Four Consultations: FWCC World Plenary Meeting 2016
At the world Plenary Meeting in Peru, each person chose one of four consultations in which to participate. These will help develop a vision for 2037, FWCC’s 100th anniversary. They are:
- Ministry and leadership: developing the leaders we need, encouraging living ministry, generating new ideas for a pilgrimage for Quaker youth that spans across all Sections and involves larger numbers of Friends.
How can we fully develop ministry and leadership among Young Friends?
What shape might a new youth pilgrimage take that is more inclusive and broad reaching?
What would it take to satisfy what people want from a youth pilgrimage?
- Living Ministry Communities: creating Quaker communities that are active and vital and energizing, encouraging membership and spiritual growth for Young Friends and seekers; encouraging communities to embrace generational change.
What does it require to have a vital and growing Religious Society of Friends?
How do we, in spiritual community, open to new Light – to God’s direction?
How do we express the Living God collectively?
How do we respond to the impetus to live our faith?
- Sustaining Life on Earth: inspired by the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice, developing worldwide Quaker collaboration for environmental, economic, and spiritual changes.
How do we respond to the spiritual imperative described in the Kabarak Call?
How do we give life to the Kabarak Call?
How can we lend our collective Spirit-led, God-given voice for the good of the world?
- Equipping FWCC: serving the worldwide Quaker community, developing flexibility to face challenges while maintaining organizational integrity and sustainability, looking at meeting requirements and governance changes.
How can FWCC meet the challenges of the next 20 years while serving Friends well?
How often do Friends want/need to gather together, given cost, planning, and concerns for our carbon footprint?
How can Friends connect using emerging technologies, in addition to meeting face-to-face?
Gathering in a larger group might allow more women and Young Friends to attend. Would a larger World Conference held every 8-12 years serve us better?
If we meet less frequently, might we consider the world body would tend to minutes and issues of concern to Friends with the Central Executive Committee tending to more of the governance decisions?
Processes and Outcomes of the Four Consultations
- Groups had 2 clerks to facilitate the discernment
- Clerks used different formats, including worship-sharing, small groups, queries
- What emerged has taken different forms: minutes, notes, vision descriptions, etc.
- What emerged was shared in full plenary session for full group discernment
- We hope the outcomes will help direct FWCC’s work for the next 20 years
- We hope the outcomes will include support and encouragement of young Friends
- We pray that we might be fully present to God’s guidance
Report from the Living Sustainably and Sustaining Life on Earth Consultation
The Light of Christ has inspired Quakers throughout the generations. As we gather together in Pisac, Peru in 2016, we feel this light stronger than ever in our calling to care for the Earth on which we live. It is calling us from all traditions: programmed, unprogrammed, liberal, and evangelical. It calls us to preserve this Earth for our children, our grandchildren and all future generations to come, working as though life were to continue for 10,000 years to come. Be ready for action with your robes hitched up and your lamps alight. (Luke 12:35, Revised English Bible)
Our faith as Quakers is inseparable from our care for the health of our planet Earth. We see that our misuse of the Earth’s resources creates inequality, destroys community, affects health and well-being, leads to war and erodes our integrity. We are all responsible for stewardship of our natural world. We love this world as God’s gift to us all. Our hearts are crying for our beloved mother Earth, who is sick and in need of our care.
We are at a historical turning point. Internationally, the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals oblige governments to take action. Faith groups and other civil society are playing a major role. As Quakers, we are part of this movement. The FWCC World Conference approved the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice in April 2012, while the FWCC World Office was a signatory to the Quaker statement on climate change in 2014 and divested from fossil fuels in June 2015.
We recognise that the environmental crisis is a symptom of a wider crisis in our political and economic systems. Our loving and well informed environmental actions as Friends, consistent with our spiritual values, must therefore work to transform these systems.
Many of us all over the Quaker world are taking practical actions as individuals and communities. At this Plenary, a consultation of more than sixty Friends from all over the world worked to build on these leadings with further practical action. The Annex attached to these minutes shows examples of what Friends are doing already or propose to do.
We must redouble our efforts right now. We must move beyond our individual and collective comfort zones and involve the worldwide Quaker community and others of like mind. Just as Jesus showed us, real change requires us to challenge ourselves to be effective instruments of change. We can do more.
