On March 23, Friends General Conference (FGC) announced that “after several meetings with a number of committee clerks, staff, and Gathering volunteers, it has become clear that we cannot safely hold the in-person FGC Gathering this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.”
FGC was founded by seven yearly meetings in 1900 to organize conferences of Friends every two years, although the 1918 conference was canceled due to the world war and influenza pandemic. Gatherings have been held every summer since 1963.
FGC staff and volunteers are planning a virtual Gathering for this summer. An online survey has been created to gather input about the virtual event. The shape and form are still taking shape, but there will be plenary speakers, workshops, and high school and Junior Gathering programming.
The original plan was for University of Radford in Radford, Va., to host the 2020 in-person Gathering. Now FGC’s Executive Committee has approved it to be the 2021 Gathering site. Many of the events planned by the Gathering Committee for the in-person 2020 Gathering will be available at Radford but in 2021.
FGC conference coordinator Ruth Reber reflected on the recent upheavals. “I believe we will pass through these painful and challenging times and be changed. We have a choice how we live into that change. Do we grow individually and in faithfulness as the Religious Society of Friends? Can we reach and stretch and work to create a different world? Can we create the kind of world we all seek based in Spirit, in loving community, and equality? Those are the questions I see before us as we seek to craft a virtual Gathering.”