“Leaning Into Invitations and Blessings,” by Lisa Steele-Maley

Notes from Message for Durham Meeting, July 5, 2020


It is a serious thing,

Just to be alive

on this fresh morning

In this broken world.

These words from Mary Oliver’s poem Invitation help me to embrace the immensity of this moment. They invite me to step into the responsibility to stretch widely enough to embrace both the despair and the hope in this moment — mine, yours, and everyone else’s. When I found this poem in early April, the invitation provided ballast for navigating the push and pull of the everchanging, uncertain landscape. I gave myself to the responsibility of showing up, naming “paying attention” as my primary commitment and trusting that the next right thing to do will emerge.

Invitation

Mary’s invitation gave me courage, energy, and strength to show up and I gave myself to it fully and wholeheartedly, until I was exhausted. In my exhaustion, I become impatient, eager to return to some action, some form of doing. Fortunately, John O’Donohue’s poem meets me there, with gentle reassurance that “empty time” is where I need to be. He encourages me to let go of “doing” and give into “being”.

For One Who is Exhausted, A Blessing

The ballast provided by giving into the exhaustion balances that of showing up. Settling in more deeply to embrace both the exhale and the inhale, the rest and the exertion, I recognize Spirit at work in me. Recognizing the accompaniment of spirit, I more easily trust that the ebb and flow of my energy and attention is natural and necessary. It is how I remain faithful. Parker Palmer wrote, “the struggle for love, truth and justice is forever. Those of us who care about it are not asked to win a final victory in our lifetimes. We are asked to remain faithful to the task…”

At this time, let us lean into the invitations and the blessings that help us to remain faithful to the task. And let us remember that “it is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world” and “we must be excessively gentle with ourselves.”

Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, Saturday, July 25, 10am to Noon

Falmouth Quarterly Meeting asks:  How are we being nourished?

Friends, it’s good to feel nourished, especially in times of heightened concern.  Falmouth Quarter intends to meet on Saturday July 25 for fellowship, spiritual nourishment and worship.  We will use the Zoom format and gather there from 10 to noon.

We invite each meeting to bring a reflection/meditation to share on what you have discovered in this season of virtual community and bring a query that all can respond to.  We are imagining each meeting would share their thoughts and query, followed by worship sharing, repeated six times for all six meetings.

We hope all meetings will feel led to participate in this time to gather, connect, share and worship together as a larger community.  Durham Friends who would like to be involved in any way, please reach out to Sarah Sprogell at sarahsprogell@gmail.com or 319-5077.

In Peace and Gratitude for our gathered communities, Sarah Sprogell and Fritz Weiss, co-conveners of Falmouth Quarter.

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass

Note: This morning (July 5, 2020), Joyce Gibson opened worship by reading excerpts from this speech by Frederick Douglass. Here is the whole speech.

Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852, Corinthian Hall, Rochester, N.Y., on invitation of the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, N.Y.

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

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He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for it is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall, seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable — and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.

But, your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would, certainly, prove nothing, as to what part I might have taken, had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.

As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger, as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.

The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present ruler.

Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling idea, much more so, than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day, were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.

Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change, (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.

These people were called Tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.

Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.

On the 2d of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read it. “Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”

Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day — cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.

The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness.

The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified and sublime.

The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final;” not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.

Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even Mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interest — a nation’s jubilee.

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, unfolded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.

I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait — perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans, and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans, if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.

I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!

My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.

Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men shout — “We have Washington to our father.” — Alas! that it should be so; yet so it is.

The evil that men do, lives after them, The good is oft-interred with their bones.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mineYou may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery — the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;” I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. — There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Take the American slave-trade, which, we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year, by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states, this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government, as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words, from the high places of the nation, as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade, as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the laws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our DOCTORS OF DIVINITY. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish themselves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass without condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and America religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field, and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-chilling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man, with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the center of your soul! The crack you heard, was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard, was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow the drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me citizens, WHERE, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves, the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed CASH FOR NEGROES. These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners. Ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.

The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number have been collected here, a ship is chartered, for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.

In the deep still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains, and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to find one who sympathized with me in my horror.

Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, to-day, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit, I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity, on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horsessheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.

Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented. By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason and Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women, and children as slaves remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the Star-Spangled Banner and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your lawmakers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, our lordsnobles, and ecclesiastics, enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there are neither law, justice, humanity, not religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side, is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, hear only his accusers!

