What’s Next in Worship at Durham Friends Meeting?

Ministry and Counsel, June 20, 2021

For the past fifteen months, we at Durham Friends Meeting have been worshipping together each Sunday via Zoom rather than worshipping together in our Meetinghouse.  We have done this, of course, because of the risk of infecting one another with the COVID-19 virus which has taken 600,000 lives in the U.S. and 3.8 million lives across the globe.  With the recent successes of vaccination, we believe it is time to begin planning to return to worship in the Meetinghouse. 

We emphasize: time to begin planning.  We believe there are important steps to take first before we all return to worship in the Meetinghouse.  We believe if we begin taking these steps now, it will be possible to return to regular worship in the Meetinghouse in the fall. 

We believe these four considerations need to be kept foremost in our minds:

(1) safety: we need to be sure we are keeping everyone safe.

(2) access for all: we need to be sure we are providing access to worship for all, and that includes children who cannot yet be vaccinated, and any among us who cannot be vaccinated.

(3) announcement: we need to be sure we have communicated to all how we are worshipping together.

(4) messages: we need to recognize that after we return to the Meetinghouse, we will not be as able to have worship messages brought by those at a distance.

We believe Durham Friends Meeting should make preparations for a hybrid form of worship as we return to the meetinghouse.  Under this arrangement, most people would attend the Meeting in person at our meetinghouse; others would participate via Zoom.  In April, we held a threshing session in which this hybrid approach had broad support (notes attached).  In May, we tested a Meeting OWL Pro Device that proved quite satisfactory to support this hybrid form of worship (notes attached).  Using this device, especially in the meeting room itself, will require some improvements in the Meeting’s internet connection.  (Without such improvements, to use the Meeting OWL Pro for hybrid worship we would need to hold worship in the social room.)

Here are the steps we believe we should take next in approximate order:

(1) Have the Meeting authorize purchase now of a Meeting OWL Pro, approximate cost $1000. 

(2) Have Ministry and Counsel develop a plan that considers the following, and bring this to the Meeting for approval: 

(a) Explore options for improving the Meeting’s internet connection. 

(b) Think through protocols for ensuring the safety of all who come to worship.  (How about children? How about those who cannot be vaccinated? What about visitors?  What do we do about ventilation and air quality in the meetinghouse?  Etc.)

(c) Think through what it will take each Sunday to support hybrid worship, both equipment and people support. 

(d) Set a tentative date for returning to worship in the meetinghouse and communicate this to all members and attenders of Durham Friends Meeting well in advance. 

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NOTES from Threshing Session on 4/11/21 about Worship Options After COVID

DCB 21.4.14

Here are some notes from our threshing session.  At the end, I’m appending three thoughtful responses that came via e-mail.

We had good participation in the threshing session: more than 20 participants.  Mostly those gathered were folks we also see fairly regularly on ZOOM worship sessions.  We may want to reach out to some of those we are not regularly seeing on Zoom. 

On the whole, there was a good deal of agreement that we should be especially attentive to the health and safety of Meeting members.  We were reminded that there are quite a number in the Meeting who would especially be at risk from a viral infection.

Several people said that they were surprised to find worship over Zoom to be better than they expected, even if they preferred to be in the meetinghouse. 

There were a number of expressions of discomfort with allowing too much technology into our worship together.

Nevertheless, these expressions of discomfort were nearly always paired with a recognition that Zoom was making possible something good, and that we probably want to be heading toward some kind of hybrid solution.  Such a hybrid solution would allow us to return to the meetinghouse and yet allow those not able to attend in person (for health or for distance reasons) to worship with us. 

People seem interested in trying the OWL device. 

Several people voiced discomfort with a large screen in the meetinghouse.

We were encouraged to see what other Quaker meetings are doing.  We can learn from them. 

We were reminded that we’ll need some protocols for addressing who can come to the meetinghouse in person:  only those vaccinated?  With masks?  What distances, etc. 

A possibility voiced for an interim step:  gathering people in small, safe groups at various locations connected via Zoom. 

A big issue to wrestle with:  how much does ‘being a Quaker meeting’ require being in one another’s presence?  If we allow the technology in the future, will we be altering the terms of ‘worshipping together’ and ‘making decisions together?’

From Sarah Sprogell

Good Morning Doug,

I won’t be at the threshing session today, but I wanted to offer my input for consideration on the topic of hybrid worship.  I think it’s good that we’re taking some time to reflect and discern on how we can come together in worship safely post-pandemic, and continue to have wider participation.

If we go to a hybrid model, I think it would be beneficial to find a way to greatly enlarge the image of zoom participants – either by investing in a very large TV screen or be devising a system to project a large image onto a blank wall.  Our sound system might need to be improved also, for best results.

Obviously, we will also need some technical expertise to get anything set up.  There may be knowledge within the Meeting, and there may also be help available through NEYM. We do not need to re-create the wheel on our own!

Let’s look at what other meetings within the Yearly Meeting are doing. 

For example, Allen’s Neck Meeting is using a screen, but it is too small to see the faces from a distance.  Some feel that the screen itself is distracting.  Thus, placement of the screen is important.  Peter Crysdale or others at that meeting can provide more insight to their experience. 

Another example is Cambridge Meeting, which has used a projector to put an enlarged image onto a blank wall.  I saw this on an Instagram post by Kathleen Wooten.  She may be a good resource for more information on this method.

Thanks for taking this input Doug, and thanks to M&C for shepherding this forward,

Sarah

+++

From Ingrid Chalufour

Doug,

I regret I will miss the Threshing on Sunday. Our family is visiting, and they come first. I expect you understand that. For what it is worth I would like to share my thoughts with you. I think having a hybrid option for the long term is a good idea. I realize that we do not really know how this will impact the experience in the Meetinghouse, but there are advantages to having it. First, we do not know what our future is in relation to pandemics. We don’t even know when we might be COVID safe completely. Second, we have benefited from the participation of Friends from other places, including with message giving.

Originally, I thought that we might want to start modestly to see how it goes. After a conversation with Sarah I understand that this is likely to be an inferior experience and it would not give us a good understanding of what the experience might be.

That is the extent of my thinking for the moment. Zoom certainly has been a life saver in the past year. It has given us Sunday worship and the possibility of continuing committee work.

I look forward to hearing how all of this plays out. I long to return to the Meetinghouse but have some difficulty with wearing a mask for extended times so I have to figure that out first.

Many thanks for your efforts to guide us in figuring this out.

Ingrid

+++

From KJ Williams

The focus seemed drawn into if hybrid makes sense to explore. We didn’t touch on where my thoughts were headed, more about when we should start gathering together again. I’ve thought a great deal about this, as I’ve been to work every day, answering screening questions, having my temperature taken, and now having Ag testing 2 times a week.  We wear masks, stay apart, meet more still on Microsoft teams. When I think of the meeting house, I think of it as a pretty open space, fairly easy to have people sit in bubbles spread out. While singing would still be limited, the chance to be together in the space should become possible in the next 1-2 months I hope. I think the healing of being together balances out some of the safety risk. Findings of less viral spread on surfaces helps much of this feel safer.  I do want people to be safe, so having the zoom option continuing is important. I am hoping that some who are more comfortable setting up zoom might help others in person.  

The Wisconsin Council of Churches have a guide they call Holding Our Plans Loosely where they offer some guidance in thinking about opening.  It might be useful as we think this through.  It includes ideas about a blend of % of population vaccinated, positivity rate, and cases per 100,000. 

I do support the hybrid model, in part given my living both in Brunswick and Oxford.  I hadn’t planned on spending so much time in Oxford when I landed in Maine, but we are finding that the better way to work things. With the hybrid, I think I can stay a committed member of Durham Friends over time. 

I was thinking about that balance of local, in person connection and distant connections.  I have been visiting my previous congregation less, shifting to being more present here. I value being part of local activities, when I have time and energy.  That is limited now, with me needing time with the community more to help me get ready for the week ahead.  I value that support. I think there can also be a way of engaging those who are part of the community farther away, finding what captures their attention, their passion and gifts. 

+++++

TO:                   Interested Folks at Durham Friends Meeting

FROM:              Doug, Ellen, Renee, Joyce, Tess, Wendy

RE:                   Test of the OWL Pro

DATE:               May 18, 2021

Today we tried a test of the OWL Pro device that New England Yearly Meeting lent us for a short while.  On the whole, it was a successful trial, but not everything we tried worked. 

