Elizabeth Fry: Quaker Prison Reformer

I’ve been reading a biography of Elizabeth Fry (1780 – 1843) that I bought from the USFW used book table in the meetinghouse. The biography is itself a century old and USFW used book table in the meetinghouse. The biography is itself a century old and better ones have probably been written since. But I’ve been inspired by reading it. I’m only about half-way through it at the time of this writing, but here are some interesting points so far. Elizabeth Gurney grew up in a wealthy Quaker banking family in Norwich, England. She was one of eleven children, mostly sisters. But a brother, Joseph John Gurney, would become a key actor in the evangelical renewal of Friends. His travels in America in the 1830s were a watershed event that strongly influenced Friends, including here in New England. Elizabeth and her sisters were “gay Friends” – which in those days meant that they rejected the traditional plain dress, speech and lifestyle of Friends. They enjoyed literature, “mirth,” singing and even dancing(!) Betsy wore purple boots with scarlet laces, even to meeting for worship. The family were members at the Goat’s Lane Meeting in Norwich. She and her sisters disliked going to meeting – or what they called being “goatified.” Elizabeth’s story reads something like a Jane Austen novel that goes off the rails. At age fourteen she asked her father to take her to see the women in the Norwich House of Correction. The conditions she saw there horrified her, causing her to ask, “If this is the world, where is God?” She became a religious skeptic, but still caught between her love of diversion and her grief at social conditions outside her comfortable home. A major turning-point came when she was seventeen and William Savery, a traveling Quaker minister from America, spoke at her meeting. His message (two and a half hours long!) reached her powerfully. He came to the Gurney home for breakfast the next morning and prophesied great things about Elizabeth. She wrote that Savery’s “having been gay and disbelieving only a few years ago makes him better acquainted with the heart of one in the same situation.” Her sisters were annoyed by the changes in Elizabeth in the following months. She became more serious, kind, and charitable to the poor. She preferred reading the Bible to dancing, became more patient, humble and plain. What a drag! During a trip to London, a “weighty” elder Friend, Deborah Darby, also prophesied great things of her. Elizabeth wondered, “Can this be?” At age twenty, she married Joseph Fry, of another Quaker banking family in London. She started a school for girls and did various works of charity. But her greatest work would take place at the Newgate prison in London. Its terrible conditions had claimed the lives of some Friends in the early days of persecution in the
1600s. On average, five deaths occurred there every month from lack of ventilation and overcrowding. The criminal and mentally ill were thrown together. Men, women and even minors were executed for offenses as minor as theft and forgery. About four executions occurred daily. The French evangelical Friend Stephen Grellet visited Newgate in 1813 and went at once to Elizabeth Fry to ask her to help the 300 women prisoners and their children there. The degrading conditions of the prison (and the alcohol available to anyone with money to buy it) led to degraded behavior, outright mayhem at times. Fry spoke to that of God in the women and children by treating them with respect, assuring them of God’s love and her own for them, and offering education for the children along with productive work for the women. The results were immediate and profound. The ventilation didn’t improve but the overall atmosphere among the prisoners did. Fry also campaigned against capital punishment for theft and forgery, arguing that it showed a higher regard for property than for human life. Stay tuned for more on Elizabeth Fry in the next newsletter. Doug

Aspirations for Durham Friends Meeting

March 2016

In 2014, Durham Friends Meeting held a series of Visioning sessions to better understand who we are and where we would like to go as a Quaker Meeting.   At the end, the Committee on Ministry and Counsel drafted the following statement of our aspirations.  It describes seven aspects or faces of our Meeting  that state who we are.  With each, it identifies (a) what we are currently doing and (b) our hopes for the future.

  1. Circle of Friends; admire, encourage, love each other.

Ongoing;  

  • Pastoral care team
  • Durham Young Friends
  • Occasionally support/clearness committees for individuals.
  • Contemplative prayer group
  • Women’s Society

 Going forward;

  • Repeat Visioning session( s)
  • Friendly Dinners and discussions to bring up some good ideas and become more familiar.
  • Improve our follow up with visitors/seekers ? could greeters attend to a new person during the coffee hour?
  • Is Pastoral care team able to meet the needs that arise? communication, organization?
  1. Learning community of truth seekers.