In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenseless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe, having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.

I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance, and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise, and cumin” — abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church, demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal! — And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to solicit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner. Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old Covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door, and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox, to the beautiful, but treacherous queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country, (with fractional exceptions), does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mintanise, and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.”

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines. who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, put together, have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action, nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty, and leave the throng of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation — a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea! when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with its ability to abolish slavery. The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday school, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds; and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared — men, honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The Lords of Buffalo, the Springs of New York, the Lathrops of Auburn, the Coxes and Spencers of Brooklyn, the Gannets and Sharps of Boston, the Deweys of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land have, in utter denial of the authority of Him by whom they professed to be called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example or the Hebrews and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, they teach that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, Samuel J. May of Syracuse, and my esteemed friend (Rev. R. R. Raymond) on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.

One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in England towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating, and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and restored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high religious question. It was demanded, in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, and Burchells and the Knibbs, were alike famous for their piety, and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable, instead of a hostile position towards that movement. Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties), is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria, and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation — a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against her oppressors; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.

Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

But it is answered in reply to all this, that precisely what I have now denounced is, in fact, guaranteed and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that the right to hold and to hunt slaves is a part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.

Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped

To palter with us in a double sense:
And keep the word of promise to the ear,
But break it to the heart.

And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest imposters that ever practiced on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape. But I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length — nor have I the ability to discuss it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly power by Lysander Spooner, Esq., by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and last, though not least, by Gerritt Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I think, fully and clearly vindicated the Constitution from any design to support slavery for an hour.

Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it. What would be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester to a track of land, in which no mention of land was made? Now, there are certain rules of interpretation, for the proper understanding of all legal instruments. These rules are well established. They are plain, common-sense rules, such as you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the study of law. I scout the idea that the question of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of slavery is not a question for the people. I hold that every American citizen has a right to form an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. Without this right, the liberty of an American citizen would be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the Constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the Constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tell us that the Constitution is the fundamental law, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which every citizen has a personal interest in understanding thoroughly. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and many others that might be named, who are everywhere esteemed as sound lawyers, so regard the constitution. I take it, therefore, that it is not presumption in a private citizen to form an opinion of that instrument.

Now, take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.

I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic, are distinctly heard on the other. The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,

And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered fights again
Restore.

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end.
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive —
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

Source: Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. Philip S. Foner (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1999), 188-206.

Howard Thurman: “The oneness of mankind”

From Joyce Gibson’s invitation to worship, Durham Friends Meeting, June 28, 2020

“Religion has enjoyed an exclusive character for far too long,‘’ he said, “and this has fostered inequality and established the principle of separateness.  Men, instead of feeling at one with each other because of their relationship to God, are set apart from each other because of the division caused by their differing theologies.  Exclusiveness may once have been a luxury, but it can be no longer.  In human affairs, science is in process of annihilating space and time; religion can keep pace only as it annihilates boundaries.  The basis for modern life is the acknowledged oneness of mankind.” 

[Were he speaking today, Thurman would surely have spoken of “people” rather than of “men” or “mankind.”]

Quoted in Elizabeth Yates McGreal, Howard Thurman:  Portrait of a Practical Dreamer (New York: John Day Publishing, 1964), (pp. 142-143).

Phyllis May Curtis White Wetherell, Memorial Minute, June 21, 2020

Phyllis Wetherell was born in 1936 in Portland, Maine, the first child of John and Mary Curtis.  She grew up in Durham Friends Meeting and remained a member here all her life – one of our many beloved members of the family Curtis.  With many friends in both communities, she oscillated between Durham, Maine and Richmond, Indiana all her life. 

Phyllis May Curtis White Wetherell Obituary

After her first husband, Ira Donald White, and her daughter, Lisa, passed away, she married David Wetherell, the pastor of Durham Friends.  They moved to Richmond, Indiana so that David could attend the Earlham School of Religion.  After David graduated, they moved to Bar Harbor where Phyllis and David helped start Acadia Friends Meeting.  About a decade later they moved back to Richmond, Indiana.