Test Site: Social Room.  The OWL connects to a laptop which becomes the host computer for the ZOOM session.  We put the OWL on a table in the Social Room, plugged it in to Doug’s laptop, connected it wirelessly to the Meeting WiFi, and started up a meeting.  (Durham Meeting has its internet connection from Spectrum, via DSL.)  Doug, Ellen and Renee were present in the Social Room; Joyce, Tess and Wendy were logged in remotely.  You can see a 14-minute recording of what this looked like here

We could see and hear one another without difficulty.  The OWL always shows one speaker in the room and also a panoramic 360-degree view of everyone in the room.  Sometimes it would show a few people (separate images) in addition to the panoramic view.  We did notice that the OWL’s camera was slow to move towards a new speaker; it took perhaps three sentences before that new speaker showed on camera (there was no delay in picking up the sound). 

We did succeed in hooking up the Meeting’s TV to the laptop using a Chromecast device, but we did not figure out how to cast the Zoom session from the laptop to the TV monitor.  This is surely a solvable problem. 

Test Site:  Meeting Room.  We tried moving the whole set-up into the Meeting Room.  This was not successful because we could not pick up a WiFi signal in this location.  We tried wirelessly, first, and then tried running an ethernet cable from the cable modem/router in the kitchen across the floor of the Social Room into the Meeting Room.  This too, did not work.  The problem might be with the ethernet cable we used or with the cable modem/router.

Conclusions.  Here are some tentative conclusions:

1.  The OWL Pro (costs about $1000) could be a way to have the Meeting do hybrid worship – most people in the Meetinghouse and some logging in via Zoom.  The sound and video are good, though the camera takes a bit of time to react and turn toward a new speaker. 

2. Of course we could also use it for business meetings and committee meetings with some participants logged in from remote sites. 

3.  For starters, we would have to hold Meeting for Worship in the Social Room. 

4.  Using the OWL Pro in the Meetinghouse would require some upgrade of our internet capabilities.  This upgrade would involve a stronger signal than we now have or a dedicated (and working) ethernet cord from our cable modem/router to the computer that is hosting the OWL.  If we use ethernet, perhaps an electrician could find a way to run the connection from the kitchen to the Meeting Room via the basement. 

5.  Would we want a TV monitor in use during Meeting for Worship to see remote participants?  That is a question for discussion.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, May 16, 2021

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, May 16, 2021 with 16 people present.  Bob Eaton, Clerk, opened the meeting with quiet and expectant worship.

1.The April minutes were approved as printed in the Newsletter. 

2. Clerk Bob Eaton sadly reported that he had received a letter from Wendy Schlotterbeck submitting her resignation/retirement as Youth Minister. Her letter follows:

            “I have been the Youth Minister for Durham Friends for 12 years. I have felt honored and extremely blessed by getting to know our children and youth. And have known the support and love of the Meeting community.

            “Over the past several months I have been discerning if/when I should step aside from the Youth Minister position and allow newer, younger energy to infuse this role. Also, it will allow me to focus more of my energy in other areas important to our Meeting and New England Yearly Meeting. 

            “I am part of a “Quaker faithfulness group” that meets bi-weekly and was able to process this with them. Please accept this letter as my notice of resignation starting July 1, 2021.

            “I intend to stay on as clerk of Christian Education until the end of the calendar year, and would like to continue planning activities for children/youth/families in that capacity and of course help in the transition to a new Youth Minister. I especially want to communicate that the care of families, children and youth will continue as a high priority and that our support will remain constant during this transition.  With much care and love to all of you!  Wendy”

            We accepted her resignation and expressed our thankfulness and appreciation for her tireless work for several years in supporting and caring for the meeting’s youth.  The clerk will draw up a minute of appreciation to be included in the June minutes. 

3. Christian Education Committee: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that more members are needed for the committee. They met via Zoom on May 4th.  They are waiting confirmation for participation in the Wabanaki Reach Education program.  They discussed the upcoming Annual Plant Sale beginning June 3rd at 4:00 pm, which will be ongoing until sold out.  Sales will be “self service” with donations dropped in the meeting mailbox.  They planned Children’s Day for the June 6th gatheringoutside the meetinghouse, and Family Beach Day June 12th to be held at Hinshaw’s camp on Labrador Pond.  

4. Bob Eaton, as clerk, brought forward a report from an ad hoc Meeting Care Coordinator Oversight Seasoning Group he had appointed.  Members are Joyce Gibson, Linda Muller, Renee Cote, and Leslie Manning.  After considerable discussion focusing on how recently the report had been made available to members of the meeting, all matters put forward in the report (contractual agreements, the composition of a support group, and the question of an oversight committee) were held over for consideration at the June monthly meeting for business.

            Before the next meeting for business, the MCC will meet with the MCC Support Committee, and the clerk suggested that the Oversight Seasoning Group might meet to further develop a proposal to bring to meeting in light of the meeting of the MCC Support Committee.

5. Meeting Care Coordinator Mey Hasbrook read a quote from the book, Broken for life by Jocelyn Burnell which speaks to her condition.  In order to focus on her relationship with Durham Friends Meeting as a sojourning member, she plans to transition out of the MCC job.  Tender and trying experiences emerging amid the MCC work since mid-March, including impact personally/relationally, have played an important part in her discernment.  A “meeting for healing” is scheduled for May 24th.  She will continue to explore a future for Café Corners during a brown-bag lunch on May 23rd

6. Liana Knight reported for the Communication Committee:  The phone tree has faded away over the past year(s) and they will be working to identify who still needs to be on a phone tree and who the contact person at the ‘top’ of the tree should be. If you or someone you know needs to be on the phone tree, please let Liana know (207-737-9781).

            They discussed the parameters of what should go on the Meeting website, particularly regarding events. Given that the website is a public-facing platform that is accessible to anyone, they agreed on three parameters for posting events on the Meeting website. We should post events that are: (a) sponsored or lifted up by Durham Meeting or a Durham Meeting committee (e.g. Ministry and Counsel or Peace and Social Concerns), (b) sponsored by a Quaker organization that the Meeting supports or recognizes (e.g. NEYM, FCNL), or (c) sponsored by a neighboring Quaker Meeting in Maine. They wish to encourage Friends to seek committee support for events and programs with which they are  connected  if they wish to have these on the Meeting website.

            They discussed the parameters of what should go in the newsletter, and agreed that the newsletter editor(s) will have a good deal of latitude for exercising judgment about what can and should go in the Newsletter.

            They discussed the Meeting Facebook page, and expressed gratitude for Mey’s excellent tending of that space. We are holding a question around what the parameters for sharing events should be via the Facebook page—whether it should be handled similarly to the website or similarly to the Newsletter, or somewhere in-between. A concern was raised regarding the simple existence of a Facebook page for Durham Friends given Facebook’s policies and management. They think that at some point the Meeting should consider whether we want to continue to maintain a presence on Facebook as a Meeting.

7. The Handbook revision was mentioned and folks are urged to read the edited copy on our web site, to be considered for approval in June.

8. Ministry and Counsel: Renee Cote reported that Jay O’Hara has sent a letter providing information about his work with the Climate Disobedience Center which is involved in a campaign to close coal-fired plants in New England.  Three persons of deep faith have created the center.  The center had covered all costs for those involved in civil disobedience in this area.   The report and the request for funds will be on the June meeting’s agenda.  Kitsie Hildebrandt, Treasurer, reminded us of the Charity Account guidelines.

            Doug Bennett has received the meeting OWL from New England Yearly Meeting, and they plan to try it as soon as possible.  

            Pastoral care: Sarah Sprogell and Gene Boyington have reported that they are thankful that many have answered the call to help Tom Frye.

            Message bringers are scheduled into July.

            They are considering rules regarding vaccination status when we begin meeting in person.  

            Clerk, Bob Eaton closed the meeting with quiet waiting, and thankfulness. 

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Timely Announcements from the Meeting Care Coordinator

Support for Tom Frye: ongoing
Thanks to Friends who have been a presence with Tom Frye in Brunswick, as his caregiver Jeri Kemple seeks occasional respite. A visitor is being sought the afternoon of Sunday June 13th, for fellowship, lunch, and medication. Also,for Tom’s fuller care routine on Sunday mornings from June 20th and onward. Please reach out about offers and/or questions.

Reflections with MCC: June 14th
As I prepare “wrap-up” materials about my work as Durham Friends Meeting’s first MCC, I’m inviting reflections in conversation by Zoom on Mon. June 14th: from 9:40am – 10:40am, 2pm – 3pm, and also 7pm – 8pm. We may discuss your recollections and/or questions. Please give me a call or send an email, if you would like to reserve a spot at one of these sessions.