On recommendation of this Consultation, and after some discussion, we adopt the following minute:
In this effort for sustainability, and mindful of the urgency of this work, this Plenary asks the FWCC World Office and Central Executive Committee to:
- Invest FWCC World funds ethically.
- Share Quaker experiences with other faith groups to inspire them to action, especially through the World Council of Churches.
- Seek ways of connecting Friends worldwide that are sustainable.
- Facilitate dissemination of training materials on sustainability issues for Quaker leaders, pastors and teachers.
This FWCC Plenary Meeting also asks all Yearly Meetings to:
- Initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability within the next 12 months. These may build on existing projects of individuals or monthly meetings or they may be new initiatives. We ask that they encourage Young Friends to play key roles. We ask that meetings minute the progress and results, so as to share them with FWCC and Quaker meetings.
- Support individuals and groups in their meetings who feel called to take action on sustainability.
- Support the work done by Quaker organisations such as the Quaker United Nations Office and the Quaker Council for European Affairs to ensure that international agreements and their implementation support sustainability.
This FWCC Plenary Meeting asks individual Friends and groups (such as Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and ad hoc groups within Meetings) to Share inspiring experiences of living sustainably on the new “sustainability webpage” of the Quakers in the World Website (http://www.quakersintheworld.org/). This webpage can be used as a source of ideas, inspiration and action.
Annex to the Minute: Possibilities for practical sustainability action
from the Pisac consultation
- Dedicate personal time to nature.
- Reduce consumption and use your consumer buying power to create change.
- Cut down on meat consumption, be aware of energy costs in production and transport of all foods and methane from ruminant animals, support sustainable agriculture.
- Travel – cycle, walk, use public transport or alternatives to private cars, keep air travel to a minimum.
- Grow your own food and plant trees.
- Be politically active in promoting sustainability concerns.
- Share environmental concerns through books, publications, conversations, electronic media
- Reduce energy use.
- Use less water and harvest water.
- Make time for spiritual connection with God.
Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and small groups within Meetings can:
- Live in a community, share housing, participate in a transition town movement.
- Educate yourself and others.
- Share transport and equipment.
- Develop urban agriculture, community gardens, community supported agriculture, tree planting.
- Love nature and encourage others to do so: we protect the things we love; get children out in nature; take care of nature around your meeting house (e.g., picking up trash/litter).
- Invest ethically and divest from fossil fuels.
- Ensure meeting houses are carbon neutral.
- Build alliances, seek visibility, approach legislators.
- Share sustainability skills.
Yearly Meetings can:
- Support the sustainability actions of Monthly Meetings.
- Build solidarity with local people.
- Support Quakers in politics and international work.
- Form support networks and alliances to make more impact – we can only do so much on our own.
- Invest ethically, including on sustainability issues.
- Practice what we preach.
- Discern and move concerns to action.
- Set targets for increased sustainability.
- Connect and share with other YMs, direct or via FWCC Sections and World Office
We recognise that different actions are relevant to different Quaker meetings in different parts of the world.
Report from the Leadership and Ministry Consultation
Our consultation has explored the theme of leadership and ministry and spent time reflecting on what that means and how we define that. We have talked about teaching and learning, exploring and being led, our faith and our faith journeys, religious education, recognizing the gifts of our Young Adult Friends which are more than the nominal notion of being “young”. We have struggled with defining what a young Friend is, age is not always the best determiner, and we have shared the hope that Young Adult Friends are not seen only as the future of the Religious Society of Friends but also the present, who are ready to take up leadership and ministry now.
We began our time together sharing what activities already exist for Young Friends and that list is huge! When we know where to look we find a range of activities for young Friends. What has been missing, perhaps, is the sharing of that knowledge with others which leads to our experience of being a Young Friend within a meeting as being defined by the capacities of that meeting, rather than a world of possibilities made up by larger Quaker groups. We are inspired by the work already done for Young Adult Friends and have learnt so much from each other and have so much more ideas we can implement within our home meetings now.
We focused significantly on the work that we would like to do globally with Young Adult Friends though we have not forgotten our own yearly meetings and sections. We hope to travel back to our homes and share the ideas we have had, the knowledge we have discovered with our home meetings and we ask Yearly Meetings and Sections to continue to support the amazing ministry that exists and work harder at making sure that the “advertising” is in place to make sure that these activities are easy to find. We have heard the call for more section-wide gatherings and ask Sections and the Young Friends in those sections to carefully nurture that call.