Phyllis became receptionist/secretary at the Earlham School of Religion, a position she held for fifteen years, from 1985 to 2000.  Hers was the first face that prospective students, faculty, and staff encountered.  She welcomed them and treated them graciously and with a kindness that came from her heart.  Phyllis always believed she had “the best seat in the house” at the front desk at ESR.  She wrote,

“What an education to listen to people wrestling out loud about their beliefs or lack of beliefs, to see the profound impact a feisty professor has on someone who finally sees and feels the Light, to watch as a programmed Quaker meets head on an unprogrammed Quaker, when neither one knows anything of the other’s practices. Do you know how exciting it is to listen to folk trying to sort out their beliefs and try and figure out where those beliefs will lead them?”

David passed away in 1990.  When Phyllis retired from ESR she came again to live among us in Maine, and then returned to Friends Fellowship in Richmond, Indiana in 2013 for the last seven years of her life.  We were always glad to see her when she came back to Durham Friends.

A bright presence in all places and seasons, Phyllis will be deeply missed by all who knew her.  She is survived by her children Susan (Dale), Linda (Rick), and David John (Jennifer); her sister Charlotte, brother Johnny (Mildred), and stepdaughter Lynne. Her grandchildren that will carry on all she taught them: Hickory (Trisha), Ryder (Amanda), Rossy, Marjorie, Korey, Brandon (Jenna), Ashton (Wyatt), Nate and Genesee. So, too, her great-grandchildren:  Jack, Mason, Max, Samuel, Lumen, and (due in July), Sawyer. Those already passed on include her parents John and Mary Curtis, brother David, daughter Lisa, and the two loves of her life, husbands Donny and David.

Phyllis passed from this life, in Richmond, on April 25, 2020. 

Edie Whitehead, Memorial Minute, June 21, 2020

Edith Marie Whitehead, 1923-2020

Edith Mary Whitehead May 22,1923 – April 18, 2020
Edie Whitehead died from natural causes, Saturday, April 18, 2020, at Horizons Living and Rehab Center, just a month before her 97th birthday.

Edie Mary Lamb was born on May 22, 1923, in Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of three children. After training as a physical therapist, she came to the United States to care for a cousin. She met Macy Whitehead in Phippsburg through a mutual friend, Albert Bailey, and they were married on April 22, 1952 in the “manner of Friends” at the Quaker meeting in Westtown, in West Chester, Pa. They shared a commitment to each other, family and community for 60 wonderful years; raising four children and numerous dogs, cats and horses. Throughout their lives, they stayed rooted to the simple things.

Her husband’s various positions, as an ordained minister, took them to South Portland (1955-60), Eagle Butte, South Dakota, (1960-73) and Kent, Connecticut, (1973-78). From Connecticut, they moved to New York while Macy earned a pastoral counseling degree, and Edie supported her family by working in a hospital. In 1982 they moved to Bath, Maine.

Edie was an avid quilter and member of Kaleidoscope Quilt Guild in West Bath for many years. She and Macy started attending Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends after they moved to Maine and after several years among us, became a member in 2000. She was active in USFW and in the Durham Friends Women’s Society. We at Durham knew her as an active member and knowledgeable about Quaker History and the Bible. She had an infectious smile, a wry sense of humor, sometimes irreverent, loved to engage in conversation and was not afraid to challenge people.

Edie took hostessing very seriously, and put on a spread of food that was delicious, and also beautifully presented, with every detail attended to carefully. Her dishes, the doilies, the little knife for spreading, and of course flowers, were all perfectly arranged. She delighted in doing it and wanted people to remember her for it. She loved to quilt and shared this love of hers with the women at Durham Meeting.

She and Macy shared a family camp in Brightwater, which is a summer colony in Phippsburg, and they would hold worship time with family and friends in their summer community, which included many hymn sings. Edie is survived by her family- Deirdre, Harris, Heather (Philipand Tom; Camilla and Carla; five grandchildren Celia, Kai, Sam, Bevan and Lionel; and a large extended Irish family.

Edie was a gracious, welcoming and loving person. She was fun to be around – always full of good ideas and projects needing doing. She had a beautiful singing voice and was a creative, talented fabric artist. Her working years involved helping people in need or in creating something beautiful. Her twinkling eyes and capable hands will be sorely missed.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, June 21, 2020 (Draft)

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, June 21, 2020, with 18 people present.  Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, co-clerk, opened the meeting reading two Advices from the New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice.

1. The May minutes were approved.

2. Finance Committee: Kathariine (Kitsie) Hildebrandt reported that individual monthly financial giving has decreased and we are encouraged to increase our financial support of the meeting during these months when we cannot physically be present at the meetinghouse.