BYO Lunch: Cafe Corner: late June
A second lunch with in-person, outdoor fellowship is a possibility in late June. The tentative date is Sun. the 27th, following worship: 12pm BYO lunch, with fellowship from 12:30pm. We’ll continue conversation about possibilities for Cafe Corner. Please confirm with me at your earliest if this time meets your availability, so the date may be confirmed.

Mey Hasbrook * (313) 389-6866 * meymdh@gmail.com

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, April 18, 2021

Durham Monthly Meeting Friends met virtually via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, April 18, 2021 with 21 people present. Robert (Bob) Eaton, Clerk, opened the meeting with a short period of silence expressing gratitude for those present.

  1. The March minutes were approved, with a small correction: the Christian Education Children’s Day will be June 6 (minute # 8).

2. Clerk’s Report: Bob Eaton raised the question of term limits for the Clerk. It was approved that Bob Eaton be Clerk for this calendar year, i.e., April through December 2021. The clerk reported that he will ask the Communications Committee to review the guidance regarding posting on the meeting website and report back to meeting. He will ask the Finance Committee to review current practice and to propose to meeting a general procedure on contracting services for the meeting.

3. Ministry and Counsel: The State of Society Report was presented with much thanks to Doug Bennett who composed the report. This report will be attached and included in the Newsletter. We especially thank Katharine Hildebrandt for her poem at the end of the report.

Renee Cote submitted a written report for Ministry and Counsel on their discussion about the Threshing Session held April 11th regarding our hybrid worship options. Participants expressed the advantages of Zoom, especially for those with physical limitations; the realization that there may not be a post-pandemic; the meaning of corporate worship as a physical gathering; the opportunity to see our membership grow; and the value of the simple, non-electronic physical space of the meetinghouse. They considered non-vaccinated individuals and offering small group worship for those unable to be present, either over Zoom or in the meetinghouse. When establishing small groups for in-person worship, they will focus on keeping everyone as part of the “real” meeting. It was suggested that we try the “Meeting Owl,” which New England Yearly Meeting has available to facilitate both “in house” and remote worship. 

4. We Approved the State of Society Report, which will be presented to Falmouth Quarterly Meeting.

5. We approved using the “Meeting Owl” when it becomes available.

6. Christian Education Committee/Youth Minister: Wendy reported that the Durham Friends hike on the paved Papermill Trail in Lisbon on Sunday, March 28 was attended by hearty souls, 4 adults and 2 youth. They had a lovely time and were pleased that the rain forecasted held out until the very end. Some of the Easter grass grown by Kim Bolshaw and treats were distributed.

The Youth Minister delivered Easter packages of candy and wheat grass to the homes of 11 families with children and several adults. In addition, several coloring packets were mailed to families with younger children.

The collaboration (as mentioned in the March minutes) with Central Maine SURJ (Showing up for Racial Justice) participating in a Wabanaki Reach Educational program led by Heather Augustine plans to meet June 5 or 12 from 3-5 p.m. Peace and Social Concern and the Christian Education Committees will contribute $100 each to help cover the cost of $500.

Tess Hartford brought a Godly Play message to meeting for worship on Easter Sunday and explained a little about this curriculum that Durham Friends had been using until last March when we switched to virtual meeting. Ellis Noetzel sang a lovely version of Adore You by Harry Styles, which was a special treat for all.

Upcoming events include the Annual Plant Sale, beginning June 4, and Children’s Day, June 6.

7. Meeting Care Coordinator: Mey Hasbrook reported that Jeri Kemple is asking for relief persons in her full-time care of Tom Frye. Her plan is to take some camping trips and she needs volunteers to substitute for her when she is on vacation. Please email her with offers.

The Café Corner series began in December as a “social experiment in revelry.” Six gatherings offered varied formats and altering weeknights. Participants explored creative themes with informal conversation. The final session of this first phase invited community guests. Reflections from participants are welcome as the next phase is being planned.

Mey reported that she will be out-of-state April 19 to May 4 at a residence without access.  She can be reached by e-mail. Phone communications should focus on urgent matters, likely to be returned with a lag. 

8. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: The Social Justice Curriculum Sub-committee has purchased the books for the New Mainer children and plans to give them to the children at the end of the school year. They have begun to plan the project that will give social justice books to early elementary school teachers. They have the draft of a one-page introduction to the project and are in the process of recruiting four teaching teams to help launch the project.

The ad-hoc committee (Sarah Sprogell, Ingrid Chalufour, Katharine Hildebrandt, and Bob Eaton) working to lower the carbon footprint of the meetinghouse has placed the meeting on the Window/Dressers list to make window inserts for the worship room next fall. These inserts will decrease the air leaking into the room from the windows.

9. The Nominating Committee reports that they have yet to replace the Recording Clerk who has consented to continue until a replacement is found. The meeting thanks the Recording Clerk for continuing.

10. Handbook revision report: Martha Sheldon and others are working on this project and are almost ready to submit a final draft; they have postponed approval until our May monthly meeting. Margaret Wentworth made several suggestions and corrections to be added to the document. They reminded us that it is a “living” document and not cast in stone. 

11. Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell reported that for the first quarter, our income is $14,102.77, and expenses are $9,668.85, which reflects that our finances are in good condition. The weekly offering is down by about half of what we projected; the bank interest is high because it includes interest from all of our locally held accounts, not just our checking accounts. We received a designated donation of $1,000 for replacement of the pillars at the Lunt Cemetery. The full report is attached.

12. Nancy Marstaller sent a report on our Sister Meeting relationships with Velasco, Cuba. We share this relationship with Portland Meeting. The report will be included in the Newsletter, and attached to these minutes.

We ended monthly meeting with a period of silence. Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“Making Things Right: Apologies and Reparations,” by Cush Anthony

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, May 9, 2021

Despite our best efforts, all of us make mistakes from time to time, and sometimes they come at the expense of others. When that happens, we try our best to apologize in a meaningful way.

            All good apologies include a statement such as “I am sorry for what I did.” Or perhaps you simply say, “I was wrong,” or “I made a mistake.” A true apology focuses on your own actions, and never on the other person’s response. And it never includes a phrase which to you justifies what you did. Never should you say “I’m sorry, but…”  That is not a true apology.

            Is saying you are sorry enough? A good apology should also include efforts on your part to make things right. Making amends. Doing an action to repair the damage you have done. In other words, some reparations are called for.

            We should apply those same principles when considering a wrong done by our society to someone or some group of people. When the dominant culture in this country harms another group of Americans, reparations should be a part of an apology.

One of the most shameful moments in American history was establishing internment camps for Americans of Japanese ancestry, during World War Two. Innocent people were made to live in prison like conditions, solely because of their ancestry. After the war was over and when Americans came to recognize that the country had done wrong to those people, a bill was passed by Congress that gave some cash reparations payments to those who had suffered at our hands. This is an example of commendable governmental action in granting reparations when offering an apology for mistakes made by our society.

Alas, we have not done that in regard to the harm done to former slaves and other black and brown Americans. It is time we did so. There is in fact a bill in Congress that calls for just that. HR 40 is an act to establish the commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans. It was first introduced by Representative John Conyers in 1989 and has been reintroduced each year since then. The current version recently cleared a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and is headed for markup and then to the floor of the House. It seeks to provide money payments to repair the harm done both by slavery and by the Jim Crow laws that followed. It deserves our support.

Also note the excellent Friends Journal recent article by Harold Weaver of Wellesley Friends Meeting entitled, A Proposed Plan of Retrospective Justice. It is well worth reading.

We should also examine government treatment of indigenous people. Congressional proclamations have expressed apology for our treatment of Native Americans generally, but including no reparations have been proposed.

Here in Maine, we are currently doing something similar to offering reparations. A series of bills pending in the legislature will give the Wabanaki greater sovereignty. While not true reparations, enacting these measures will constitute a form of making things right after not doing so for many years. Unfortunately, the bills were recently tabled and will be acted on in the next legislative session, in 2022. The Peace and Social Concerns committee encourages lobbying for them both now and when they come up next year.

In summary, making things right should always be part of the apologies we offer when we have made a mistake, both as individuals and collectively.

[You may also be interested in a Pendle Hill Pamphlet (#465, October 2020) by Hal Weaver, Race, Systemic Violence, and Retrospective Justice: An African American Quaker Scholar-Activist Challenges Conventional Narratives.]