Ongoing;

  • Message bringers from within Durham Mtg and wider Quakerism, as well as pastor.
  • Our present pastor is a great fit and part time seems to be working for all.
  • Have some/need more newer people on committees, at business meeting.
  • Continue variety of spirit centered gatherings; adult Sunday school, Contemplative prayer, midweek worship, Godly play.

Going forward;

  • Outreach to seekers/engagement w/ seekers.
  • The work formerly done by publicity committee….visibility in the media.
  • Knowledge of Bible, Quaker testimonies and history.
  • Expand our spiritual language to be inclusive of other beliefs, as well as Christianity.
  • Need Webmaster to update/ recreate webpage, Facebook.

     3. Growing community; playful, joyful living in challenging world.

Ongoing;

  • Orienting/engaging newer members/attenders.
  • Excellent youth pastor, youth group and Godly play.
  • Outdoor play equipment assembled, available w/ supervision.

Going forward;

  • Improve Facebook, webpage presence.
  • Best ways to meet needs of young children during Meeting for Worship.
  • Provide opportunities for our young people to participate in meaningful service projects (intergenerational as well).
  • Wendy may want help creating a Durham Friends banner, for activism/ parades, to expand visibility.
  1. Service community; individually, collectively.

Ongoing;

  • LACO, Tedford, Kakamega.
  • A local 12step and environmental groups meet here.
  • Joys & concerns of individuals during worship.
  • Announcements of local activism opportunities.
  • Support in death & dying.
  • Carpooling, sharing/trading items together.

Going forward;

  • Exploration of further renewable energy project for our buildings( i.e. solar)
  • Immigrant community outreach.
  • Plan activism based on Quaker values to be local change makers.
  • Banner
  1. Spiritual community; based on Quaker/ Christian values and sense of the meeting.

Ongoing;

  • Study and worship groups, variety of gatherings.
  • Decisions at Monthly Meeting for Business…when there are differences.
  • We have a gifted and committed clerk.
  • Member who serves Council of Churches.

Going forward;

  • Continue our education and engagement w/ concepts like racism and white privilege.
  • Start meeting for worship, for business and M&C w/ query from Quaker roots.
  • Our involvement in local (nonmember) groups, to be available for inquiries.( i.e.. Bowdoin College, 7pm in the Chapel on Wednesdays)
  1. Tolerant and humble community; welcoming new ways of understanding God, blended with our traditional beliefs.

Ongoing;

  • Sunday potluck programs often educate and encourage .
  • Continuing revelation a central tradition of Quakers.

Going forward

  • Continue to follow leadings; P&SC and others.
  • Continue creating space for openness and respect of other faith traditions.
  1. Responsible community; financial viability, stewardship of our land and buildings, good governance and clear communication.

Ongoing;

  • Many projects completed in the last year( roof, outhouse,etc.)
  • Offering coming directly from people’s banks is helpful for consistency.
  • Fundraising/ publicity committee? Active

Going forward;

  • Consistently meet our budget with a pastor here.
  • Clear reports on proposed projects to aid decision-making.
  • Regular financial updates and education where ALL can see/ hear….rise of Mtg?
  • Cell tower project is in process, contract was signed.
  • Fund raiser activities to support our meeting, as well as the nonprofits we support

‘Service is our sacrament’

By Mimi Marstaller

One of the phrases from June’s Friends United Meeting Triennial that sticks with me is “As Quakers, service is our sacrament.” The man who spoke these words is named Ross and he works with the Quaker Voluntary Service program (www.quakervoluntaryservice.org). I heard these words after having had a few conversations with Friends about the existence and practice of sacraments in Quaker Meetings and appreciated Ross’s concise summary.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says a sacrament is sign of grace, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer calls a sacrament an outward sign of an inward grace given unto us, through which we also receive grace. Each definition contains the same two movements: We receive God’s grace, and by performing a sacrament receive another dose of the healing power and life of the Spirit.
I can easily see service in this construction. I am able to help a neighbor because of the life energy, skills and awareness that God gave me by grace. When I help that neighbor — watching her children while she does an errand, bringing in the recycle bin from the sidewalk, offering a joyful greeting in the morning, inviting her to a backyard barbeque — I feel closer to divine life.

