Megan Fair Speaks at Wilmington Yearly Meeting

When I enter an office to lobby anybody, and I don’t care what side of the aisle they’re on, I’m always nervous. I do remind myself that God is in the room, and that there is that of God in everyone, including myself—brings me strength, brings me joy—and in the person that I’m speaking with. I can lose track of that during the conversation, if a few things are said that kind of shock me. But it’s kind of like deep breathing.

To go back to that understanding that there’s that of God in this person, and that’s who I’m speaking to… I’m not speaking to the fear, I’m not speaking to whatever training the person has given themselves to get through the world as they see it. I’m speaking to their better part, to that of God.

-Ruth Flower, legislative director at Friends Committee on National Legislation

Megan opened her session with a Quakerspeak video on FCNL, which featured Ruth Flower:

 

Megan then spoke about the Ladder of Engagement: an image which breaks down the process of getting more involved in lobbying into manageable steps. FCNL encourages Friends to consider climbing one more rung to become more engaged. The ladder image serves to welcome more people into the lobbying process.ladder of engagement

As a way of helping Friends climb the ladder together, FCNL is working on building advocacy teams. These begin with three or four people in a community who are willing to work together. Once these teams contact FCNL, they will send out a trainer to help them understand their role in the lobbying process.

Then, the team participates in a monthly phone call and a monthly action together. The phone call keeps them informed, and the monthly action keeps them involved.

According to FCNL’s website:

The power of Advocacy Teams comes from each team member’s commitment to changing Capitol Hill for the better – and the knowledge that we’re stronger together.

You will build an ongoing relationship with your members of Congress.

You will learn how to work with the media to see the news you want.

You will foster a network of advocates in your community.

You will help your members of Congress become champions for peace and justice.

You will change Washington for the better.

Friends broke into practice groups of four or five people, to help us imagine what this might look like. We were given the option of “lobbying” on either preserving access to healthcare or opposing an expansion of the military budget. To guide our imaginations, Megan gave us copies of the “Lobby Visit Roadmap” that she was given when she first went on a lobbying trip for FCNL at seventeen. Here’s the roadmap:

Introduce yourself and those with you.

Thank the representative/senator for something they’ve done that you agree with. (this may require research)

Make the “ask.”

Give facts and tell stories to support the ask, keeping the emphasis on stories rather than expertise.

Solicit follow-up questions.

Thank the representative/senator for the time.

Repeat the “ask.”

Leave behind documents supporting the ask.

Follow up with their office.

Friends had productive and inspiring conversations as they imagined themselves lobbying as a group. What could we be thankful about, with regard to the imagined politician at the meeting? What supportive stories would we tell?

Megan Fair, a member of Wilmington Monthly Meeting in Wilmington, Ohio, currently serves on the FCNL’s Executive Committee and is the clerk of the FCNL Field Committee. She lives in Seattle, WA, where she works as a Civil Rights Assistant Manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Washington (CAIR-WA), a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Megan credits Wilmington Monthly Meeting’s hosting of the Christian Peacemakers Team with directing her toward work in the Middle East and interfaith work with the Muslim community.

Megan obtained her BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. While at Guilford, Megan was a Quaker Leader Scholar and completed the School for International Training’s Modernization and Social Change program in Amman, Jordan.

Expulsions

From Chuck Fager, more on the three expulsions in NCYM(FUM):

[…] both Sills and Terrell insisted that this action was not expulsion. Rather, they said it constituted an acknowledgment by the committee that all three of the meetings had joined a different yearly meeting, and thus had ceased to be members of NCYM.

“We threw out nobody,” Sills declared.

In the case of Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge Meetings, two strongly evangelical churches, according to Sills and Terrell the other yearly meeting they have joined is one they are organizing, which is as yet unnamed.

and:

There seems little doubt but that a new association (whether or not it is called a “yearly meeting”) is in the offing. Chances seem good that some other meetings may follow Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge. The debate over the Executive Committee’s action may come down to quibbles about timing; whether the committee should have waited til the meetings formally announced their departure, versus the hazard of the many conflicts of interest described by Terrell. We’ll soon see how that unfolds.

New Garden Friends Meeting is a different matter. Whereas Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge have been trying to split or purge NCYM and, not having succeeded at it, are preparing an exodus, New Garden has often and publicly avowed its attachment to NCYM, and its desire to help learn to live with its diversity. So what’s the beef here?

The key for the committee is that last March New Garden added to its NCYM affiliation, membership in the new Piedmont Yearly Meeting.

and:

This “vaguely described” authority is too “vague” and sweeping for me.  And letting the committee take unto itself the prerogative of deciding that this or that meeting has forfeited its membership in the yearly meeting, with no warrant, no notice, no standards and no  procedural guides, is a recipe for big trouble.

For those not interested in Quaker inside baseball, here’s my short version of the story-so-far: evangelical-leaning Friends in North Carolina have found that elusive “third way!” You know, the one by which they can successfully chart their course out of the liberal/conservative divide that troubles so many of our denominational gatherings. Here’s the secret: construct a bureaucratic pretense by which you can kick out all the whiners, both liberal and conservative. Problem solved!

That may not be a fair read of the situation. Perhaps their Executive Committee really does believe that their newly assumed authority to cast out individual churches without consent from the body is legit. Perhaps they have reason to think that this will forestall a more explosive confrontation. It’s not fair for me to draw conclusions secondhand, no matter how obvious or tempting.

This could be happening in my own yearly meeting, though. I do not want my yearly meeting to go down the path of division, and so I’m anxiously attentive when divisiveness might be rippling our way. We’re caught in the same cross currents as North Carolina YM, and Northwest YM, and what’s left of Indiana YM. The careful, fearful logic employed in the documents available from NCYM’s Executive Committee does not seem far removed, in spirit, from the way that we have resolved (evaded) similar concerns.

One of the repeated motifs in our business and worship this year, though, was of perfect love driving out fear. We chose love as our theme: As I have loved you, so you must love one another. Our actions may not have fully reflected that choice, but there were glimmers of grace.

Dear Lord, let fearless love continue to arise among us.