Support Urged for Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act

Peace and Social Concerns Committee urges support of this bill

April 26, 2021

To:       Senator Carney, Representative Harnett, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary

From: Shirley Hager, 129 Chesterville Hill Road, Chesterville, ME 04938, Member, Friends (Quaker) Committee on Maine Public Policy (FCMPP), and Clerk, Committee on Tribal-State Relations of FCMPP

Re:       Support for LD 1568 and LD 1626, Acts to Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act

Senator Carney, Representative Harnett, and members of the Judiciary Committee, my name is

Shirley Hager and I am speaking on behalf of the Friends (Quaker) Committee on Maine Public Policy, Committee on Tribal-State Relations.  One of our primary goals is right relationship between the State of Maine and our Wabanaki neighbors, and their fair and equitable treatment. I am therefore testifying in support of both LD 1568 and LD 1626.

We in Maine have before us a historic opportunity to right 40 years of wrongs done to Wabanaki tribal communities. The terms in the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act and the Maine Implementing Act have proven disastrous for the tribes, and these bills are designed to address those wrongs.

Since 1980, Wabanaki tribes in Maine have been prevented from benefiting from over 150 federal laws designed to assist and support tribal health, safety, well-being, and self-determination. Wabanaki tribes here also contend with restrictions and complicated regulations imposed by the Implementing Act that are not experienced by the 570 federally-recognized tribes residing outside of Maine. As a result, tribes in Maine suffer from disadvantages not found in any other state.  The vast majority of states where tribes are located abide by federal Indian law, which these bills propose. Through provisions and even requirements contained in federal Indian law, many of these states enjoy and celebrate productive relationships that benefit the tribes, the surrounding non-Native communities, and the state. Time and again, it has been shown that when the tribes are prosperous, surrounding rural communities are prosperous. This is our opportunity to create this reality for Wabanaki communities, for our rural areas, and for Maine as a whole.

The current situation imposed by the State of Maine on Wabanaki peoples is morally and ethically wrong. Because of the restrictive and onerous terms of the settlement acts, Maine was the subject of a 2013 United Nations investigation that described inequities as rising to the level of human rights violations. Tribal communities only want what tribes in other states enjoy—greater freedom to control their own destiny and to thrive. We have in both LD 1568 and LD 1626 the means to make this possible. Let’s be able to say that this year Maine took this honorable and meaningful step toward greater prosperity for our Wabanaki neighbors, for rural communities and for our State. FCMPP Committee on Tribal-State Relations supports the passage of either LD 1568 or LD 1626.  Thank you.

shirley.hager@maine.edu; 207-491-0982

Velsasco Friends Meeting Report, February 2021

Velasco, Durham and Portland Sister Meeting Committee February 2021 Report 

In the fall of 2020 Portland Friends Meeting and Durham Friends Meeting approved Portland joining in the sister relationship with Velasco Friends Meeting in Cuba and the formation of a joint committee to care for and nurture the relationship. The new committee meets monthly. Nancy Marstaller and Fritz Weiss are co-clerks. 

Durham has noted and appreciated that there is new energy in the relationship with Velasco. Our two meetings in Maine are building a stronger relationship. Committee members are now receiving newsletters from both meetings and recognize that the first experience of intervisitation may well be Durham and Portland visiting each other. 

An invitation to Friends in Portland and Durham is to hold Velasco in Prayer as they gather. Velasco meets

  • on Sunday at 9:00 AM and
  • on Tuesdays at 7:30 pm for a service of prayer and preaching,
  • on Thursdays at 8:00 pm for house worship,
  • on Fridays at 7:30 pm the ladies meet,
  • on Saturdays at 8:30 pm the youth.

They are in the same time zone as we are. We can hold them in prayer at those times.

Communication with Velasco Meeting is via facebook messenger with Yadira Cruz Pena (Pastor) and email with Zoe Lazara (Clerk).  Nancy Marstaller and Wendy Schlotterback from Durham and Hannah Colbert and Sydney McDowell from Portland are able to send messages; if you have messages you might like to send, please share with them. 

Our meetings are open, if you are interested in being involved, please contact one of the co-clerks.

Con amor, Nancy Marstaller, Wendy Schlotterback, Hannah Colbert, Doug Malcom, Ann Dodd-Collins, Sydney MacDowell, Fritz Weiss

Velasco Friends Meeting (Cuba), September 2020

Velasco Friend Meeting Report, March-April 2021

March/April 2021

News about Our Sister Meeting in Velasco, Cuba, and all Cuban Friends Meetings – from Nancy Marstaller

The Puente des Amigos Committee of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends recently sent this information regarding Velasco and all Cuban Friends Churches:

Cuba Yearly Meeting (CYM) has asked for our prayers and support as they struggle to find funds to pay their pastors and church workers a government mandated five fold salary increase. CYM supports 12 pastoral workers and 3 retired pastors.  We cannot corporately send funds to Cuba or funds which support salary costs without violating US treasury regulations, but individuals can make donations.  

The Cuban Quakers also have a long history of sharing resources, medical supplies, filtered water and other necessities with their neighbors.  During the pandemic, the need has been greater and the Meetings are struggling to continue to support their communities.

Marcos Longoria, clerk of Miami Friends Church and son of Ramon Longoria – long time secretary and clerk of CYM who died this past summer- is collecting funds from individuals to support pastors and to help pay for personal hygiene supplies for CYM. Donations may be sent to:

Marcos Longoria, Clerk, Miami Friends Church// 330 SW 79 Ct., Miami FL  33144

Checks should be made out to the Miami Friends Church with a note in the memo line indicating “pastors fund” or “personal hygiene”. 

Thank you for your consideration of this opportunity. If you have questions, please speak to Nancy Marstaller

“Beacon of Light,” by Linda Muller

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, April 18, 2021

Reflecting back on our rather unique winter, I am reminded how our neighbor down the street did a great service for our neighborhood. During the dark of winter he added light — white lights all up and down the great reaching branches of a large maple tree in his front yard — beautiful and encouraging. On the night of the winter solstice we made note of it — walked down to its base and paused — in appreciation. We paused in appreciation of that beautiful light, and for all that the solstice and Christmas symbolize…. the return of the light.

And so, all along through the rising numbers of the pandemic, the January shocks emanating from Washington, D.C., and diminished opportunities to be with friends and family, that tree — that light — was a beautiful, faithful reminder of hope. The way forward towards light.

And now, Friends, I will turn my attention to that hope.

How have I kindled and rekindled hope and light to envision my way forward? Will the joy of rebirth, as spring comes on, open me to more creativity and sharing? More prayerful listening? Is this the way we each empower the light?

Beyond that, how have I helped my family and household to keep hope and serve our neighbors?

And, of course, as our Meeting envisions our way forward, we will want to consider:

  • How can we as a Meeting be a beacon of light to our local and wider community?
  • What changes will come when we are able to gather in person?
  • Can we help the many people grieving losses (of loved ones, jobs, and homes)?
  • Are we a community that appreciates and supports creativity? With this in mind, do we want to grow the Cafe Corner that Mey has begun?
  • Are we a community that provides material assistance — a play group? a music and poetry night?
  • Are we a community that provides a place for listening and sharing — a support group, or perhaps a safe space for reflection and contemplation?
  • Do we want to create a productive organic vegetable garden? then share the produce?
  • Are we willing to share a place to take a walk in the woods, perhaps with benches to rest, perhaps a place for children to develop a relationship with the land?

Of course, Friends, I speak of the community outside of our Meeting, to provide a service. I hope we will all give some consideration to these and other ideas, because these are just a starting point. If we want to, we can be a beacon of light to our local community.

As a final reminder, friends, a quote from the young inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman, “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to BE it.”

Thank you, Friends, for your attention. Blessings be with you as you continue with your day.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, March 21, 2021

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, March 21, 2021 with 14 people present.  Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, Clerk, read words of inspiration from the Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends Handbook section under Purposes and Goals, and led us in prayer.

  1. The February minutes, as printed in the Newsletter, were approved.

2. Handbook: Renee Cote and Sarah Sprogell made some minor changes/corrections to the Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends Handbook. After sharing the edited version on line, the final draft will be presented for approval at our April monthly meeting.

3. Falmouth Quarterly Meeting: Sarah Sprogell announced that the next meeting will be April 24 at 9:00 a.m. We approved Sarah Sprogell and Robert Eaton as representatives. The agenda for April includes State of Society Reports, memorial minutes, and recognition of those in the ministry.