            The committee presented a revised recommendation for the use of the Charity Fund.  This following recommendation was approved:

           ” The Charity Account is to be administered, after careful consideration of each unique situation, for both Charitable Requests and Supported Ministry (Leadings) purposes.

            “In terms of Supported Ministry (Leadings), coming from members or regular attenders, the request, with an amount included, will be brought to a standing Meeting committee first to prayerfully consider said request for funds. If the Meeting committee finds clearness in the request, the committee can then bring the request to Monthly Meeting, with the request added to an agenda that is distributed ahead of the Monthly Meeting.

           “In considering proposals to support a ministry, we recommend the following criteria:

  • Alignment of the ministry with the faith and practice of Friends, including the Testimonies.
  • The character and integrity of the person or group seeking support.
  • The merit and validity of the request.   In other words, does this ministry help to deepen and promote the life, not only of the individual or group, but the life of the whole Meeting as well?

            “In terms of Charitable Requests, a request, with an amount included, will be brought to a standing meeting committee first to prayerfully consider said request for funds. If the meeting committee finds clearness in the request, the committee can then bring the request to monthly meeting, with the request added to an agenda, distributed ahead of the monthly meeting.

            “In the case of a time sensitive situation, a request for financial assistance, with an amount included, can be brought to the Monthly Meeting by a Meeting Committee, where it would be tended, weighed and prayerfully decided at the next Monthly Meeting. In this case the request would be communicated to the Meeting Community ahead of time.   

            “In the case of a true emergency, a request, with an amount included, can be brought to the clerk of the Meeting, along with the clerk of Ministry and Counsel and the clerk of Finance, who can then direct the allocation of funds from the Charity Account, and report to the next Monthly Meeting.

            “The Charity Account, in general, will not be a source of funding for Quaker organizations and causes such as FCNL, AFSC, QUNO, NEYM, Tedford Housing, or LACO, as these are included in the annual budget as contributions.

            “Requests for funds will generally be no greater than $1,000.00.”

3. Ministry and Counsel: Martha Sheldon reported for the committee. Upcoming meeting speakers were announced.

            Kim Bolshaw and Tess Hartfurd are facilitating a small group of people meeting for worship in the parking lot on Sunday mornings using a media connection to the Zoom worship.  Others may decide to gather in small groups in homes in safe distances sharing technology to connect to the Zoom worship.  They are consulting with professionals to determine a viable blended form of worship to use in the future.

            A virtual prayer group sponsored by Ministry and Counsel met on June 11, and they plan to meet each Monday from 9:00 to 9:30.

            Sukie Rice delights in receiving notes from Friends/friends but requests that only one visitor visit per day.  Call ahead to schedule a visit, or write a note.  She is happy to have a green burial; For more information, contact Martha who recorded part of Sukie’s presentation on green burial a few weeks ago.

            Memorial minutes were presented for Phyllis Wetherell and Edith Whitehead.  These minutes are attached. Much appreciation was expressed for the lives of these members.

            Martha read a letter from Ingrid Chalufour requesting membership with Durham Friends Meeting. The application was received with great pleasure, and Sarah Sprogell, Tess Hartford and Joyce Gibson were appointed as a Committee to visit with Ingrid and report back to the next meeting for business.

4. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Ingrid Chalufour reported that Brown Lethem, Cindy Wood and Ingrid Chalufour met at Cindy’s house on June 11.  Cush Anthony consulted with us by email and phone. Their Meeting began with a reading of the NEYM statement A Time for Repentance and Transformation, which is on the Durham Meeting website. Two sentences resonated for them. First, “We recognize that our silence in this moment would be collusion with violence.” And, “We…are called with Divine guidance to do the work to understand that complicity and to end it.” They agreed that they would make plans to work, with meeting, to deepen our understanding of white privilege, institutionalized racism, and to examine the concept of being an antiracist.

            They discussed resurrecting the plan to write a letter-to-the-editor, using the ideas in the NEYM statement as a basis for the message. Meeting clerks have supported the idea so they plan to have a letter for review and approval at the July Monthly Meeting. It will be sent out to everyone by email a week ahead of time so they can have a review and edit process before monthly meeting.   

