Monday, October 31, 2005

FGC Central Committee

Affirmed. I come away from FGC Central Committee feeling most strongly affirmed. Coming together in the Spirit with Friends from every FGC-affiliated yearly meeting, fellowship, and directly affiliated meetings as the "governing body of Friends General Conference" was a very important experience for me (though technically I was not a member of Central Committee this time around but am now for a different reason than the one for which I was present this year.. but let's not get into technicalities right now). Being present among many of the Friends who have been doing so much positive work both within the Religious Society of Friends and without and experiencing some of the passion of these Friends was inspiring and incredible to be around.

It's difficult to describe my experience, which makes it difficult to write about. Having recently joined the Publications and Distribution Committee of FGC - which does work with publications and with Quaker Books of FGC and such; it's a Program committee - this was my first opportunity to meet other committee members in person and begin to get a better feel for the work of the committee. With plenty of [shameless] promoting of Whispers of Faith during Central Committee, those Friends who did not already know me began to recognize my name and who I was - something I have not necessarily experienced among Friends, but it was very affirming for me. Feeling connected to and active among the wider body of FGC Friends is incredibly grounding for me, as is seeing Friends with whom I share a deeper connection. Quaker Process, too, was certainly central to my experience these last few days - even after four days of intense Quaker Process among mostly adult Friends (rather than among high school Friends, as most of my previous experiences have been), I do still love it. I love it even more, even. I walked away from Central Committee - or rather, rode in a car, a plane, a bus, a subway, and another bus away from Central Committee - feeling connected, valued, affirmed, and loved on a level deeper than one might usually find out in the "real" world. Though that love does continue even after I take of my name tag and dive back into the "real" world.

I hugged my way into the room where the Plenaries occurred on Thursday night after arriving late, and then hugged my way back out this morning as I left a little early. It was in hugging my way out that the feeling of affirmation and love really hit home for me, and that feeling stuck with me rather strongly during my entire trek back to campus, and lasted almost overwhelmingly until I finally hankered down and did my German homework - and homework is usually quite distracting from the Spirit.

I learned a number of things this weekend, one of which stands out quite distinctly and importantly for me. Central Committee this year approved the formation of a new Program Committee: the Youth Ministries Committee. Being already on Publications and Distribution, I am unable to join this new and exciting committee for the time being, but that aside, I had to reconcile with myself where I stood with Youth Ministries, as it has been a passion of mine in the past couple years. I was soon clear that I needed to learn to put faith into a committee for an issue about which I am passionate, to let go and trust that this committee is just as passionate if not more passionate about Youth Ministries as I am, and that my gifts are needed elsewhere at this time. Feeling that youth ministries is such a deeply important issue makes letting go of my need to be on the Youth Ministries Committee a bit more of an issue, but right now I see it as a situation where I love it so much I have to let it go; this is not where I am led right now. Instead, I currently remain on the Publications and Distribution Committee as one of the youngest members, doing the work of Youth Ministries by creating a more intergenerational environment within this particular committee, setting an example, and working faithfully where my gifts are needed, regardless of my age. I do hope to be as involved as is possible, appropriate, needed, and feasible with Youth Ministries projects as they develop.

I was deeply touched by the passionate presentation of the work of the Ad Hoc Youth Ministries Discernment Committee by the clerk of this committee, Robin Greenler - this was the committee created last year to discern issues and concerns surrounding youth ministries among Friends. She spoke clearly and with much energy of the concerns and experiences of young(er) Friends, and of the work of the Committee; so much that I have experienced/have been experiencing was articulated passionately by Robin during this report, and it touched me deeply. I have so much faith in the formation of this committee, as complicated as forming a new FGC Program committee as such is looking right now, and I'm so thrilled.

Feeling more grounded in the Spirit, more grounded in a wider Quaker community, and excited about the work in which I am now involved, and with the affirming love of incredible and dedicated Friends, I can continue in my collegiate life holding all of this in my heart.

I'm not sure if I managed to capture the way I feel right now and where that feeling came from with this post, and I certainly did not describe all that happened at Central Committee this year, but I needed to articulate something here. More later on this, perhaps.

Love and Light,
Claire

7 Comments:

Blogger Aj Schwanz said...

What a wonderful mountaintop experience! It sounds as though you have been embraced (literally) by your "adult" yearly meeting group, and that's so critical in making the transition from youth to adult.

It's *so* hard not to be a part of all the good things going on, isn't it? I learned that the hard way - dropping out and not being a part of anything, good or otherwise, for a couple years. I admire your restraint, and think of how someone else can be equally blessed as they find their calling in working with the youth!

Thanks for giving us a glimpse of the mountaintop: makes slugging through the valleys a little easier. :)

31/10/05 11:42 AM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hey Claire,
It's good to hear your take on the weekend. This being my fifth or sixth Central Committee session I have this critical eye that saw things that could have been done better (clerking, holding of tempers, naming of detraction, diversifying of insider committees) but that view sometimes forgets all the amazing things that happen in this human cauldron that is an intense business weekend like this. I love my new work, for example and had some amazing conversations over meals.

I'm so glad you're on publications. It could be argued that FGC needs program committee diversity more than it needs a separate youth committee!

31/10/05 7:03 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Oh I noticed some of those issues as well, Martin. There were also a few things I thought of after the fact, too, that I felt should have happened (or not) in cerain situations, but we don't have to get into it right now.

