate to our Programs: Ministry on Racism or Youth Ministry just as before by finding these programs listed on the FGC website. As we engage in ongoing service to Youth and People of Color in the Religious Society of Friends we will have opportunities for Friends and seekers to join in the work in new ways. If you are interested in participating in this transformational work, please contact us through the website.(

    With divine guidance, we will continue to engage the need to “Transform our awareness so that our corporate and individual attitudes and actions fully value and encompass the blessed diversity of our human family.” (Goal 4, Friends General Conference Statement of Purpose and Goals 2009). We envision, and will continue to work toward the blessed community—where neither age nor color are criteria on which people are judged and where seekers can find welcome and nurture to grow in the Spirit no matter their race or their age. This is the transformation FGC seeks and to which we are dedicated. We ask that you join your prayers with ours, Friends, as we continue on this journey.

    Jean-Marie P. Barch, clerk, Transforming Subcommittee (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting)

    Beckey Phipps, clerk, Committee for Nurturing Ministries (New England Yearly Meeting)

    Vanessa Julye, Ministry Coordinator, Ministry on Racism Program (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting)

    Deborah Fisch, FGC Associate Secretary for Ministries (Iowa Yearly Meeting-Conservative)

    Members of the Subcommittee: Seth Barch, (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting); Janice Domanik, (Illinois Yearly Meeting); Jaya Karsemeyer, (Canadian Yearly Meeting); Katrina McQuail, (Canadian Yearly Meeting); Miyo Moriuchi, (Baltimore Yearly Meeting); Miriam Mulsow, (South Central Yearly Meeting); Alma Sanchez-Eppler (New England Yearly Meeting)


    *These links will likely become inactive at some point...


    An article from Friends Journal on how White Quakers might work toward ending racism
    An article from Quaker Life on the extent to which our Quaker meetings and Friends churches really want racial diversity
    Martin Kelley's post about what young people want from their meetings
    An FGC post about building intergenerational community among Friends

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