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One of the many things that sets FCNL apart from the rest

March 2, 2010

I think I could go on for a while about all the things that sets FCNL apart. FCNL’s beautiful, green building, its location just four blocks from the Capitol, the wonderful and energetic FCNL Staff, and of course, the historic, powerful witness FCNL provides in Washington.

Something less well known but equally as impressive is the process in which FCNL decides what legislative priorities to work on. This biannual process involves asking Quaker meetings and churches all over the country to engage in worshipful discernment to determine what they feel are the most important legislative priorities for FCNL to focus on in the coming session of Congress. These priorities are within the wider context of FCNL’s policy statement and the four “we seeks“.

All of the responses are worshipfully considered by FCNL’s policy committee, a smaller body of twelve members appointed from FCNL’s General Committee. Out of the responses, the policy committee, takes the “sense of the responses” and put them into a document that is presented to FCNL’s governing body, the General Committee. This body meets in November where they also examine and worshipfully consider the statement created by the policy committee. The approved document becomes FCNL’s legislative priorities for the coming congress. See FCNL’s legislative priorities for the current congress.

Yes, this is somewhat of a slow and complicated process for an organization to decide what legislation priorities to focus on, as the process goes from one body of Quakers, to another body of Quakers to another body, and happens over the course of almost a year….however, partly due to this long, and laborious process, I believe it is an incredibly powerful and unique experience.

It can be a powerful process for the individual, for the Friends community, and for FCNL. The process presents a unique opportunity for Friends to ask themselves deep questions within the context of the wider world of Friends. What do I believe are the most pressing national legislative issues? What issues do I feel called to work on? As a community, what local or national issues do we feel called to work on? What is our group’s role within the wider world of Friends?

The opportunity lies in engaging in serious discernment as a meeting, which helps individual and collective witness to grow. Often Friends feel a call to further work as a community, whether at a local or national level. Overall, Friends have the opportunity to feel more connected to each other, to become more connected with FCNL’s work and feel more connected with the wider world of Friends.

Not only is it beneficial on the local level, but FCNL’s work finds increased grounding and spiritual depth through this process. The more diverse responses FCNL’s receives the richer FCNL’s work becomes. There is no other process like this among Friends. It is corporate discernment on a large scale, connecting Friends of all branches and theological backgrounds for a common purpose. How is the Religious Society of Friends called to witness in Washington? How is the Religious Society of Friends called to change federal policy for the common good?

If you belong to a Quaker meeting or church, and your community has not engaged in the priority process this year, I strongly encourage you to do so.

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