            Their next discussion was about planning and leading a Meeting-wide book reading. Ingrid shared a review of a book titled, How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Other books and articles were suggested. In particular they discussed The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Atlantic Monthly, June 2014). This article is on the Meeting website now. They decided that they would offer a few suggestions to participants, but the discussion would be guided by a common set of questions examining white privilege and institutional racism.  Liana Thompson-Knight has volunteered to join them in the planning of this activity. 

            Several expressed interest in a meeting-wide book reading on the subject. We thanked the committee for their report.

5. Christian Education and Youth Minister:   The Plant Salewas a great success- thanks to everyone who contributed plants, stopped by to water, and/or purchase plants. Special thanks to Kim Bolshaw for all her help! We made $650.

            On Wednesdays, they continue to hold “Storytime” between 6:30-7:15 pm using the Durham Meeting zoom login. Log in any time after 6:30 pm on Wednesdays to check in, and chat. The activities begin at 6:45. This past month they have played charades and trivia in addition to reading stories, one of which was Planting the trees of Kenya: the Story of Wangari Maatnai.

            Children and Youth Sunday took place on Sunday June 7. 13 Durham kids were invited to the meeting house horse shed to participate in a scavenger hunt created by Amy Kustra and Julien Barksdale. Prizes and seeds were donated by Dorothy Curtis and Kim Bolshaw. Wendy Schlotterbeck made prayer flags for each, and each child/youth was invited to select 2 flowers or plants to take home. A special photo tribute of Durham children/youth was played and 2020 graduates were honored. The special gifts were delivered to children who were unable to participate at the Meeting House yard.

            The faith journey sharing was postponed until fall after discussion at the clerk’s meeting on June 18,

.           The following Durham Friends graduated this spring. Congratulations to the following amazing young adults:

  • Emily Carr- Harpswell Coastal Academy
  • Cleo Carrera- Pratt Institute
  • Joey Reed- University of Maine at Orono
  • Libbey Masse´- UMO
  • Acadia Weinberg-Wellesley College
  • Emma Nagler- Clark University

             Wendy was a Resource Person (RP) for the NEYM Young Friends retreat June 12-14

            Upcoming opportunities were listed: Friends Canp, Friends General Conference gathering, New England Yearly Meeting sessions, and a game night for the entire Durham Meeting community for which  Wendy is asking for fun trivia questions from everyone.  See details in the Newsletter. 

6. Trustees:  Donna Hutchins reported for the committee. Daniel Henton has replaced front door knobs and locks at the meetinghouse and parsonage, and replaced the porch light at the parsonage.   C & Z plumbing fixed a water issue at the parsonage. Chimneys at both the parsonage and meetinghouse have been checked and cleaned.

            Andy Higgins cleared tree branches and fixed the gate at the Jones Cemetery. Andy will be moving the sand pile located in the old section of Lunt Cemetery.

            The green burial area at Lunt Cemetery has been gridded and staked, work done by Michael Lord, charging a minimal fee for the work and supply costs: $300.

            We had a lengthly discussion regarding Lunt Cemetery needs: landscaping:a section torn up by vandals, entrance pillar damage replacement, and a fence with gates. Our concerns were registered by the committee members and will have recommendations at the July monthly meeting.  Kristna Evans volunteered to meet with the Trustees with her concerns.

            Appreciation was expressed for the fine job of painting the meeting room by Tess Hartford. 

7.Meeting Care Coordinator Search Committee is made up of representatives from committees with which that the Meeting Care Coordinator would be working. Committee members are: Martha Sheldon (Ministry and Council), Dorothy Curtis (Christian Education) Ingrid Chalufour (Peace and Social Concerns), and Liana Thompson Knight (Communication).

            On May 21 Martha received a strong application for the Meeting Care Coordinator position from a Quaker who lives in Michigan and who is planning to move to Maine.   After reviewing the application the committee decided to meet and consider how (or if) to proceed. Martha, Ingrid, and Dorothy met on May 26 and decided to proceed and interview her. This decision was based on two facts. First, Martha expressed great need for someone working on ministry and council needs with her. M&C tasks are greater than most Quaker meetings due to being semi programmed without a pastor. Second, the applicant is an active Quaker who appears to have the knowledge and skills that would greatly benefit Durham Friends. On June 5 the committee interviewed the applicant via Zoom. Soon thereafter two references were called. Both the interview and the references reinforced our feeling that she would serve to strengthen the Durham Meeting in all the ways that the job asks.