In a QuakerSpeak video called “Form without Substance,” Michael Birkel explains that Early Quakers took issue with the formal nature of sacraments that could be performed without much attention being paid. Service, as I see Quakers perform it, solves this problem by reversing it. Opportunities for service — opportunities to experience divine life— present themselves without form, spontaneously through our days. And because acts of service are our own work, they are substantive: Service springs from our hearts and exists within our
daily living experience, rather than in a book or a church building.

As summer arrives and schedules become changeable, we might seek spiritual nourishment less in the formal activities of the school year, and more in the substantive but spontaneous sacrament of service.

Teen Camp: Relationships, Spirituality and Sexuality

By Nat Shed, Director of Friends Camp This three-day camp session will give teens an opportunity to explore relationship ethics and to define the elements of healthy and equal relationships. Teen Camp starts at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18, and ends at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21. A few years ago I read an interesting article about a teacher at a Friends’ school, Al Veracchio, who teaches teens about sexuality from a comprehensive, positive, ethical and joyful perspective. Al Veracchio’s story inspired me to bring together a group of Youth Adult Friends —many of them former campers and counselors — to design a three-day Teen Camp on the ethics and joys of relationships and sex. The planning team for our new Teen Camp includes: Kate Bonner-Jackson, Lucy Churchill, Liz Doran, Kate Fussner, Lisa Graustein, Ben Guaraldi, Will Jennings, Clementine Little, Porsha Olayiwola and Katherine Sorrows. At the first Planning Team meeting, we gathered in silence and then shared our personal reasons for joining the group. We brainstormed a list of ideas, values, and feelings that we hope teen campers will take away from this unique camp session. Here are a few:
1) To gain comfort with the topic of human sexuality and relationships.
2) To be knowledgeable enough to navigate relationship issues and sexual decisions.
3) To prepare for courageous conversations about relationships and sexuality with friends, partners and parents.
4) To understand the meaning of sexual consent and to have the ability to respect the wishes of others.
5) To be able to look to Quaker values as a guide for talking about relationships and sexuality.
6) To be comfortable talking about bisexual/gay/straight/transgender identities of oneself and others.
7) To have a better understanding of the problems with hetero-normative thinking.
8) To build trusting relationships with fellow campers for on-going support around relationship and sexuality.
9) To understand and appreciate that all bodies are different.
10) To view sexuality as joyful, sensual, caring and fun!
We are taking these outcomes and turning them into six thoughtful and interesting workshops, and leaving lots time for waterfront activities, electives, evening games and vespers. We hope you’ll join us in August for this new Teen Camp.

Queries on Financial Giving

These Queries were read by Sarah during the presentation:

From remarks at Chestnut Hill Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
By Thomas Jeavons
January 6, 2002
 Do we as individuals see giving to our
Meetings (and other Quaker bodies) as: An
obligation of membership? An opportunity
to express our commitment to Quakerism?
An exercise that can be an expression of –
and contribute to our growth in – faith? As
an expression of gratitude to God for all the
blessings we have? Some combination?
Something else entirely?
 Do we as a Meeting community believe
members have an obligation to provide some
financial support to the Meeting, even if
only a token amount for those who have
little to give? Do we believe members
should make the Meeting a “charitable
priority?” Are we willing to talk with one
another about what levels of giving are
appropriate? If not, why not?
 Are we creating some safe spaces, and
providing some support, for our members
and attenders to talk with each other about
and wrestle with questions and concerns
about what should exist connections
between our faith and our money – not just
in relation to their giving, but in all aspects
of their lives? If not, should we, and how
could we?

Witnessing for a Faithful Budget

By Leslie Manning
Pete Sirois, a Pax Christi member from Madison, and I lobbied our elected representatives after attending Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. We were part of a group of 750 clergy and faith leaders from many denominations witnessing for a faithful budget, immigration reform and reductions in military spending.
I also presented a workshop on “Effective lobbying of state and local government” and participated in several discussions of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s video “Torture in our Backyard.” Maine’s efforts to reduce the use of solitary confinement are a feature of that film.

