General Secretary’s Reflection on the World Plenary Meeting


To Friends everywhere…

At the World Plenary Meeting, I had the distinct feeling that we as Friends are evolving.  Someone described our time together in Pisac, Peru as ‘soft’, as an experience of Friends being very open to one another, marked as much by the absence of consternation as by an active longing to simply experience each other.  A culture of curiosity superseded our human tendency to judge others, and worship from the four FWCC Sections, each colourful and varied, drew us into the circle of family, of love, of God’s invitation.

As the epistle reads: We are different.  We came together as a diverse collection of Friends.  We were challenged by our differences.  This challenge is not always comfortable but it is one we welcome.

Was it the presence of 90 Young Adult Friends (under age 35) who have experience of diversity and is a generation who teaches the world not to fear difference?  Did it have to do with being in the Peruvian Sacred Valley, simple and beautiful? Are we living in a world which now creates virtual communities of faith, bringing the family of Friends closer as we build relationships across the world?  Could it be that God is ‘softening’ our hearts, even as we find a collective, urgent energy to rail against injustice and indifference?

The epistle goes on to say: We are one. We are one in the spirit of God which does not wash away or hide our differences, but allows us to celebrate them and enables us to move beyond the spiritual boundaries that may separate us. We are able to do this by coming together in worship where, while its form may be unfamiliar, God was present throughout. Through listening deeply and tenderly to each other and to God we reached a place where we can hear and sense where the words come from even when we may not understand the tongue they are spoken in.

Coming from 37 different countries and 77 yearly meetings plus 10 monthly meetings and worship groups who are not located within a yearly meeting, we spoke many languages. About a third were native Spanish speakers, allowing us to ALL wear headsets.  Business meeting was clerked in Spanish and minutes were read back in English. We sang in Kiswahili, Aymaran, Spanish, and English… and maybe more!

Most importantly, the epistle expresses our joy:  We are Friends. In making the choice to come together and be willing to share deeply, pray boldly, and listen lovingly together, we seek to move beyond our differences, see beyond our labels and find ways to connect with each other. The work of FWCC depends on us all. In order to continue it, we encourage Friends, meetings/churches and Yearly Meetings to contribute financially to and participate in building connections between Friends.

Holding hands in a circle, we shared a piece of ribbon to remind us of how we are connected.  We sang “We are Friends forever. We are Friends forever, and our work on Earth has just begun.  Through our pain and pleasure we will stand together.  We are Friends forever. We are one.”

Let it be so.

With loving greetings from FWCC,


Gretchen Castle

To view the Epistle Video, the Plenary Slide Show, and to read the Epistle in its entirely, please visit the Plenary pages.