            The applicant considers this job a one-year experiment, as it is a new position and the specifics are yet to be defined.  The meeting expressed a positive response and requested a Zoom interview with interested members/attenders prior to the July monthly meeting at which time we would make a decision.  Additional fund raising will be needed to support the position because that line item was removed from the budget; a suggested special plea would be in order. 

8.Communication Committee:  Thank you Liana Knight for becoming the interim Newsletter Editor.

            Martha Sheldon closed the meeting with quiet reflection; “go in peace; the Light in us is from the Light of the Spirit. 

            Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Secretary

Planning for an Active Prayer Group – June 18 at 8:30am

CALLING DURHAM PRAYER WARRIORS!

Conversations about an ongoing, active prayer group or practice have been happening for several months now, and it is time to act!  A meeting to discuss how we are to proceed will take place via Zoom and telephone on Thursday, June 18 at 8:30 am.  Please bring your experience, ideas and your spirit to help us launch another way for us to pray together.  

Praying has always been important to the Society of Friends and in the life of Friends in Durham Meeting.  Prayer chains, contemplative prayer groups, healing circles, for local and world needs are examples of our involvement in prayer.  Individual prayer and requests for special prayer from within the Society of Friends are ongoing ways we seek the Light.

Remember to join the meeting by Zoom on the Durham Meeting site, or by telephone.  We are looking forward to our time together. Information on how to connect is here.

Joyce Gibson

Join the Poor People’s Campaign Now and on June 20!

On June 20th, there will be the largest digital and social media gathering of poor and low-wealth people, moral and religious leaders, advocates, and people of conscience in this nation’s history. A global pandemic is exposing even more the already existing crisis of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. On June 20, the 140 million poor and low-income people across this nation will be heard!
 
Dear Friends,
 
Hope you are staying well during these challenging times. We are at a crucial moment in history when we could go back to “business as usual” with its racism, militarism, poverty and ecological devastation or we could use this as an opportunity to build a build a new society – with justice for all, peace with the rest of the world, and living in harmony with Mother Earth. A massive peoples movement is already underway and we all have an opportunity to join in this effort. 
I am very impressed with the Poor Peoples Campaign: a National Call for a Moral Revival (PPC).  Led by Co-Chairs Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the PPC has organized a people power movement in 45 states to challenge what Martin Luther King called the triple evils of racism, militarism and poverty (building on MLK’s last campaign, known as the Poor Peoples Campaign, in which I had the opportunity to be involved back in 1968).   You can join the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering  by tuning in live to June2020.org at 10am EST on Saturday June 20 – or join the rebroadcast at 3pm PST ( 6pm EST) the same day or at 6pm EST on Sunday, June 21.
 
More than 100 organizations will participate, along with 16 religious denominations, and national figures and celebrities including Al Gore, Danny Glover, Wanda Sykes, Debra Messing and Jane Fonda.  But the core of the program will be the words and experiences of poor and impacted people from across the country.
 
Please invite your friends, family and your networks to join us as well. See the list of  Demands and the Moral Budget of the Poor Peoples Campaign at their website:  poorpeoplescampaign.org.
 
Warm Greeting and Peace,
David Hartsough

WHATThe Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington will be the largest digital gathering of poor, dispossessed and impacted people, faith leaders, and people of conscience on June 20, 2020.The increasing urgency of a broad movement led by the poor and most impacted is more apparent every day. Now is the time to organize towards collective action to enact a moral agenda for the nation. As our ranks grow in the coming months due to COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis of poverty, building a platform for the plight, fight, and insight of the poor is even more urgent.We are marshaling our collective voices to demonstrate the power of our communities. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.
WHENThis 2 hour program will be broadcast live on Saturday June 20th at 10:00am EST and again at 6:00pm EST.  You can also listen in on Sunday, June 21st at 6:00pm EST.   Adjust all to your time zone.
WHERE The Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington is going digital! We will gather from all 50 U.S. states and territories, and from across the world.  Visit June2020.org to tune in.
WHY We are gathering on June 20, 2020 to dramatize the pain and prophetic leadership of the poor and build power to enact our demands.We are waking the nation to the interlocking injustices facing 140 million poor and low-income people, 43% of the nation.But it’s not enough just to be awake. It’s not the waking, it’s the rising. On June 20, 2020, we rise together!If the rejected millions—the poor without health insurance, without living wages, without clean water, without voting protections—unite, we can move the moral and political imagination of this country and revive the heart of our democracy!
WHO The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is made up of people of all backgrounds, we are Black, Brown, White, Native, and Asian; we are old and young; we are Christian, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim; we are people of faith and not of faith; we are people of all sexual orientations and gender identities; we are led by poor people and we are a cross-class movement; we are people of all abilities; and we live across this nation, from Alabama to Alaska, from Maine to California to Mississippi.
HOW We will gather online on June 20, 2020 from across the country and world.We will launch a robust accessibility campaign to ensure those of us most affected by poverty and its interlocking injustices are able to participate fully.To begin, go to www.june2020.org to let us know you will join us on June 20, 2020.Spread the word in your networks and social media.Get connected to your state’s coordinating committee. 
—David Hartsough, author of WAGING PEACE: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist,
PM press 2014. Available through Peaceworkers for $20 at 721 Shrader St., San Francisco, CA 94117. 
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: 
Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Our mailing address is:
Peaceworkers721 Shrader StreetSan Francisco, CA 94117

