Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And now a word from our sponsor - FUM Triennial Part 1

I returned on Sunday from the FUM Triennial sessions held this year in High Point, NC. If you want the excruciating detail, they had a court reporter transcribing the sessions as they went and displaying the text on a screen for the hearing impaired. They have published the transcripts here. These are not corrected transcripts so there are transcription errors and there are spots where they missed things. The missing parts are mostly marked by ellipsis. While it is not perfect it is the most complete recording of the events of any Friends gathering I have ever seen. So if you want all of the gory details of what happened, go there. I will try to give a more impressionistic view.

The meetings were held at High Point Friends Church and the attached Friends School. The facilities were excellent and the welcome was most warm. I wish to commend the local arrangements committee for their hard work and the care they provided.

If anyone had been expecting some sort of pyrotechnics because of the simmering tensions within FUM they would have been disappointed. All the tensions were left to simmer just below the surface. While there are business sessions at the triennial they are mostly used to present reports. There is little substantive business conducted, or at least there hasn't been any at the last two, which are the only ones I have attended. Someone described the FUM Triennials as a family reunion for Orthodox Friends. It is an opportunity to meet and spend time with friends that you might not see otherwise and to make new contacts with people from other yearly meetings. This being my second triennial and since I have served on the General Board the past two years I had a number of people I was glad to see there.

At the Wednesday night keynote, Sylvia Graves presented what was, in essence, a state of society report for FUM. She candidly acknowledged the tensions and differences that face us. That was, however, the last time those issues were raised. In the rest of the sessions the time was mostly spent hearing reports from the various missions of FUM. They were fascinating and it sounds as if a lot of good work is happening. All of the foreign missions are facing a number of problems, not the least of which is that the ongoing devaluation of the dollar means that the funds we send abroad do not get us as much as they used to. This is particularly true when paying salaries. As a result of the financial difficulties of FUM, most of the reports had a subtle, or not so subtle, subtext of please contribute to this mission. There were times when I felt as if I had stumbled into the middle of a PBS pledge week. But there are significant needs and there is a lot of good work happening so if you are inclined, go to the FUM web site and see what you are led to do.

I realize that some of my discomfort with the fundraising is cultural. Liberal Quakers are much more diffident about asking for money and we never take a collection during worship. Here there was a collection during every worship service. I remember a time a number of years ago at New England Yearly Meeting when the Finance Committee reported that there was going to be shortfall in the budget that year. Someone suggested that they pass the hat right there in the session. Then the Treasurer said that she was uncomfortable with doing that. I don't recall the exact nature of her scruple but was the only time I have heard of a treasurer being reluctant to collect money. Some other method was found to collect money from Friends at the sessions and they more than met the shortfall. I suppose it depends some what in what you are used to. I suspect liberal Friends may have something to learn from Orthodox Friends in this regards.

There is a lot more to write about, including a meeting of Convergent Friends and my visit to North Caroline YM – Conservative. Tune in again next time for another episode in the ongoing saga of FUM.

Blessings to all,

Will T


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