Actually, Elaine and I both commented a little about how the Plenary Sessions needed to be more worshipful and more focused.

I don't know about committee meetings, but I felt that the Plenary Sessions were clerked quite well - when things got a little out of hand on occassion, there was only so much our dedicated clerk could do. If a body does not understand the need to stop and move on or just plain isn't ready to, no matter how inappropriate what's going on is, the clerk doesn't have the power to just make things stop and move on. Also, no one's perfect. Anywho, I'm not trying to sound defensive, just trying to state what I feel about it.

Looking beyond the inevitability of flaws and things that could have or should have gone better, I reflected a little during the process about just how incredible Quaker Process actually is. Even in our business we wait upon the Spirit. It feels so right to me.

AJ: Oh but I have just begun climbing this mountain! Forging my own path is not an easy process, but remembering, gaining, and strengthening supportive and spiritual relationships with Friends from a wider community, all on their own paths in various places, helps me a LOT. My grounding is so much deeper with this greater community experience and the experience of the important work we're all doing.

Thank you for your encouraging and positive words! The relationships of which I speak do go both ways - even learning that someone found great value in my support of them is important and grounding for me.

Love and Light,
Claire

31/10/05 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Kody Gabriel said...

It's really good to read your reaction to CC. I've been trying to process it since leaving on Saturday; there was so much, both good and bad, about the experience. I agree with the observation that plenary sessions could have been more settled. I was kind of surprised, because I expected them to be more so.

But I experienced so much joy and affirmation there, particularly in the approval of the YMDC report and formation of the new committee. And it's always a blessing to see so many beautiful Friends in one place.

Thanks for being there with me. I'm looking forward to the next time we get to see each other, whenever that is. :-)

31/10/05 9:22 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Claire, you write, among other things:

Feeling that youth ministries is such a deeply important issue makes letting go of my need to be on the Youth Ministries Committee a bit more of an issue, but right now I see it as a situation where I love it so much I have to let it go; this is not where I am led right now...

It sounds as if you are yearning to be faithful, and by being faithful, that will be such a gift to individual Friends and to Central Committee as a whole.

As for the clerking that occurred during some very trying times, I found myself falling into an enormous amount of compassion for the clerk:

How could I know what she was experiencing internally?

To what extent was her humanness--fear of saying something that might make things worse--getting in the way of her listening to Spirit for guidance?

To what extent was she actually
being obedient to however she was led, that you and I and Martin and Kody will never know about?

...Too many questions for a weary traveler like me, I'm afraid.

And I am reminded, too, that in a MfWfB, we ALL carry the responsibility of clerking.

Anyway, I'm glad your experience on CC was such a positive one for you. I'm glad to have spent a few minutes here and there with you and with Kody... and was able to get in at least a hand-wave to Martin from across the room.

Blessings,
Liz, The Good Raised Up

1/11/05 8:02 PM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Hey everyone,
For the record, I was using LizOpp's second definition of clerking: the sort of self-clerking that a group does (or doesn't do). I think the FGC clerk did as good a job as the group was going to allow her to do.

Friends often have problems setting limits on inappropriate, disruptive behavior and we had a small group of uber-insiders continuing ego-fueled debates that have been going on for twenty years. It's a bit wearying watching the same people debate a revolving set of non-issues year after year. Sometimes I think we really need to re-explore the old notion of Detraction but you know I'm just an FGC staffperson and I very much enjoyed being able to sit back a little and just shake my head at those crazy Central Committee-members during the more circus-like moments!

1/11/05 9:38 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Liz: You mention having a lot of compassion for the clerk - I most certainly did, as well (and I'm not implying here that you were implying that I didn't; I'm just relating).

"How could I know what she was experiencing internally?

To what extent was her humanness--fear of saying something that might make things worse--getting in the way of her listening to Spirit for guidance?

To what extent was she actually being obedient to however she was led, that you and I and Martin and Kody will never know about?
"

These are things to be wondered about every individual, as well as the group as a whole (we ALL carry the responsibility of clerking), I think. I try to focus on asking such questions of myself and my myself in relation to the body of Friends discerning. When it comes to others, I listen with my heart and put my faith into it. Sometimes all I can do is hold others or the body in the Light and love, love, love with all that I am.

Martin: You say, For the record, I was using LizOpp's second definition of clerking: the sort of self-clerking that a group does (or doesn't do). I think the FGC clerk did as good a job as the group was going to allow her to do.

For the record, I was not necessarily critizing you or trying to contradict - you just reminded me of the another aspect of my experience and I felt I needed to relate that part as well. (Alright, enough of this "record" business..)

As for the notion of detraction, I can definitely think of at least one incidence where things could definitely have gone more smoothly had we explored such a notion. Also, though, I feel that there were points where Friends became a little too fixated on addressing the message of an individual, too concerned about not ignoring this message, and not focused enough on the leading of the body as a whole. This is corporate discernment for corporate leadings, not just hearing and addressing the message of a single Friend. Naturally, though, I could be misinterpreting certain aspects of what occurred, but there were times where I felt Friends needed to listen more corporately. Am I making any sense here? Enough now, though. I'm being a bit vague and my point may be lost on Friends who were not present - I apologize for this.

Love and Light,
Claire

2/11/05 11:51 AM  

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