I became a Quaker because of FCNL. Part of that story is personal, tied to the people I have met through this work, including my fellow intern and now husband. FCNL has introduced me to communities and people who are now, quite literally, my family.
Working at FCNL has also shown me the power of collective action rooted in principle and faith. Growing up in an Episcopal church, I recited what I was expected to believe. But my experiences at FCNL have challenged me to measure belief by what I do, not what I say.
On my second day as an FCNL intern (now called program assistant), a coworker was arrested protesting the death penalty at the Supreme Court. At Annual Meeting 2000, I saw the General Committee discern a path forward, even with the uncertainty of that year’s presidential election. And after Sept. 11, 2001, I was proud to be part of an organization unequivocally stating that “War Is Not the Answer,” when vengeance seemed to be the more popular opinion. Again and again, I saw people striving to act with an integrity to their beliefs in a way I hadn’t encountered before.
I carried this intertwined sense of faith and action out into the world, moving to Seattle for graduate school and joining the University Friends Meeting community. Two years later, I accepted an offer to return to FCNL, repeating a move of nearly 3,000 miles. I was ready to take this next step in living out my beliefs.
As I have grown professionally at FCNL, I have done this in different ways: building FCNL’s communications capacity; planning FCNL’s 75th anniversary celebrations; working to better integrate and share the impact of FCNL’s lobbying. I’ve been gratified to see how FCNL’s relationship-building and listening approach to lobbying has connected with people, within and outside the Friends community.
I’ve carried into all these roles my sense of the vitality of FCNL as a Quaker organization, committed to making change while guided by a deeper sense of purpose. E. Raymond Wilson, the first head of FCNL, summed up those twin purposes in a 1943 letter, saying, “We ought to be willing to work for causes which will not be won now, but cannot be won in the future unless the goals are staked out now and worked for energetically over a period of time.”
I’ve also grown as a Quaker, in tandem to my growth at FCNL. I’ve both been married under the care of my meeting (Sandy Spring) and clerked the Marriage and Family Relations Committee. I’ve taught First Day School and expanded my knowledge of the Quaker world by serving on the Earlham School of Religion Board of Advisors and the board of Friends Community School in College Park, MD.
In all this time, I’ve kept returning to the practices and communities that help me pay attention to the still, small voice of the Divine. Quaker worship recalls me from tendencies towards impatience, a desire to please, and a need for certainty. The experience is not necessarily enjoyable, but it is always clarifying. In our own imperfect ways, Quakers keep seeking to connect with that of God, in ourselves and in the world around us. And when that connection happens, it is powerful beyond words.
…And There Again
The Friends’ concept of “proceeding as way opens” speaks to me as I step into a new role at FCNL as the director of Quaker leadership. In his book Sacred Compass, Brent Brill writes that this phrase means “to wait for guidance, to avoid hasty judgement or action, to wait for future circumstances to help solve a problem.”
This new role weaves together my previous work at FCNL, my love of this community, and my strong sense of the power of Quaker practice to make a difference in the world.
This new role weaves together my previous work at FCNL, my love of this community, and my strong sense of the power of Quaker practice to make a difference in the world. I’m excited to explore new ways to communicate with Friends. I look forward to better integrating Quakerism into FCNL’s work, so the spiritual underpinnings of our policy and way of advocacy are better understood.
As the Society of Friends wrestles with weighty questions – about race and identity, about changing membership demographics, and more – I look forward to exploring how they intersect with FCNL’s work.
I know this experience will challenge me to live into my beliefs in new ways. And yet, along with a healthy dose of apprehension, I also feel the rightness of this step. As I begin this new adventure, I know I am doing it with the care and support of people all across the country. This community has been such an important part of what’s kept me working with FCNL. I look forward to getting to know you all better in the time ahead.