The rest of our report focuses on the work we are going to focus on after this gathering. The first three items are work that we have begun to shape here and are eager to pursue. So eager in fact coordination groups are already being formed! We are too impatient to wait for committee meetings to move forward! These three items we would love to receive your endorsement for – though we know they are grand plans that need further refining and shaping. We do not underestimate the work and challenges ahead but ask you to hold our vision lightly.
The final item is something a little more complex – and it is something that we would like to ask of FWCC.
World Gathering of Young Friends:
Friends have voiced enthusiasm for a future World Gathering of Young Friends to be held in the coming years. We realize that there are a lot of decisions to be made, work to be done and difficulties to overcome in this piece of ministry but we are clear that a future World Gathering of Young Friends will be an opportunity to explore with our Quaker brothers and sisters the Religious Society into which we want to live. There are concerns around finance and the ecological impact of such a gathering but we would like to see if the Spirit moves us to overcome these challenges and find a way to meet together for worship, business, spiritual development and fellowship. Young Friends met last night and are re-convening this evening to continue this conversation and identify next steps.
Global community network:
As an outward expression of our living in a global world we have heard the need for a global communication network for Young Adult Friends to help us communicate and share news. This would take the form of a dynamic online space. We feel that this communication network will enable us to be more in touch with the Quaker family, more able to travel in ministry, and more able to build meaningful connections that cross geographical boundaries. We want to use this network to learn from each other, support each other and share in the joys and challenges of each other’s Quaker communities. We have, with this project also, begun forming a group to take this forward. We welcome further Friends to work with us and ask them to contact Jonny Poole, Ireland Yearly Meeting.
The Quaker Youth Pilgrimage has reached a point of reflection. Friends might note that we are not running a pilgrimage in 2016. There are issues of resources, sustainability, legal responsibility in relation to the care of minors, and the changing demands and the increasing complexity of organizing an international event for young people, whilst also wanting it to reach as many Friends. These complexities have forced us to consider the best way to continue this important ministry.
We have heard from previous pilgrims who have had their lives transformed by the pilgrimage and we are resolute that whatever should follow should encapsulate the similar principles. We are not ready to let go entirely of our old model of Quaker Youth Pilgrimage, however we are working towards an alternative which would replace the system and deal with our concerns.
The experience of the most recent Quaker Youth Pilgrimage here in Peru and Bolivia proves that a diverse group of Quaker youth traveling together not only creates a community among the pilgrims, but can also bring whole communities closer together. Friends in South America worked across internal divisions to prepare for the trip. In hosting the pilgrims, Bolivian Friends held their first inter-yearly-meeting gathering.
This is good work, and we give up an opportunity to help bridge divisions within the Society of Friends if we return to the old model of sending pilgrims only to the United States and Western Europe. At the same time, it is unfair to ask minors to do this work without first preparing them for what is actually traveling ministry. Sending minors on these trips also burdens the organizers with huge legal liabilities and logistical challenges.
An idea which is being seasoned is being lovingly called Pilgrimage 2.0! We intended to incorporate all of the work and the positives of previous pilgrimages whilst removing some of the more challenging aspects. We aim to work with 18 – 25 year olds, a smaller group of pilgrims, who will form a community that will last a number of years whilst they take short pilgrimages to Friends around the world building Quaker community in the places they visit and sharing Quaker history and religious education would happen in the time between pilgrimages. In this way we hope to prepare our pilgrims more for their interaction with the wider Quaker world. We see this an an internal and an external pilgrimage of many stages which will help develop future global leadership within the Society.
We know that there is a need for international work with the 16-18 year olds, and we hope to ensure that this is accomplished in the Pilgrimage 2.0. We envisage that our smaller group of pilgrims will travel to young Friends events in the different sections and “bring the pilgrimage to them”. This would be economically, ecologically, and legally more sustainable. It also has the potential of each year reaching hundreds of young people instead of a small group of 30. We also envisage this new pilgrimage to include all of the sections making it much more of a global ministry than it has been, by removing some of the challenges we are freer to do more. We have heard this is the wish of the African Section and Asia West Pacific.
This is an idea which needs seasoning, careful planning and prayer. We have begun to form a small group to begin the first few steps and if you would like to be involved we ask you to speak to Leo or Elias Sanchez-Eppler.