From our Pastor, Daphne Clement

“The Meeting for Worship is, however, not all silence. The silence is preparation. One listens before one speaks. There is a quickening power in the living silence… Where the temperature and atmosphere of the group are right, the one who prays or speaks is not just a solitary individual saying words. One becomes in some real sense a voice for the cooperating group. There is more in the words than we consciously know or explicitly think out.” Rufus Jones

There has been some wonderful vocal ministry rising out of the waiting silence in the past six weeks or so. And though, from time to time, there are those amongst us who are especially gifted and offer messages full of Spirit… we are ALL ministers… and each of us, no matter how shy we may feel… are, from time to time, called to rise and say a few words.

During Worship on the last Sunday of February, your pastor sensed that there was a message trying to rise, and yet there must have been some hesitation for there was no vocal ministry… and that hesitation did seem to change the quality of the silence in which we were waiting.

I remember well the fear that I felt the first time I rose to offer ministry in Meeting for Worship… because we do have such a strong sense of God’s presence there with us, it is an awesome thing to rise and say a few words. And, it so easy to forget that even the ordinary events of life, when held up into the Light are sacred; and that the most meaning full ministry is neither fancy nor polished, it is heart felt.

In the Atlanta Meeting there was a large Burundi refugee population, and from time to time someone would rise and offer vocal ministry in Burundi; words which most Friends could not understand yet often someone would comment later that those Burundi words had indeed “spoken to their condition.” This reminds me of the quote from John Woolman’s Journal about his ministry while traveling amongst the Delaware Indians:

“On the evening of the 18th I was at their meeting, where pure gospel love was felt, to the tendering of some of our hearts. The interpreters endeavored to acquaint the people with what I said, in short sentences, but found some difficulty, as none of them were quite perfect in English and Delaware tongues, so they helped one another, and we labored along, Divine love attending. Afterwards, feeling my mind covered with the spirit of prayer, I told the interpreters that I found it in my heart to pray to God, and believed, if I prayed aright, he would hear me; and I expressed my willingness for them to omit interpreting; so our meeting ended with a degree of Divine love. Before the people went out, I observed Papunehang (the man who had been zealous in laboring for a reformation in that town, being then very tender) speaking to one of the interpreters, and I was afterwards told that he said in substance as follows: “I love to feel where words come from.”

So, let us when we feel called to offer a few words of vocal ministry take courage and rise… let us, also, make it our practice to listen to the vocal ministry in our meeting in the same deep way that Papunehang listened to John Woolman… and then, let us, trust in the Divine love that attends us in our waiting Worship.

Why Forgive

From our Pastor, Daphne Clement
True forgiveness opens the heart making us tender and available to God. Without practicing forgiveness, we loose the capacity to give and to receive. If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.

Everyone has plenty to forgive: even if our parents were the best of parents there is alwayssomething to forgive, our mates and children, our friends, our boss or supervisor… we must forgive life, the world and God… and last but not least… the greatest challenge of all… let us forgive ourselves.

What keeps us from forgiving? Forgiving life & God for the disappointments, the losses and hardships… sometimes the soul just gets weary, turning bitter and cold. This can be a dangerous time for without a tender heart we are so prone to judge… the act of judging others or ourselves binds the judged person… self or other… fast, to a chair… tying and gagging them there, limiting potential growth and change. When we judge another or ourselves we take our humanness away… judgment is the opposite of freedom; judgment limits who we are or will be.

Have you ever noticed that the heart tends to close and harden in judgment when we perceive a weakness in someone that subtly reflects fears of our own weaknesses? Regarding this sort of projection someone wise once said: “It’s all done with mirrors, you know.” Perhaps this accounts for Jesus’ comment: “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” There they couldn’t forgive his humanness… and hence could not see his divinity. Because we cannot forgive we become blind to the truth that we are created in God’s image.

We distance ourselves from God every time the harsh inner critic intones: “I am not good
enough.” In Matthew, 18:18, Jesus instructs his disciples: “Verily I say unto you, what things so ever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (King James) The New Standard Easy-to-Read Version: “I tell you the truth. When you speak judgment here on earth, that judgment will be God’s judgment. When you promise forgiveness here on earth, that forgiveness will be God’s forgiveness.”

