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A Preliminary Report of the 40 Days of Prayer & Day of Discernment

Received by the General Board of Friends United Meeting on February 9, 2013

The Restructuring Committee of Friends United Meeting is thankful to the many Friends who joined in the “40 Days of Prayer for the Future of Friends” and participated in the Day of Discernment. The committee considers it a blessing to review the reports and responses received from Friends across the globe. While the “40 Days of Prayer” was offered as a means of spiritually grounding the work of FUM’s restructuring process and receiving input from FUM constituents regarding this process, it is clear that the “40 Days of Prayer” was a means of spiritual enrichment for individuals and Quaker groups. In addition, participants provided prayerful leadings and communicated hopes for how FUM may serve the Religious Society of Friends.

This report will highlight some of the spiritual dimensions from the “40 Days of Prayer”; emphasize core ministry priorities and needs which emerged from the Day of Discernment responses; and outline a process to strategically move forward with the development of a ministry plan for Friends United Meeting. In addition, the committee has prepared two analysis reports of Day of Discernment responses.

Spiritual Dimensions:

As the committee processed the Day of Discernment responses, the accounts of rich spiritual experiences and renewal that came as the result of Friends participating in the “40 Days of Prayer” program blessed every member. Many participants voiced appreciation for this resource and encouraged FUM to offer similar programs in the future. Responses indicated that Friends were both enriched and challenged by the diversity of contributors who provided daily reflections. Participants were blessed with a sense of unity knowing that Quakers across the globe were sharing in the same readings and praying in the same direction. They also appreciated the program as an effective way to learn about and feel connected with the work of Friends United Meeting.

It was a blessing to learn about the multiple ways Friends participated in the “40 Days of Prayer” and Day of Discernment. Friends and non-Friends; family units; as well as meeting, quarterly, and yearly meeting groups submitted responses. One couple wrote how the “40 Days of Prayer” enriched their family as they prayed together. Responses indicated that local meetings were strengthened by fellowship groups. One participating meeting noted that some of their members were led to practice the discipline of fasting during the 40 days. Indeed, the committee members were energized by reports of Friends who participated in an all-night prayer meeting. One Friends meeting noted that every day during the “40 Days of Prayer” they gathered at their meetinghouse from 7:30 to 9:00 am and were joined by members and non-members.

The committee sought to gather the general spiritual sense that emerged from the discernment responses. The following themes emerged:

• Friends are longing for spiritual formation, meeting health and growth, and leaders who are grounded in the life and character of Christ.
• Friends value spiritual community, the opportunities to be gathered with other Friends and recognize that we are all part of Christ’s body (I Corinthians 12).
• Friends cherish the Quaker testimonies as a vital part of their identity.
• Friends desire to see the Christ-centered witness and mission of Friends expand.

These spiritual experiences cannot be charted on a spreadsheet or adequately shared in this report. They are, however, received with gratitude. These experiences provide the spiritual grounding for the strategic ministry planning process, and empower us to overcome setbacks and discouragements.

Core Ministry Priorities:

The responses received from the Day of Discernment identified key ministry needs and suggestions for program considerations.
• Friends identified the need to have educational resources and curriculum that strengthen the testimonies, practices and identity of Friends. This was particularly expressed by local churches/meetings in North America. One small group stated: “The book, ‘40 Days of Prayer’, has been a valuable resource…giving a face to FUM.” Another Friends group noted: “FUM will better serve as a resource to all our local meetings by jealously coming up strongly to teach stewardship and empower the stewardship commissions.”

• Friends noted the desire to be gathered together as a global community. Suggestions included regional gatherings, conferences, pairing of yearly meetings or local meetings, pastoral exchanges, work teams and pilgrimages. In one response we read: “This invitation to participate in ‘40 Days of Prayer’ was a good introduction to the work of FUM. It was a call for us to look within ourselves, our meeting, our yearly meeting and to FUM to deepen our connection with the Truth/Spirit and with each other.” One meeting noted that the ministry of community building comes from the Holy Spirit, stating: “FUM is doing this (ministry) through the power of the Holy Spirit, thereby enabling unity to be released among its members, worldwide.”

• Friends in both Africa and North America strongly expressed the hope for FUM to provide ongoing leadership training opportunities. Specifically named were leadership training for youth, youth and children’s leaders, clerks and pastors. A discernment group added: “Training in spiritual leadership is needed. Skill development in how to compassionately work with people of various economic
backgrounds. Recognizing spiritual gifts and encouraging the use among Friends.”

• Friends expressed appreciation for Quaker Life magazine and the hope to expand its’ availability and distribution. Friends also noted the importance of FUM expanding its’ online presence and social media engagements. It is recognized that communication with and among African and Caribbean Friends faces technical and logistical challenges. African Friends suggested FUM set-up internet cafés, libraries and even a radio station in Africa. Regarding FUM’s vital role in communication, one group responded: “We have used the FUM office as a resource to find out information on other projects/missions. Please continue to be a one stop shop for information.” Another group wrote, “Quaker Life energizes us.” Regarding communication technology friends suggested: “Use webinars and consider a weekly devotional internet program.” A group from a remote area requested assistance with communication technology equipment.

• Friends noted appreciation for FUM’s mission work and efforts of strategically working to form authentic global partnerships. Multiple responses noted the importance of supporting current mission programs (i.e. Ramallah Friends School, Friends Theological College). Several responses spoke of the need to prayerfully consider new fields (i.e. Tanzania and Southern Sudan). The most significant priority indicated that North America (and Caribbean) is the forgotten field, and new effort must be given to revitalize FUM’s North American Ministries. One group wrote, “Be involved locally/stateside.” Another group asked, “Can we do more missionary work in the US? Hispanic ministry? Ministry with people with no religious affiliation?” The Restructuring Committee recognizes that many of the above core ministry priorities noted in the responses are in line with Friends United Meeting’s stated priorities of Global Partnerships, Communication, Evangelism and Leadership Development. However, the committee recognized a strong desire for ministry resources for local meetings/churches and for greater awareness of our global community. We recommend that the General Board: Change the priority from Leadership Development to Leadership and Resource Development reflecting the desire for more resources for local congregations and meetings.

A Way Forward

As we move forward in a strategic manner, it is vital for the committee to respectfully acknowledge the many Friends who offered their discernment. Therefore, we propose a process to integrate these contributions into FUM’s future strategic ministry plans.

• Step One — Appoint four working groups, each one focusing on one of the ministry priorities: Global Partnerships, Communication, Evangelism and Leadership & Resource Development. The working groups will consist of 8 people, 4 from North America and 4 East Africa. Staff members will also be assigned to the working groups by the General Secretary.

• Step Two — Each group will review the analysis reports, identify central concepts and generate strategic initiatives to address specific recommendations and discernment responses. These strategic initiatives must include qualitative and quantitative measures, budgetary implications and a timeline for implementation. The Restructuring Committee will provide a ministry plan template.

• Step Three — Each group will complete and return the ministry plan to the attention of the Restructuring Committee by February 2014.

• Step Four — The Restructuring Committee will coordinate with the Program Coordinating and Priorities Committee (PCPC) and other appropriate committees to consolidate the recommendations and submit a preliminary report to the General Board at the 2014 Triennium.

Click here for a chart of Composite Responses from 40 Days of Prayer and Day of Discernment participants.