4. Memorial Minute for Susan Rice: Sarah Sprogell presented the final version and it was approved, adding the death date.

5. Trustees: Katharine Hildebrandt reported that the threshing session for the consideration of selling the meeting parsonage will be April 25, in person, outside, at the meeting parking lot, following the Covid-19 safety guidelines (masks and socially distanced). The rain date is May 2. No decision will be made at this meeting.

The meetinghouse has been reserved on June 12 for the memorial service for Ann Bernice Douglas Huffsmith, who died February 10, 2021. The Douglas family were active members of meeting several years ago. Ann was the sister of James Douglas, meeting member and former pastor.

6. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Ingrid Chalufour reported that they have made several plans in response to the discussion of the NEYM Apology. Believing the most important thing we can do is to support state and federal legislation that leads to Indigenous sovereignty, they have created two documents to help with lobbying. These are on the Meeting website. They will provide updated information as these bills move through the legislative process. There was also a strong interest in better educating ourselves on issues of importance to the Wabanaki people in Maine. They will plan a series of talks that will follow and build on the Wabanaki Reach workshop that is being planned for this spring. They will also provide a bibliography of resources, and work with the library committee to set up a section of resources in the meeting library. There is also an interest in increasing the awareness in Durham of sites important to the Wabanaki. They wonder if a few of us would like to volunteer to do some research on what these sites might be in preparation for a meeting with the Durham Historical Society?

They are also wondering if Monthly Meeting would give the committee permission to submit letters to the editor on behalf of the committee (not the Meeting) without Monthly Meeting approval.

The book subcommittee has selected the books for the New Mainer children and will be ordering them at the end of the month. We have also begun to map out the project that will give social justice books to kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers.

Wendy Schlotterbeck volunteered to research Wabanaki sites; Douglas Bennett has the book The Wabanakis, with valuable information. Ingrid Chalufour has the book, The Wabanakis of Maine and the Maritimes.

7. We approved the request that the committee may submit letters to the editor on behalf of the committee without Monthly Meeting approval, with the discernment of the Meeting clerk.

8. Christian Education Committee: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported for the committee. “We met on March 9 via Zoom, with Kim Bolshaw, Tess Hartford and Wendy Schlotterbeck, clerk.

The Durham Friends Skating party on Sunday, Feb 28 was transformed into a parking lot party due to the warm temperatures. The 6 attendees had warm conversation and hot cider, compliments of Kim Bolshaw!

We discussed another activity for Durham Friends to gather and decided to plan an easy hike—on the paved Papermill Trail in Lisbon—on Sunday March 28 at 1:30 p.m. https://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/papermill-trail  

There was no further update regarding collaborating with Central Maine SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) participating in a Wabanaki REACH educational program led by Heather Augustine in April or May, via Zoom. This would be open to Durham Friends. We will share the cost to participate and cost will not be a barrier to anyone’s attendance. The topic will be Wabanaki history and decolonization.

We had lively discussion regarding plans for Easter Sunday Meeting for Worship (April 4) and connecting with the children and youth of our Meeting. A small gift of Easter candy will be mailed to each family with children. Kim will grow small containers of wheatgrass for anyone who would like one. Friends can pick up a small pot of wheatgrass on March 28 at the hike or at the Meetinghouse. Contact Wendy or Kim if you have questions. Christian Education will hold care of worship on April 4. 

Upcoming activities include an annual plant sale—June 3, Children’s Day—June 4, and Family Beach Day—June 19 or 20.”

9. Youth Minister: Wendy Schlotterbeck attended the Antiracist Training for NEYM Youth Workers on Feb. 27.

Wendy will be staffing the NEYM Young Friends retreat on Sexuality, Gender, and Relationships April 23-25 as an RP (Resource Person).

10. Ministry and Counsel: Tess Hartford reported that Mey Hasbrook has found message bringers through May. They report that pastoral care continues with various members and attenders.

Discussion regarding the Educational Media Project is ongoing with Craig Freshley, Andy Burt, Mey Hasbrook, videographer Charlie Hudson, and Joyce Gibson. The length of each biography and expense with professional editing is under consideration. A pilot project will be created.

A threshing session to discuss hybrid worship options will be held April 11, after meeting for worship. 

The State of Society Report will be presented to monthly meeting on April 18.

We noted that clarification is needed in order to proceed with a contribution to Jay O’Hara’s work supporting indigenous people. More information will be provided, to be discussed in April.

11. Meeting Care Coordinator: Mey Hasbrook sent a report regarding her work with The Center for Wisdom’s Women’s Sophia’s House in Lewiston. She has spent many hours helping to prepare a benefit weekend. Some members are actively supporting this ministry, and Mey was encouraged to join in the effort as a form of outreach. Some persons noted that the Meeting does not have a formal role with Sophia’s House nor is a community partner. Discussion ensued concerning appropriate announcements on the website which are outside of Meeting activity. The incoming Clerk suggested that he work together with the Clerks Committee to review guidelines for the website and clarify supervision for the Meeting Care Coordinator, in consultation with Mey.

12. Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell reported that the meeting has two CDs that are coming due at the end of March; the renewal rates are very low so it may be better to put them back into money market accounts. They would like Monthly Meeting’s approval to make this decision at their discretion.

13. We approved the request that the Finance Committee make decisions regarding the CDs at their discretion.

14. Sarah Sprogell presented the 2020 Statistics Report. The report recorded two new members, four deaths, and the number of members: 103. 37 of these members are active in the life of the meeting. Our typical attendance in Meeting for Worship is 33; two are younger than 18. Average attendance at Meeting for Business is 15. Compared to 2019, the number of individuals active in the Meeting is about the same.

15. Tess Hartford mentioned that there are five youth who have shown interest in attending Friends Camp. Scholarship money may be requested if space is available. The Meeting heartily supported their attendance and suggested that each receive $500 toward camp costs. We requested that the Finance Committee increase the scholarship budget to meet this need. 

16. We approved the amount of a $500 scholarship per camper if space is available, upon receiving a letter from the potential camper requesting the funds.

We expressed our appreciation to Martha Hinshaw Sheldon for her service as Meeting Clerk and Co-Clerk. We welcome Robert Eaton, our new Durham Friends Meeting Clerk!

Martha Sheldon ended the meeting with a very meaningful prayer of gratitude.

State of Society Report, 2020

It was the year of staying home; the year of staying apart from one another.  It was the year without hugs or refreshments.  It was the year we worshipped in digital boxes.  Zoom was the name of our manner of worship, but we all stayed put. 

It was a year of global disease — a new virus that took the lives of millions of people.  Members of Durham Friends Meeting were spared from this epidemic and only a few of our friends and relatives were directly affected.  Nevertheless, it changed our lives and filled our minds and hearts with news of the devastation it brought. 

Worship.  In March 2020, the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic pressed us to suspend worship in the meetinghouse and to enter a new realm of virtual worship.  Without any way of knowing how long this would last, we truly needed to be led as way opened.  The abrupt slowdown in daily life brought new awareness of the beauty of creation in the unfolding of spring. It also brought difficulty and uncertainty to our families, friends, and neighbors and a new meaning to the pastoral care that we give to one another. 

Our worship rituals were tested and stretched.  We adjusted to seeing one another face on, in little boxes, or, in some cases, to only being able to hear another’s voice.  We learned to mute and unmute and to use the chat function.  While the skills of more technologically attuned Friends and examples from other Meetings eased this unwelcome transition, glitches in technology made for moments of frustration and occasional humor. Eventually worship in song reappeared even if we could only sing together without hearing one another. 

A contemplative prayer group meeting on Monday mornings has meant that more of us throughout New England could gather in prayer and fellowship. 

Our new form of worship brought opportunities for physically distant Friends to join us, increasing our numbers gathered at Meeting.  Others we count on seeing have found electronic worship to be difficult or unsatisfying and we have missed them.  We continued to care for our members when we learned of difficulties in their lives, but, separated from one another, we worried whether we were learning about all the circumstances that should have drawn our attention.  

Christian Education.  In this COVID year, we saw much less of our children.  Still, the deep and abiding concern for providing spiritual guidance for the Meeting children continued to be a strong point in the Meeting.  The resilient leadership and skilled guidance of Wendy Schlotterbeck kept momentum with our youth by creating opportunities for gathering in safe ways.  We experimented with online connections, holding weekly story time and a Virtual Game Night, but later settled on in-person, masked gatherings outside – hikes and games and celebrations — to maintain personal connections.  We look forward to the time when we can meet together safely, without restrictions.