And finally to our request:
Friends in the consultation have raised the issue of membership and Young Adult Friends. There are concerns around whether the current membership system works for YAF or whether an alternative membership system could be devised that would be more in keeping with the international context of being a young Friend in the 21st Century. YAF are highly mobile, are able to maintain connections with communities that are not near our physical location; both electronic communication and visitation. Friends express that the former geographical boundaries of Yearly Meetings do not adequately reflect the world we live in. for these Friends membership in a single yearly meeting with the relatively narrow geographic, and something theological, constraints does not fully express their identity as Quakers. There was extreme enthusiasm for the possibility of International Membership for YAF held by FWCC and we would ask FWCC to help facilitate a conversation, leading to a possible consultation, with interested parties about to discuss membership in relation to Young Adult Friends.
Report from Equipping FWCC Consultation
Our consideration moved from our experiences of Connecting Friends, Changing Lives and Crossing Cultures, through our visions for FWCC in the future, to practical ways of implementing such visions. Here is a summary of some visions and practical suggestions:
- Smaller gatherings with a particular focus, e.g. theology, faith and order, peace, mission and service, women Friends, young adult Friends.
- Networks on similar topics
- Events for young adult Friends, e.g. work camps, world gathering of young Friends, YQCA (Young Quaker Christian Association – Kenya)
- Quaker Youth Pilgrimage or other memorable experiences for this age group
- Connection between Friends’ Schools around the world
- Getting FWCC better known, e.g. representatives have responsibility to make FWCC better known on return, circulate epistle, Facebook and other social media, bring FWCC into our meetings, World Quaker Day (subcommittee to organise it), multilingual materials (including online) explaining FWCC
- Quakerism 101 in many languages, web-based primarily
- Cross-communication between Sections
- Twinning between Meetings within Sections / between Sections / between Quaker traditions – develop / use existing guidance and good practice
Report from the Living Ministry Communities Consultation
This consultation explored the conditions for creating Quaker communities that are active, vital and energizing, and that encourage membership and spiritual growth for Young Friends and seekers. The consultation was co-facilitated by Rachel Guaraldi (North America) and Janet Velázquez Hernandez (Cuba).
Attendance at this consultation began with approximately 90 friends, and dropped to approximately 60 Friends at the final session. Un-programmed North American and British Friends, and African Friends made up the majority of the group.
The format for the consultation was consistent throughout the sessions. After one or more initial “ice-breaker” exercises the consultation body broke into smaller groups to consider a query or set of queries. A recorder and reporter were chosen from within each group to bring the smaller group’s work back to the larger body at the end of each session.
The queries we considered during the consultation sessions were as follows:
- How do we create Quaker communities that are active, vital, and full of energy?
- What is needed to have a Religious Society of Friends that is vital and growing?
- How do we, in spiritual community, open to new Light / to God’s direction?
- How do we encourage membership and spiritual growth among young people and seekers?
- How do we encourage communities to accept generational change?
- How do we express the Living God collectively?
- How do we respond to the call to live our faith?
Brainstorming among 6 or more groups during each consultation session resulted in the sharing of many, many good and interesting ideas—far too many to convey in this report. However, several themes seemed to be repeated across the groups and queries, as follows:
- Thriving Meetings are not about numbers; they are about the Spirit of the Living God. If at least some Friends do not share this experience openly, vitality will be lacking;
- Meetings must be welcoming and inclusive, where every individual is respected. They must create opportunities to know one another deeply, and to actively nurture the gifts and talents of their members;
- Meetings must be open to new ways of doing things and be prepared to make changes periodically in order to foster spiritual intimacy;
- Meetings must orient and “bring along” newcomers. Experienced Friends must share spiritual journeys and experiences, and talk openly about membership in the RSoF and why it is important;
- Meetings must find ways to create impactful experiences for children, teenagers and young adults. This is critical to retaining their active participation in the RSoF;
- Be obedient to the voice of God. Responding to God’s call may involve stretching and discomfort, but may lead us to the heart of our collective expression of faith.
As I listened to the excellent ideas and observations generated during this consultation I was excited to realize that the SOA’s Strategic Plan aligns directly with many of these themes.
Traveling ministry, inter-visitation, Quaker leadership development, and cross-branch encounters all have the potential to energize and revitalize our Friends communities, ultimately leading to a stronger and more resilient Religious Society of Friends.