Annual Meeting Speech 2017
2016 was a year, which solidified our progress as an organization on a number of fronts: financial, our physical plant, strategic planning and our overall vision. We have begun to color in more of the picture we are creating for this incredible organization.
We finalized our mission statement and you can read about all of the specific changes in personnel, facilities, membership and finance we have been making in my written report.
We are continually grateful for all of you who have stepped up in some way to put your energy into the work of Ferry Beach. I appreciate the work of the staff and board, our Beachkeepers, donors and members who are always willing to lend a hand to support the sustainability of Ferry Beach. I especially want to thank again our donors. You are instrumental in keeping us moving towards sustainability.
Last summer we spent time in Town Halls, in strategic planning sessions and other meetings, getting feedback about what we are going to do with the increased time we have when our tenant leaves.
Just to review, our fall and spring seasons give us approximately 20 additional weeks of programming. All of the warm spaces, which we are utilizing in the winter, come back to us for the whole year. With the nicer weather in the fall, we are considering weekday retreats,” conferences and workshops in September & October. We will take our cues from the weather and the earth and not open the dorms in the colder spring days. We hope to fill up during the week in the month of May. By not opening early, will save money as well as the environment and wear and tear on our buildings.
For this big change at the end of 2018, we have been posing questions to members about what to do with our space…
Some of the answers we have heard: being the Chautauqua of the Atlantic, an international conference center, a leader in social justice, radical hospitality, green infrastructure, be a hotbed of values to challenge hatred and bigotry, a musical destination, a center for big dialogues across cultures, a place to connect to the rhythms of the earth …and “an advance” center instead of a retreat center.
All wonderful big visions for Ferry Beach.
The question then becomes, how do we get on the path towards these ideas with our values and identity firmly in place?
There is a Camus quote that has stuck with me this year: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me, there is an invincible summer.”
Physically, we had a really long winter up here. We were still using the wood stove at the end of May at home and the heat in the office was coming on through the first part of June. It has been a long cold winter, in more ways than one.
The constant icy drip of news: “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming” has left me mourning the goodness of some of our customs and conventions and our standing in the world.
It feels like the gains we have made for LGBTQ rights and women’s rights are sliding away. The better understanding that white America was developing around racism was frozen in time…and may be going backward. A noose was found in the Black History Museum in Washington, DC and someone spray painted a racial slur on LeBron James house. Three good Samaritans who interrupted hatred of Muslims were stabbed, two of them to death on a transit train in Oregon. Mass shootings…
It has been a dark and long winter and we are all in need of a transformation to a warm spring. (Would you agree?) It also feels like the world is calling to us – personally and organizationally. As Mary Oliver writes….
“the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese…”
Will the answer we give not only to the world, but also to create programming for our shoulder season, be our invincible summer that has been etched upon our history, summer after summer, generation after generation; here at Ferry Beach?
There are groups of people out in the world saying that the time we are living is the Great Awakening. From astrological charts to the Hopi Elder who wrote that “the time is now” and “we are the ones we have been waiting for;”
It seems no accident we are here together with this opportunity to bring more love to the world.
Joanna Macy’s work has been predicting this awakening for some time: chiding us to practice the spiral of Gratitude, Compassion, See with New Eyes and Go Forward with Active Hope. We as a community have practiced this spiral through our summer themes.
Ferry Beach has often been a place to many of us. We come here to renew –– through the ocean breezes, the warm sand, the salty sea air, the smell of the pines in the early morning and the smokiness of a wood fire. The physicality of this place is paramount. Even the early morning or late afternoon fog rolling in…..It renews and restores us.
Ferry Beach is a place.
And Ferry Beach is also a concept, a big idea —an inspiration, an invincible summer, which resides within us and lives preciously in our memories. For some, it is etched into our DNA.
The magic that occurs here is not just the physical experience of this place. It is the mysticism of love, of family and connection and relationships that we take home.
Brad Cohen and I attended the 18th Annual White Privilege Conference in Kansas City, Missouri this last April. We got a grant from the New York State Convention of Universalists to bring this work back to Ferry Beach (a 1 and a half day workshop will occur between RE week and Gayla).