Peace and Social Concerns.  Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee sustained a consistent educational effort to bring greater awareness to concerns about racial injustice, mistreatment of indigenous peoples and what we might do to challenge these social ills.  We are grateful for initiatives and materials from Friends Committee for National Legislation and from New England Yearly Meeting. 

Money and Property.  In financialterms, we came through the year in good condition.  Our Trustees made a number of important improvements and repairs to the meetinghouse.  They also established a new plot in Lunt Cemetery for green burials with 30 individual plots designated for such use.

Outreach.  Still feeling our way in being a programmed Meeting without a paid pastor, in August, we added a paid Meeting Care Coordinator to help strengthen the meeting’s outreach and in-reach. Mey Hasbrook has brought energy and initiative to this work.  Her arrival accelerated our work identifying message givers for worship.  She brought new program ideas and strengthened our pastoral care activities. 

Losses and Gains.  Clarabel Marstallar passed away just before the year began.  Midway through the year we lost Sukie Rice.  A generation apart in age, these two had been stalwarts of the Meeting for decades.  We also grieved the losses of longtime members and attenders Phyllis Wetherell, Edie Whitehead, Mildred Alexander and Jane Walters. 

Several newcomers found their way to join us in worship together.  We are grateful for their fresh energies. 

Still in COVID closure, Durham Friends Meeting is steadfast and hopeful.  We are discovering new ways we can be a community of worship, care and witness. 

We end with a poem from one of our members that speaks to our condition. 

I Have Longed to Be Back in the Meeting Room

By Katherine Hildebrandt

I long to be back in the Meeting room with each of you.  I do.

The quality of that space helps me center down, experience God’s spirit.

When I am in that room, I sense, as a Friend said recently, the spirit of those who are no longer with us.

I feel the spiritual presence of others who have sat in waiting worship before me.

When I go out each week to get the mail, I always take a few minutes to go

Into the Meeting room, and it settles me to do that.

In the meantime, we gather in this way.

Each of us in our own space, mostly alone.

But I do not feel alone.

I sense our connectedness, our mutuality.

I experience God’s presence, deeply and profoundly.

It’s curious, isn’t it?

That we, as Quakers, don’t call our place of worship a “Church”.

We don’t adorn our Meetinghouse; we don’t generally center our worship around rituals.

The “Church”, for Quakers, is the gathered people.

After the Meetinghouse burned in 1986, I remember Ralph Green, our minister at the time, say,

“We could meet in a barn!”

Ralph always looked on the bright side.

But it’s true for us, we can worship without the building, and we are.

I have sensed that, since March, our worship has settled into a deep place. I have felt nourished and held.

Our worship seems uncluttered, focused.

On God’s abiding love for us.

And our love and patience for each other.

Sometimes I stop and look at each one of you on the screen, and I send a silent prayer to each one.

Sometimes, I feel Prayed Through.

My hope for our Meeting is that when we can gather again at our beloved Meetinghouse,

That we can strive to maintain this simple, clear, direct connection to the spirit.

Leaving our outward differences at the door,

We can gather, find nourishment, to commune in that deep, eternal place.

In that place where we are one in the spirit.

Approved by Durham Friends Meeting, April 18, 2021

Cuban Churches Experiencing Economic Crunch, April 2021

From Cuban Friends, shared by NEYMF Puene des Amigos Committee

The Gibara Friends Center is set to provide hospitality to large groups — but groups have not been able to travel to the Friends Center since the Covid pandemic began

The economic crisis that Cuba is experiencing at present is the most acute since the 1990s, when the collapse of the socialist bloc in Europe occurred. Although Cuban experts say the country is more prepared now than then to meet the crisis, there are circumstances that make the road to recovery more difficult, such as the pandemic context that aggravates the world’s economies. Internal and external factors create uncertainty that is difficult to unravel.

In addition to the six-decade embargo on the island, recent US policies create difficulties with tourism—which constitutes the country’s main income—by prohibiting the entry of cruise ships and the arrival of travelers through the different provinces of the country. Another US-created difficulty is the recent restriction on the remittances that normally flowed between families on one side and the other of the waters. In addition, conflict between the US and Venezuela has led to a decrease in oil supplies in Cuba and an appreciable decrease in the availability of transportation.

Nonetheless, Cuba has continued to maintain free education and health care even as it is forced to regulate the internal economy in ways that have led to the increase of wages and prices in a year of epidemiological complexity that has unleashed a crisis of food, medicine, supplies, fertilizers, animal feed, etc.

How this crisis affects the Cuban church

Everything that affects society also affects the church. Communities of faith need an economic base that sustains both community members and their institutional and administrative order. Cuban churches have been supported by the contribution of their membership and additional support from counterpart churches abroad—which now encounter obstacles in sending their contributions. In general, the Cuban churches do not have financial support beyond these options.

Ministries continue even as the economy suffers. Churches that have ministries to assist the elderly persist even when the cost of food has risen by up to five times. Car maintenance, fuel, and various services that have always been paid for in US dollars continue to be needed, even though they have become more expensive on account of inflation, and because of the difficulty in acquiring US dollars in the interior of the country. (On the black market, one US dollar is now equivalent to forty-eight or fifty Cuban pesos.) Just as the state has increased the salary of its workers, the church has also increased the salary of its workers, lay or pastoral, because everyday life has become more and more expensive. All churches have ministries that need funds to function, in commissions, departments, councils, etc. Electricity rates have risen up to ten times their value, so the monthly rate is close to or exceeds one thousand pesos.

Churches that have buildings and are accustomed to renting out space have seen their income possibilities reduced as travel has ceased, both internally and internationally. Similarly, the pandemic has limited the ability of churches to gain income by providing transportation services.

How it affects Cuba Yearly Meeting

Cuba Yearly Meeting has been supported by a budget equivalent to twenty thousand US dollars a year (five hundred thousand Cuban pesos). In addition to the annual contribution from each of the Monthly Meetings, main economic inputs have come from use of the Gibara building, the Friends Center bus, and donations from groups that visited us during specific events or with special interests. This budget has supported twelve pastoral workers from ten Monthly Meetings, and three retired workers. Income generated by the Gibara building also supported those who worked there.

The Yearly Meeting suggested that the necessary salary increase for pastoral workers should correspond to 3,000 pesos. Since there are no other means of support, the duty for raising funds for the salary increase was given to the Monthly Meetings. The Meetings located in cities, and therefore on more solid financial footing, were able to raise the suggested figure. Holguín, Gibara and Puerto Padre achieved the increase, while Velasco did it with more difficulty. The Meetings of Banes, Retrete, Bocas, Pueblo Nuevo, Vista Alegre, and Floro Pérez were able to raise only approximately fifty percent of the requested increase for their workers. The missions of Delicias, Calabazas, and Asiento de Calderón are supported by the Monthly Meetings to which they belong and the Yearly Meeting, although Delicias does contribute to its worker. The Yearly Meeting encourages ventures that can generate internal income to pay not only salaries, but also ministries and administrative expenses. Our church buildings and parsonages, many of which are approximately 100 years old, require restorative interventions that are impossible to carry out in this complex period. That is why, during this pandemic, we are focused on the support of the church structure and prioritize the payment of our pastoral workers.

—Jorge Luis Peña,
translated by Karla Jay

Cuban Churches Experiencing Economic Crunch, April 2107


The Gibara Friends Center is set up to provide hospitality to large groups—but groups have not been able to travel to the Friends Center since the Covid pandemic began.

The economic crisis that Cuba is experiencing at present is the most acute since the 1990s, when the collapse of the socialist bloc in Europe occurred. Although Cuban experts say the country is more prepared now than then to meet the crisis, there are circumstances that make the road to recovery more difficult, such as the pandemic context that aggravates the world’s economies. Internal and external factors create uncertainty that is difficult to unravel.

In addition to the six-decade embargo on the island, recent US policies create difficulties with tourism—which constitutes the country’s main income—by prohibiting the entry of cruise ships and the arrival of travelers through the different provinces of the country. Another US-created difficulty is the recent restriction on the remittances that normally flowed between families on one side and the other of the waters. In addition, conflict between the US and Venezuela has led to a decrease in oil supplies in Cuba and an appreciable decrease in the availability of transportation.

Nonetheless, Cuba has continued to maintain free education and health care even as it is forced to regulate the internal economy in ways that have led to the increase of wages and prices in a year of epidemiological complexity that has unleashed a crisis of food, medicine, supplies, fertilizers, animal feed, etc.

