When I first began my work among Friends in 1977, I was only dimly aware of the Friends World Committee for Consultation. My friend Jennifer Haines staffed Right Sharing of World Resources, which was under the care of FWCC, and I would hear from her from time to time about the projects it supported and the difference it was making in people’s lives. Jennifer gave me a lasting impression of the deep commitment this program engendered. She worked with Herbert Hadley, then head of FWCC Section of the Americas, and also a member of my monthly meeting. It was through Herbert and his wife, Ruthanna, that I first began to learn of the international reach of FWCC as well as its work across the branches of Friends. Herbert had grown up among pastoral Friends in the Midwest, the son of Friends missionaries, and Ruthanna began her life among programmed Friends in Cuba. The two of them, as much-loved and respected members of our unprogrammed, formerly Orthodox, now Friends General Conference-related meeting in Philadelphia were a living testament to the work of FWCC, acquainting people across the branches of Friends and bringing them together, enriching all in doing so.
In 1977, one of the big events being undertaken was the gathering of Friends in the Americas in Wichita, Kansas. I had just arrived at Friends Journal from five years’ work with an ecumenical magazine published by the United Church of Christ. I found ecumenical dialogue exciting and was pleased that Friends from every branch of Quakerism were coming together for dialogue, intervisitation, and a chance to have a direct encounter with each other in the Spirit. More recent initiatives, informal encounters spurred by the Internet under the banner of "convergent Friends" have also been quite exciting to me, so I am very pleased to see convergent Friends writing about their encounters in this issue.
In recent years, my work has included regular meetings with Margaret Fraser, current executive secretary of FWCC Section of the Americas. Bob Dockhorn, our senior editor, and I regularly meet with Margaret and her staff to discuss their work, and ours, and to see in what ways our organizations can be of assistance to each other. It has been exciting to hear about numerous more recent gatherings of Friends during the planning stages and in the aftermath of these events. It is wonderful to witness way opening, and to hear about it from others.
Despite these and other connections, I must confess that Friends World Committee for Consultation has always had a bit of an air of mystery for me. I’ve loved hearing about the gatherings secondhand; I’ve deeply appreciated the work of QUNO in New York and Geneva; Right Sharing of World Resources has seemed essential for Friends, but, as any "outsider" to the inner workings of an organization, I have sometimes wondered just what they do at all those amazing gatherings.
With this 70th anniversary issue, much of that mystery has been dispelled. I hope that you will find many facts and stories of interest here, and that perhaps it will expand your horizon just a bit about the scope of Quakerism in the world today. It’s been enlightening for me to learn that Hispanic Friends are moving north to the U.S., and I support Margaret Fraser’s suggestion that North American Friends in established meetings with their own property consider sharing their space with Hispanic Friends. Imagine the convergence and growth that could result!
Friends around the world and across our remarkably wide range of theological interpretation owe much to the faithful and devoted work of Friends World Committee for Consultation throughout the past 70 years. It has truly been the work of peacemakers—and peacemakers among Friends at that!