“Holy Silence and Worldly Silence,” By Doug Bennett

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, June 14, 2020

People of my generation (and I use that term very loosely to include many of us) may not know much of the Bible.  Unlike my parents I didn’t grow up memorizing Bible verses.  But most of us in my generation know the first eight verses of the third chapter of the 21st book in the Hebrew Testament.  That’s because some guy just took those lines (from the King James Version), set them to music, and recorded it as a song.  That was Pete Seeger; he recorded it in 1962.  When the Byrds released a version of it in 1965 as “Turn, Turn, Turn,” it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  And the song still has the distinction of being the song that reached #1 with the oldest lyrics.

Here are those first eight verses of the third chapter of the 21st book of the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes, a book that by legend, was written by King Solomon:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

It’s a song with a strong connection to an era of peace protests and civil rights demonstration, an era of insistence on doing right.  It was a call to peace and justice – and it still is. 

“A time to keep silence and a time to speak;” “a time of war and a time of peace.”  For many of us, the song came to mean that now, right now, was a time for peace and a time for speaking out.  More than a half century later, here we are again. 

How can that be?  Have we learned nothing? Have we achieved nothing?

For Quakers, for worshipping communities like us, silence is at the core of our spiritual practice.  We gather in silence for worship.  Sometimes we stay in silence for the whole of our worship time.  But this doesn’t seem like a time for silence; it seems like a time for speaking.  And more than that, it seems like a time for doing. 

I’ve been thinking that there are two kinds of silence, and they are quite different. 

One kind we might call holy silence.  We quiet ourselves to hear God.  We quiet ourselves to give attention to what God is asking of us. 

The other kind we might call worldly silence.  We’re silent because we’re lost or confused; we don’t know what to say.  We’re silent because we’re biting our tongues.  We know what to say but we aren’t strong enough or brave enough to say it. 

Worldly silence is a stay-on-the-sidelines kind of silence.  Holy silence is a getting-ready kind of silence, a getting ready to speak and a getting ready to act kind of silence. 

What is it we have to say?  It’s not good enough to say we’re against racial inequity; it’s not good enough to say we that Black Lives Matter.  We Quakers (not us, but those who came before us) were early to speak up for the abolition of slavery.  But we were largely unprepared for what would come after slavery.  We didn’t welcome African-Americans into Friends Meetings or into Quaker schools or colleges.  Fit for Freedom But Not for Friendship is the quite telling title of the book that Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye wrote about that.  We were silent, tongue-tied maybe, or worse. 

Many Quakers supported the civil rights advocacy of the 1960s that led to the civil rights act of 1964 and the voting rights act of 1965.  But in our lifetimes, we’ve seen those weren’t enough.  And worse, we’ve seen those steps forward rolled back, gutted.  We may not have wanted that roll-back, but we didn’t speak manage to speak out strongly enough to stop that rollback

401 years since the first people were brought to these shores in chains, enslaved; 244 years since we proclaimed all people created equal; 155 years since the end of Civil War and the end of state-authorized slavery.  We still have deep and persisting racial injustice in this country. 

We see police violence.  And nothing done about it.

We see persisting gaps in achievement in our schools.

We see school expulsions and suspensions disproportionately exercised against people of color.

