Three years ago, when the Friends United Meeting search team interviewed me for the general secretary position, I told them one of the reasons FUM should not offer me the job is that I did not know that vast majority of people who populate this Quaker community. I had traveled some among FUM Quakers and built friendships and working relationships with a few of you, but it seemed to me FUM most needed a general secretary who was intimately connected to those she or he would be serving. Whoever they called, I suggested, ought to make relationship building and listening a major priority, in order to deepen the sense of community and discern how FUM could best move into the future. In response, the search team and General Board assured me I would have ample opportunity to get to know Friends if wound up being called to serve. It turns out, they were right . . .
I get to travel a lot in my work for FUM. Along the way, I have come to know and love Quakers from every corner of the world. Among the things I am tasked and led to do in service of FUM, one I enjoy the most is sitting down with individuals and small groups of Friends to talk about and dream about our life together and the work God is calling us we to do for the sake the world.
Around your kitchen tables, in your coffee shops and your meetinghouses, I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of you about FUM. Whether those conversations were in rural Tanzania, downtown Boston, sunny Jamaica or wintry Indiana, Friends have shared their hopes, fears, questions and concerns about the future of FUM.
At our recent Triennial, the staff and General Board shared an emerging strategic plan and set of priorities for the next five to 10 years. The particular features of this plan arose out of these many conversations with you and the responses we received from the Day of Discernment held over a year ago. The plans focus on new initiatives related to leadership development, improved communication and providing practical resources that support the life and vitality of local and yearly meetings who are a part of FUM, especially those in North America. We believe Friends have important work to do and that it will require a determined intentionality and deeper spirit of partnership and collaboration to see it come to fruition.
Over the last few months, FUM partnered with Henry Freeman to conduct a feasibility study to consider the possibility of an FUM Campaign. New and improved initiatives will require adequate and sustainable support if we are going to be effective and faithful. For several months, Henry also sat around the kitchen tables and local diners of Friends who were invited to be part of the study. He listened to the stories, passions and dreams of some of the people who make up our community. Over and over, Henry heard Friends speak hopefully about an FUM that can enable Friends to be more faithful, more effective and more united in Christian fellowship and service. They expressed a longing that FUM could make a transformational difference in the lives of individuals, meetings and yearly meetings by providing training, curriculum, shared experiences and connections aimed at energizing, equipping and connecting our community. The results of
the feasibility study were clear and consistent: FUM needs to move this direction and the time to do so is now. At the Triennial, the FUM General Board approved launching a $3,000,000 Campaign over the next three years. Above and beyond what Friends already give to support FUM, this new funding will begin to reposition FUM to better meet the needs of our community and set us on the path of making Friends’ hopes and dreams a reality.
Over the next several months, you will begin to hear more about the Campaign. Along the way, Friends will be invited to consider outright gifts, pledges and planned gifts that will enable FUM to not just meet our financial goal, but more importantly, deepen the sense of partnership in our shared future and turning hope for a vital Quaker community into increasing reality. It is my intent for the Campaign to also serve as a first step in building a much more sustainable base for FUM long-term. We have a future well beyond the next three years and now is also the time to be readying ourselves for it.
The launch of the Campaign means that I am going to having a lot more kitchen table and coffee shop conversations with all of you. I am excited about this and hope, when I call and ask to visit, you will consider meeting with me. Like so many of you, I love and believe in this community. Like you, I am passionate about our identity as Friends and sense our work and witness is as needed as ever. I think we have a hopeful future together. Let’s find new ways to partner together to make sure it is realized.