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.

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.

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.

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.