How this crisis affects the Cuban church Everything that affects society also affects the church. Communities of faith need an economic base that sustains both community members and their institutional and administrative order. Cuban churches have been supported by the contribution of their membership and additional support from counterpart churches abroad—which now encounter obstacles in sending their contributions. In general, the Cuban churches do not have financial support beyond these options.

Ministries continue even as the economy suffers. Churches that have ministries to assist the elderly persist even when the cost of food has risen by up to five times. Car maintenance, fuel, and various services that have always been paid for in US dollars continue to be needed, even though they have become more expensive on account of inflation, and because of the difficulty in acquiring US dollars in the interior of the country. (On the black market, one US dollar is now equivalent to forty-eight or fifty Cuban pesos.) Just as the state has increased the salary of its workers, the church has also increased the salary of its workers, lay or pastoral, because everyday life has become more and more expensive. All churches have ministries that need funds to function, in commissions, departments, councils, etc. Electricity rates have risen up to ten times their value, so the monthly rate is close to or exceeds one thousand pesos.

Churches that have buildings and are accustomed to renting out space have seen their income possibilities reduced as travel has ceased, both internally and internationally. Similarly, the pandemic has limited the ability of churches to gain income by providing transportation services.

How it affects Cuba Yearly Meeting Cuba Yearly Meeting has been supported by a budget equivalent to twenty thousand US dollars a year (five hundred thousand Cuban pesos). In addition to the annual contribution from each of the Monthly Meetings, main economic inputs have come from use of the Gibara building, the Friends Center bus, and donations from groups that visited us during specific events or with special interests. This budget has supported twelve pastoral workers from ten Monthly Meetings, and three retired workers. Income generated by the Gibara building also supported those who worked there.

The Yearly Meeting suggested that the necessary salary increase for pastoral workers should correspond to 3,000 pesos. Since there are no other means of support, the duty for raising funds for the salary increase was given to the Monthly Meetings. The Meetings located in cities, and therefore on more solid financial footing, were able to raise the suggested figure. Holguín, Gibara and Puerto Padre achieved the increase, while Velasco did it with more difficulty. The Meetings of Banes, Retrete, Bocas, Pueblo Nuevo, Vista Alegre, and Floro Pérez were able to raise only approximately fifty percent of the requested increase for their workers. The missions of Delicias, Calabazas, and Asiento de Calderón are supported by the Monthly Meetings to which they belong and the Yearly Meeting, although Delicias does contribute to its worker. The Yearly Meeting encourages ventures that can generate internal income to pay not only salaries, but also ministries and administrative expenses. Our church buildings and parsonages, many of which are approximately 100 years old, require restorative interventions that are impossible to carry out in this complex period. That is why, during this pandemic, we are focused on the support of the church structure and prioritize the payment of our pastoral workers.

—Jorge Luis Peña,
translated by Karla Jay

What to do with the Parsonage? Threshing Session, April 25, 2021, 12:30 pm, Meetinghouse Parking Lot

The Trustees of Durham Friends Meeting will hold a threshing session on April 25, 2021, at the Meetinghouse, outdoors in the parking lot. The topic will be what to do about the parsonage. Should we continue to own it? Or should we sell it?

Possibilities for participation in the threshing session via Zoom are currently being explored. Updates here as available.

Worship Options After COVID, Threshing Session, April 11, 2021 at noon (after Meeting for Worship)

On Sunday, April 11, 2021 at noon, Ministry and Counsel will hold a threshing session on worship options post-COVID that were presented at Monthly Meeting for Business in February. We welcome thoughts, questions, and concerns regarding how we should move forward. We plan to devote about an hour to the process. Below are questions we invite you to consider.

We are all agreed that we want to return to the meetinghouse as soon as possible, but we also want to put a priority on the health and safety of all who participate. During this past year, we have been joined by many people at a geographical distance who have been able to participate via Zoom. At the same time, some regular participants in Meeting have been absent because they do not feel comfortable with Zoom meetings. 

1.  In balancing between return to the meetinghouse and safety, should we lean more toward returning as soon as we can, or more toward ensuring safety?

2.  As we return to the meetinghouse, do we want to use some hybrid solution in which some are present at worship in the meetinghouse and others are present via Zoom? 

3.  Which should we be aiming at: (a) or (b)?

(a)  An eventual return to having worship in the way we have had it in years past, that is, worship in the meetinghouse without use of Zoom.

(b) A new form of worship (a hybrid solution) in which we have both (a) people present in the meetinghouse and (b) people present via Zoom. 

4.  If we opt for a hybrid solution, should we think of this mostly as a transitional or short-term solution, or should we be planning on using a hybrid solution long into the future as our normal way of doing meeting for worship? 

Some options presented at Monthly Meeting in February are outlined below, as well as a few words about a device that is currently being used in some other Meetings in New England. You may want to refer to these in the threshing session. 

True Hybrid – Option 1: Commit to long-term hybrid worship. Work out a tech solution: big screen, cameras (costs $$). Seating arrangements in meetinghouse. Staffing arrangements for tech on a regular basis. Move toward a situation that has Zoom primary AND some people in the meetinghouse. Then move toward meetinghouse primary AND with Zoom a nearly-as-good option

Temporary Hybrid – Option 2: For the next several months, Zoom remains primary, with option to come to the meetinghouse. Each person in the meetinghouse brings their own electronic device (a smart phone or a tablet). Later: drop the Zoom option.

Hybrid with Secondary Zoom – Option 3:. Like Option 1 but without a good Zoom option. Do a good-enough Zoom set-up but much less effort. Some weeks perhaps not available. Perhaps eventually drop the Zoom option. 

The Meeting OWL is a thousand-dollar device that has 360 degree visual and full audio capability that some New England meetings are using. About the size of a table lamp, it can swivel around (like an owl) to pick up the speaker. The device may project better going out from the meeting than for bringing speakers in. It is used via Zoom. Use of this device could be integrated into Option 3.

“The World We Build,” by Leslie Manning

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 28, 2021

Also available on the NEYM Website as Ministry Cannot Be Untethered

Mind the light of God in your consciences which will show you all deceit; dwelling in it, guides out of the many things into one spirit, which cannot lie, nor deceive. Those who are guided by it, are one. ~ George Fox, 1624-1691

Early Friends refer to the Inward Light, which, we are warned, will rip us open.  And, my conscience is troubled.

As we observe the beginning of Passover, the festival of liberation, and the observance of Holy Week, which celebrates liberation in a totally different Way, let us remain open to that searching Light.  It blazes into the empty tomb no and emanates from it. It serves as a beacon in the wandering of the desert that is our culture, our economy, our politics.

It is a pillar of fire and a still, small voice.

As I prepare for the completion of my time with the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine and to graduate in June, I have made the decision to be ordained by that wisdom school in the Interfaith tradition.  ChIme’s mission is to educate and ordain interfaith leaders who serve with integrity, spiritual presence, and prophetic voice. 

And, I cannot do any of this without you.  We friends believe that the Spirit delivers a variety of gifts, but not equally. These gifts are given to an individual for the benefit and the greater good of the community.  In our tradition, we name, claim, nurture and care for the gifts given to us all and hold those so gifted accountable for those gifts.  So you, my community, have done for me.

You heard me when I came to you and asked, as a condition of my membership

 to become an open, inclusive and affirming community.  

You offered me leadership and teaching roles here 

and encouraged me to step out into our wider Society.  

You held me as I served with the Maine Council of Churches,

 and provided me with a travel minute when I was led to visit other FUM affiliated meetings   nationally and many here in New England ==with a concern for unity among all Friends.  

You embraced me when I served as an openly lesbian member of the General Board of Friends United Meeting as a representative for New England, even as that association continues to discriminate against me.

You provided me with clearness committees and prayerful support, 

you challenged me to remain faithful and held me while I mourned for members of my family, our state and this world.  And you will, I have no doubt, continue to do so.

Because, my ministry cannot be untethered. It must have root in our faith community and be subject to the wisdom and discernment of our gathered body in order to flourish.  Our Quaker history teaches us, especially today, Palm Sunday, what happens to a ministry gone astray; what happens when a Friend seeks the support of a wider community and is refused.  We are challenged by the James Naylors and Benjamin Lays of this world and it is our responsibility to take them under our care.

Leadings must be tested, within community.

Ministry must be supported with prayer and accountability, within community,

Care must be exercised, so that Truth may prosper.

I have a young friend who speaks of the “many awfuls” of this world, the many awfuls – but believes, as I do, that we are here to help heal them. I have close friends who have been baptized in a Christian tradition which asks them, every year “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” And their promise is, “I will, with God’s help.”

