The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop thousands of Quakers from conducting business with FCNL this March and April. 215 Meetings and Churches, as well as Yearly and Quarterly Meetings, chose to center their first virtual meetings for business on discerning FCNL’s legislative priorities for the 117th Congress.
As the FCNL staff person who had the joy of assisting in this virtual discernment, I want to offer a big thank you on behalf of the whole FCNL community.
Despite the challenges faced by all of us, you engaged in the urgent work of bringing Friends’ faith and practice before Congress. FCNL is strengthened by your vision of a Love-centered society.
I joined Visiting Friends David Bantz (AK) and Jasmine Krotkov (MT) in hosting discernment processes with multiple meetings, and I learned so much in my virtual time with all of you. Here are some of the messages that emerged:
- Friends expressed deep gratitude for the Quakers who had the vision to establish a Quaker lobby 77 years ago, and for those that carry on that work today.
- Friends felt shaken and worried by the brokenness of our government, the increasing polarization of our country, and our elected leaders’ prevalent dishonesty.
- Quakers and FCNL have a deep and necessary role to play with Congress right now. Friends feel that the COVID-19 Pandemic has made it clear that there is no going back to business as usual, and that radical and urgent actions are needed to protect the most vulnerable.
- Friends regularly commented on the intersectionality of FCNL’s legislative priorities: “Addressing one priority is like pulling a thread on a sweater, unravelling and impacting other priorities,” said one Friend.
- Friends commented on the urgency of FCNL’s ability to bring disparate members of Congress together, and called for “the reestablishment of civil discourse, coalition building and problem-solving approaches.”
The Importance of the Priorities Process in This Moment
Repeatedly, Friends relayed how vital the priorities process is as we deal with COVID-19. “It seems that everything has changed as a result of this pandemic and we can see that the road ahead is going to be a difficult one for all of us,” reported Friends from Santa Cruz Friends Meeting. “Issues that would have been on top of our list before the pandemic had almost disappeared…climate change, health care, economic issues have taken a larger role.”
“This is a unique time in history, and the manner in which the world has come together regarding this pandemic has been amazing,” wrote Goose Creek Friends Meeting. “[We are] holding FCNL staff and Committee Members in the Light as they discern this process and navigate the healing that is necessary to be witness to the World We Seek.”
Friends Meeting of Washington concluded their discernment by sharing the following: “FCNL has historically done an extraordinary job working on prevention of war and the issue of nuclear weapons. We applaud this and hope that it continues. We believe the kind of prophetic vision FCNL has shown in these arenas should be brought to bear on climate change and on the other existential threats to humanity.”
How Friends Participated in Discernment
It was a source of joy to hear that children and young adults participated in this process. Chester Quarter Friends were led by young Friends in their discernment and approved their minutes during the Quarter meeting. Goose Creek Friends led worship and discernment during Religious Education with the youngest of members. Young adult friends at New England Yearly Meeting “grappled with tensions between FCNL’s prophetic vision and pragmatic work.”
Friends in Richmond, Indiana assembled three meetings and churches from varying theological backgrounds and brought everyone together via Zoom to engage in the discernment process together. “We randomly sorted ourselves in to four Zoom breakout rooms,” they reported. “Each group was assigned a ‘We Seek’ chapter and then Friends discerned two priorities. Next we brought the groups back together and shared the small group priorities via chat.”
What Action Can Friends Take Now?
Prayer is never the Friends’ last resort. It is our first point of action. May our prayers continue as we bring our faith out in to the world.
I hope you will also consider contacting two or three Friends and setting up your own virtual lobby visit with your members of Congress. To learn how to lobby virtually with FCNL, please fill out this form indicate your interest, and a staff member will get back to you soon.