We forgive because forgiveness makes us resilient and makes us available to God’s presence.

Daphne Clement Introduces Herself to Durham Meeting

Asked for a biography for the December
Durham Friends Meeting Newsletter… I sat down
to write and found that the threads of my life (like
the threads in the poem below) would not organize
themselves in a linear fashion. To begin by telling
you that I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado,
and thus no stranger to cold weather, simply was
not enough of an introduction… and so, I begin with
the poem:

The Threads of Life–
“Only one end of the threads of life I hold in my hand.
The threads go many ways, linking my life with other lives…
One thread is my centering thread – it is my steadying thread –
God’s hand holds the other end.”
Howard Thurman (The Motive) 1950

These few lines of Howard Thurman’s
poetry were the heart of a “Goodbye” card shared
with loved ones and friends in Atlanta, Georgia as I
departed after living and working there for nine
years. I record them here as I move to Maine both
for continuity and in greeting.

Ministry:
A Hospice Chaplain in Atlanta, Georgia, I was most
recently the Coordinator of Spiritual Care at
Hospice Atlanta’s 36 bed inpatient unit.
Accompanying dying people and their loved ones is
very beautiful, deeply heart felt, soul satisfying
work. Being with the dying led me back toward life
and taught me how to pray… really pray, not for any
particular outcome but the kind of prayer that opens
to God’s presence amongst us… amongst us all:
prayer with Methodists and Southern Baptists,
together with Jewish people and Muslims and with
folks who have no religion at all.
For many years the brevity of relationship in
Hospice was made up for by the depth of
connections made; but, in the last year or so I began
to imagine my ministry in a more enduring
community, in a place to let my roots sink down, as
I could never seem to do in Atlanta, which is so
“Southern” and so very hot!

Becoming a Friend:
My parents attended an Episcopalian Church
and as child I loved the beauty of that church and
was confirmed there. But from the time I was old
enough to wonder about the theological basis of all
those “creeds and written prayers”… I longed for the
experience that the early Christians must have
shared… wondering what it was that brought
Christianity to life for them. Even as a child I
imagined the experience must have been light
filled. From my first experience of Friends
Worship I sensed the Light of the “continuously
renewed immediacy” (Thomas Kelly) of God’s
presence in Worship. As I continued to read and
study it became apparent to me that George Fox
was really on to something… and that “something” I
had been seeking even as a child.

Parenting:
My first vocation and early career was single
parenting and the education of my three children:
two older boys (Steven & Ryan) and one daughter
(Camille). The two youngest of my children both
received the benefit of Waldorf education and we
were fortunate to be active members of that
community. My two sons are parents now, and
watching them parent reveals to me the worldchanging
potential of generations of healthy young
people. My grandchildren make me feel hopeful,
even in the face of dispiriting social, political and
economic trends.

Education:
As young adult I was influenced by the
social/political movements of the 1960‘s, and lived
for a time at the Lama Foundation near Taos’ New
Mexico. At Lama we honored and practiced many
of the great world religions. As I came to
understand the breadth of faith and practice I came
also to appreciate the breadth of God that unites all
religion. This period of spiritual experimentation
(practicing yoga, meditation & prayer, as well as the
study of the Abrahamic traditions) was later to
become an invaluable part of my ‘inter-faith‘
ministry as a Hospice Chaplain.
While parenting, and managing a small fruit
company in Boulder, Colorado I simultaneously
worked on completing my education, finally
receiving my first degree in the same year that my
second son graduated from Oberlin College.
Two years later I enrolled at Starr King
School for the Ministry, the Unitarian Seminary in
Berkeley, California. It was while attending
seminary that I first read Thomas Kelly, Rufus
Jones and other Friends and began to faithfully
attend Quaker Meeting.
While in Atlanta I completed a Doctor of
Ministry degree in Pastoral Counseling at Columbia
Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
Looking back, what I learned during those years of
study surprises me. I learned, or rather practiced
what Friends have long known and practiced: that
when we sit together in a worshipful way, hearts
open, listening and attentive, we do not necessarily
have to agree (intellectually, politically, religiously)
to find common ground… and upon that common
ground… often, we find a new and unexpected “way
forward” toward the common good.