And, so it goes.  I commit to showing up and speaking up, here and in the wider world, not with all the answers, but hopefully asking some of the right questions.

And my conscience is troubled.

 I ask this of us:  How do we live together in peace, knowing all the sins and darkness of this world — embracing and celebrating our differences, if we continue to prize our comfort over our convictions? 

 In a time of deep uncertainty and turmoil, of climate catastrophe, increased militarization and commodification of the world’s resources, my hearts asks:

What would our conscience have us do? 

I hold these questions for ourselves and for our wider Religious Society>  

Is capitalism compatible with Christianity?  with Quakerism?

Is our capacity to commit to being an anti-racist faith community in direct proportion to our ability to live with difference?

How can we be living our testimonies if we remain conflict averse and afraid of engaging in the work it takes to love our enemy and pray for those who would do us harm? 

AS I prepare to leave the Chime community and take up my work in the greater world, I will need your love and challenging support more than ever.  For you see, Friends, I am not content with our condition of seeking a world, as articulated by Friends Committee on National Legislation who say:

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war; We seek a society with equity and justice for all;  We seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled; We seek an earth restored.

I am not content with merely seeking that world, I am building it.  And I invite you to join me.

Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, April 24, 9am to noon

Falmouth Quarter is gathering on April 24th from 9:30 to 12:00. We will be celebrating ministry and the life of the Spirit in our meetings throughout the morning in each of the concerns before us.

The ZOOM link is here (the same link that Durham Friends uses for First Day worship). .

We will hear Memorial Minutes sharing the lives and witness of Friends we have known and loved.  If there are minutes I have not yet received, please send them to me

We will hear the State of Society reports, sharing our experience of Spirit in the life of our meetings.  If there is a SoS I haven’t yet received, please send it to me.

We will hear reports and sharing about and from individuals with recognized ministries in Falmouth Quarter.

To help prepare, I am sharing the following from Carl Williams, Plainfield meeting, as one expression of Friends understanding of ministry:

Love Fritz [Fritz Weiss is Co-Clerk of Falmouth Quarter]

Living Close to the Center
Carl Williams, Plainfield (VT) Friends Meeting
My prayer time has felt a bit chaotic recently. Not uncentered, really, but there’s been a sense of swirling and disjointed divergence, seemingly with no common thread. And then during worship on Sunday—wham. I  imagine I share the experience with many Friends—the startling epiphany, that moment of clarity, when understanding is laid suddenly bare and you’re presented with a gift you didn’t even know you wanted. 

For me, this time, there was a renewed understanding, a reminder, of the depth of one of Friends’ pivotal concepts, often encased in the phrase “that of God,” or “the seed of Christ.”  I confess I use these a lot—both out loud and in my head. In their overuse, they’d become hollow and trite. I’d lost my awareness of the essential importance they carry in my day-in-day out life. 

And as I sat in virtual worship, this refreshed understanding brought me around to the practical aspect of carrying the Seed of Christ—our ministry. I know that the idea of ministry among Friends is sometimes a challenge for many of us. I think, in part, because it’s one of those terms that looks the same but whose meaning is different “in the world” than in our Friendly understanding. The world’s definition has proven only a short walk to hierarchy and exclusion, certainly antithetical to the path of Friends. 

My Quaker understanding of ministry comes (in part) from its Latin root, “to serve.” Friends ministry holds primarily an active engagement with that Divine Spark that we each carry. And as we embrace that Spark, a path of service opens. It’s not just doing things we are good at or like to do, but the things—which are sometimes hard and not infrequently inconvenient—that God calls us toward. Yes, vocal and Gospel ministry are part of it, but there are many and varied ministries, from baking to eldership, expressions of being the hands and feet, the eyes and ears and mouth of God.
 
Ministry is the reverberation of the “that of God” we each carry. It grows and is nurtured in community. We find it by living close to the Center. Genuine ministry involves waiting and listening as well as giving and receiving. Our ministries rise, are recognized, nurtured, and challenged within our worship communities. While it’s the role of the community to identify a Friend’s ministry and encourage it, ministry grows from the Spark, the Seed, the “that of God.” 

It’s easier said than done for me, this living into the Center. How do I step into that place? It requires surrender, it requires stepping into places I might not normally step into. It requires openness to God’s whispering call. In my seeking I join in prayer with Flursey, a 7th-century Irish monk, and his protection prayer (lorica):

May the guiding hands of God be on my shoulders,
may the presence of the Holy Spirit be on my head,
may the sign of Christ be on my forehead,
may the voice of the Holy Spirit be in my ears,
may the smell of the Holy Spirit be in my nose …
may the work of the church of God be in my hands,
may the serving of God and my neighbor be in my feet,
may God make my heart his home …


In the joy of listening to God’s call,

Carl Williams
Plainfield (VT) Friends Meeting

All-Maine Gathering of Friends, May 1, 2021, 8:30 – noon

Zoom Link information is at the bottom of this positing.

For additional information about each of the workshops, contact the leaders below.
*Wabanaki  Sovereignty: Kay Carter  <KayCarter08@gmail.com>
*Racial Justice: Hank Washburn <washburnhank@gmail.com >
Holly Weidner <weidnerholly@gmail.com>
*Earthcare: Carole Beal <carolebeal@gmail.com>, Wendy Schlotterbeck <wendy.schlotterbeck@gmail.com>

Draft Schedule:

8:30 am: Gather. Each person puts name, meeting, and email in chat.

9:00 am: Welcome to all recognizing the work Friends through Monthly Meetings, NEYM and individuals have devoted to these issues. What do we hope for today? We hope to listen intently to every idea with respect: honoring imagination, creative thinking,
and remembering that today we will not be able to solve all issues, but we will focus on one step at a time.

9:05 am: Worship.

9:20 am- 10:50 am Break-Out Groups. (1 1/2 hours)

10:50 am – 11 am Everyone takes a short break.

11:00 am: Summary from each group with follow up questions. A group may offer a recommendation to the group for further action. 15 minutes each group.

11:45 am: Worship.

12:00 Noon, adjourn. Those who wish to stay and have informal conversation are invited to do so.

Zoom Link Info

Topic: All Maine Gathering
Time: May 1, 2021 08:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 828 2936 7983
Passcode: 110239
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AFSC Corporation Sessions in April

This year, taking advantage of our recent ability to gather Friends from all corners, the American Friends Service Committee Annual Corporation Meeting will be preceded by an exciting series of afternoon/evening seminars on a number of important topics in peace and justice.  The presenters will be a mix of AFSC staff and external partners/colleagues.  AFSC does peace and justice work in your name—come learn about what they are doing.  ALL ARE WELCOME!  

If you are interested in any of these events, you can get further information and register here: https://www.afsc.org/corpprogram

Sunday, April 11, 7-8:30pm:  Quakers, AFSC, and abolition:
Then and now

Monday, April 12, 8-9:30pm: #FreeThemAll: How we are living into
the call to free folks in the context of COVID-19 and beyond

Tuesday, April 13, 8-9:30pm: Pursuing freedom for Palestine: A
campaign for Palestinian children’s rights

Wednesday, April 14, 4pm: Global migrant justice: Manifesting
the joint Quaker migration statement

Wednesday, April 14, 8-9:30pm: Restorative Justice: What does it
look like/feel like in our communities?

Thursday, April 15, 1:30-3pm: Making new worlds: Creating a
society based on care and a solidarity economy—what to divest from/what to
invest in?

Thursday, April 15, 7-9pm: KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Plenary session on Abolition with Nyle Fort

Nyle Fort is a minister, activist, and scholar based in Newark, New Jersey. He has worked in education, criminal justice, and youth development for over a decade in various capacities including: the national director of Communities Against Militarized Police; founder and co-director of the Organizing Praxis Lab at Princeton University; and lead trainer at Momentum, an activist incubator that builds large-scale social movements in the United States and around the world.

Looking Ahead to Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday worship- 10:30 am April 4. Theme/ eggs and new life.

For Easter, Kim Bolshaw will grow small containers of wheatgrass for anyone who would like one. Friends can pick up a small pot of wheatgrass on March 28 at the hike or at the Meeting house or free delivery! Contact Wendy Schlotterbeck or Kim Bolshaw if you have questions.

On Easter Sunday morning, attenders are encouraged to have an egg with them during Meeting for Worship- placing one in the wheat grass if desired- or have scrambled eggs for breakfast that day!