Every year, I leave FCNL’s annual meeting feeling new energy and enthusiasm. I leave buoyed and encouraged by the shared commitment of several hundred Friends and friends of Friends to the causes of peace, equality, justice, and a sustainable future.
After the 2018 annual meeting, though, I felt wistful knowing that for the first time in eight years, I would not be travelling to meet Friends and FCNL staff over policy and governance in General Committee work. I wondered how I would maintain my connections with an organization I have come to know, to love, and to think of as a second spiritual home.
The answer to that question came easily and flowed directly from an experience I had when I travelled to Wilmington Yearly Meeting last July to give the annual Peace Lecture. In a presentation entitled “Open Doors, Open Minds, Open Hearts,” I talked about peace as a necessarily continuous process, rather than a state of being. And I talked about the importance of continuing dialogue and acceptance of conflict as necessary for creative transformation.
Even more important for me was the act of travelling to experience a meeting of a different branch of the Religious Society of Friends. This travel led to my becoming a member of FCNL’s Visiting Friends Program and engaging with others to share FCNL’s methods and perspectives on lobbying Congress. So far, I conducted two lobby training programs: one was for participants in the Bread for the World gathering in Durham, NC and the other was for Chapel Hill High School students seeking to influence their state representatives on the issue of gun violence.
Recently, I travelled to Kansas City, MO, for the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas. I talked with Friends about collaborating on good works throughout the world, no matter the differences in our faith tradition.
I have found enrichment and joy in reaching out to other meetings to talk about FCNL. There are two things I look forward to as an FCNL Visiting Friend.
First, I look forward to fellowship with monthly and yearly meetings that are represented on FCNL’s General Committee. I update Friends on FCNL’s programs and listen to their concerns and experiences.
Second, I look forward to reaching out to meetings that may not have a relationship with FCNL. I brief them about our work, answer their questions about who and what FCNL is, and listen to their concerns. Their discernment decides whether they feel led to affiliate with FCNL.
Through these personal interactions as FCNL Visiting Friends, we are helping to build community and strengthen the Religious Society of Friends as a whole. Our collective voices are stronger and more persuasive when we can work together to advance the goals that we share.
Friends, please consider travel as an FCNL Visiting Friend. To learn more, email email@example.com.
Eric Ginsburg served as clerk and assistant clerk of FCNL’s General Committee from 2013-2017.