Renewing Our Vision

By Tony Simons, Foundation of Light Board Member

At our 50th anniversary celebration in May, we met for a conversation focused on the Foundation of Light vision. The purpose of the session (and of the larger FOL vision project) is to gather input from the people whose lives have been touched by the Foundation of Light, and ultimately to converge on some statements of purpose and guiding values. These statements will in turn make it easier for us to program consistently and to serve our community as we strive for sustainability. The more our community can see their own values reflected in those of the Foundation of Light, the more they will participate and contribute, and the more sustainable we will be.

The first lesson that was very readily apparent is that we will need to use several different modes to gather input from different community members. Most of our younger community members will
be very comfortable with technology, but many of our long-term community members are less comfortable with it. It has also been pointed out that some of us will prefer to contribute through solitary work rather than group conversation. Since we want our statements of purpose and values to reflect our community, we will need to gather input through in-person meetings, online meetings, and also to allow individual submissions. To this end, I have agreed to host at least three online sessions and three or more in-person sessions through the summer to gather input. If anyone wants to attend multiple sessions, and so potentially have a larger impact on the outcome, that is fine. If anyone wants to conduct more meetings, and so gather more information, that is also fine.

Several themes emerged from our initial discussion. A number of people commented on how activism is part of our tradition, and that our overall goal may be to promote service to humanity through meditation, study and charitable works. There was some discomfort with the use of the words "religion", "god" or "church". However, people very much liked the notion of studying wisdom traditions, spirituality, and the idea of integrating spirituality with secularism, the "sacred secular," and rituals. We collectively seem to be attuned to learning, seeking, growing, and mysteries rather than representing ourselves as having all the answers. Finally, there was a strong interest in outreach to expand our community and thus our sustainability. We discussed the notions of interfaith dialog and the need to engage people of different communities and generations, including Ithaca's huge but transient population of college students.

After learning more about the roles that the Foundation of Light has played and should play, and the values that have seemed to guide us and that should guide us, a few of us will try our hand at crafting summary statements. These statements will be distributed and voted upon by the Foundation of Light membership, to see which ones resonate most strongly with our supporters and participants.

We are certainly not inventing a completely new direction for the Foundation of Light; we are building upon a strong legacy and a founding mission. Our desire is to update that mission to reinvigorate it and to make sure that it fits with the current needs and aspirations of our FOL community. We have not fully regained our balance post-COVID, but with a clear vision and values in place to guide us, strong accountability, and strong programming, we plan to serve our community in a way that will drive membership and contributions and will support us in long-term sustainability.