In one workshop I attended, we spent a lot of time sharing with another person in response to a prompt or statement.
“talk about a time when you felt compelled to prove to others that you are right,” or a talk about a time when you used language that conveyed your power over another.
In a series of these “prompts” including those that addressed conflict avoidance or seeking the approval of others, the energy in the room began to change and soften. It was palpable. We were letting go of our need for privilege as we discovered it.
The day before I had attended an institute on Critical Humility. For a full 8 hours we explored the ways we can gently confront racism and white privilege in our lives – starting with our own thoughts and views of our own self identity and the role that privilege plays in those identities. It was powerful.
My experience echoed some of the words of Patrisse Cullors, one of the founding women of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a conversation she had with Krista Tippett from the podcast, On Being. She said:
“You see the light that comes inside of people. You see people literally transforming. It is a spiritual work. It’s healing work. And human to human, if you take a moment to be with somebody, to understand the pains they’re going through, you get to transform yourself.”
She went on to say… “It’s not just about policy. It’s why, I think, some people get so confused by us. They’re like, “Where’s the policy?” I’m like, “You can’t policy your racism away.” We no longer have Jim Crow laws, but we still have Jim Crow hate.”
What I learned through the conference was all of the subtle ways that white privilege was operating in my life, even if there is no person of color in the room…. And I left with a desire to change that, in order to be a more welcoming human to all people.
We used to talk about Diversity Training and it was more like an “outside of the self” work: It was about changing our language, noticing the pictures companies and organizations used for recruiting, looking at policies.
The work that I think we are being called to do now is really inside work — inside the self — being able to connect to one another and make changes not from some place of justice-seeking, but some place of deep healing.
It begins here at Ferry Beach with each other, regardless of the amount of racial diversity we have here. We have to begin with ourselves. Patrisse Cullors calls it a “re-humanizing” project.
When we let go of all of the ways that we live white privilege, even with other whites, we begin to change our own energy and also, this place.
Our summers may not ever change from the types of programs we are offering now, but it feels important to consider how to make changes in how we interact together in order to make this a more welcoming place for all people, in order to let go of white privilege or as many at the conference used synonymously “the patriarchy.”
What might that look like at Ferry Beach?? Instead of a petition signed by 50 conferees to get jello off the salad bar, it is a conversation;
instead of a reply to all email and long arguments laid out on paper, it is a dialogue on the phone.
Instead of piling on at Town Hall meetings, we spend time visioning together how we can each become the solution to the challenges we may be experiencing at Ferry Beach, together and separately.
I think the shifts we want to see in the world begin with us. I know the conference was transformative for me. The UUA is asking all of us to be welcoming places and to explore white privilege. This conference we attended, in its 18th year, seems to have a good handle on what is needed.
Perhaps really what we might create is a way to formalize or systematize that invincible summer moments that we know so well here….a time when we are in step with the natural rhythms of each other and the earth, an energy of patience and understanding that comes from this magical beach called Ferry….
This transformational inside work is the work I think Ferry Beach is being called to do. We have taken the first steps in affirming a new mission statement. With a nod to Quillen Shinn, Ferry Beach awakens hearts to explore grow and renew the spirit of universal love.
We have created a statement of radical hospitality and we are asking all of our coordinators, musicians and ministers of the week as well as workshop leaders, staff and board to acknowledge that they are a role model for connection at Ferry Beach by signing a covenant of radical hospitality.
The world is calling out right now and we have choices to make. We have a history of practicing community and learning what harmony might look like. We have the opportunity to take the next step in addressing privilege.
If we choose this path, we will begin to exude a different and more welcoming and less patriarchal energy. Perhaps this will spill over into our new 70% of the time we can be open to attract like minded groups, organizations and individuals as strategic partners for Ferry Beach.
Langton Hughes wrote:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
As Ferry Beach Members: Hold fast to our invincible summer – let it blossom within us to mean more than the people in this room. More than those of us who already feel within us the invisible summer.…
Annual Meeting Speech 2017