We see the right to vote denied to African Americans.  Polling places closed.  Voter registrations cancelled.  Gerrymandering.  Voting machines sabotaged.

We see prisons disproportionately filled with people of color.

We see neighborhoods segregated by race. 

We see deep and persisting inequalities in employment.  In income.  In wealth.

In every conceivable way we see unjustified – unjustifiable – gaps between the life experience of people simply on the basis of race and color. 

We see worse health care and worse health outcomes for people of color.  COVID 19 is hitting people of color particularly hard.  I read recently that in the last decade 1200 scientific papers were published calling attention to racial disparities in health and medical care.  Noticing isn’t enough.  Talking about it isn’t enough. 

Here in Maine we can stand a little to one side of all this – the whitest state in the union (or is it Vermont?).  But is that anything that excuses our silence, really?

In every realm of life, we see injustice.  If we don’t see it, shame on us. If we don’t speak out about it, shame on us.  If we don’t try to make it right, shame on us.

Today, we are called to see that we make good on the promise of equality.  We are called to speak out – to insist that we truly be a country that accords liberty and justice to all,

There are political currents that are working on this:  movements, organizations, campaigns. Black Lives Matter, the Poor People’s Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, many others.  These all need our support and we should give support to them. 

We should also remember where we will find our bearings.  We’re not going to find our deepest bearings in politics alone, in movements or campaigns no matter how passionate or righteous the cause.  It’s not where we should look to find them.  We need to go deeper

To be at our best, our clearest, our most courageous, we find them here in worship. 

We will find them in the holy silence we share.  We will find our bearings in the holy silence in which we listen for God’s leadings.

We will learn again and anew:  that each and every human being is a child of God.  We will learn again and anew:  that each and every human being has the capacity to know God, to hear what God has to tell us, us humans, and to share that with others.  Those others include each and every human being, whatever their race, or religion, whatever their age or their occupation – teacher or student, protestor or policeman. 

We will learn again and anew that violence and domination won’t work.  They only prepare the way for more violence in the future.  We will learn again and anew that in listening carefully to God “we can be changed—even transformed.”  We will learn again and anew that in the holy silence, “We can come to live lives reflecting the Light and Love of God” and that this will give us the clarity and courage to transform the world.  Those words, that “we can be changed—even transformed” and “we can come to live lives reflecting the Light and Love of God” are right up front on the New England Yearly Meeting website about “what we believe.” 

“A time to keep silence and a time to speak;” “a time of war and a time of peace.”  Those are words from Ecclesiastes.  In this troubled time, we need to gather in silence to see where God would direct us, and we need to be prepared to speak and to act when we leave Meeting.  In this time of hate and or war, we must prepare the way for a time of peace and of love.  We need holy silence but not worldly silence. 

Cross-posted on Riverviewfriend.

Quakers Speak Out About Racial Injustice

June 2020, with updates

New England Yearly Meeting, A Time for Repentance and Transformation, June 5, 2020

The Outgoing Epistle of the 2020 Virtual Pre-Gathering of Friends of Color and their Families, June 28, 2020.

What Is Your Right Next Step? Liz Nicholson, Quaker Voluntary Service, June 3, 2020 with updates

Overcoming Obstacles, Message at DFM by Roland Gibson, February 2018

Transformation Towards Racial Justice, Message at DFM by Nancy Marsaller, October 2017

New England Yearly Meeting Minute on Racism, 2003

Friends Committee on National Legislation: Racism and Whiteness

AFSC Condemns Police Killing of George Floyd and Police Violence Against Protesters 

Friends General Conference: Learn Ways to Take Action Against Systematic Racism

Earlham Board of Trustees Statement Against Racism

Guilford President Jane K. Fernandes and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office Denouncing Racial Injustice and Violence

Swarthmore College President Valerie Smith on Uniting Against Racial Injustice

Haverford College President Wendy Raymond on Becoming Anti-Racist

Friends Schools Respond to the Events of May, 2020

Such a Time As This: A Response to Hate and Violence (NEYM, July 18, 2017)

Quakers, Racism and the Blessed Community (QuakerSpeak Video, 10/16/2014)

Children’s and Youth Sunday – Sunday June 7

Plans are being developed to celebrate Durham Friends’ Meeting children and youth on our traditional Children’s Day on the first Sunday of June (June 7).

We will be inviting families to come to the horse shed sometime before June 7 and while observing physical distance (if others are present) complete activities and choose some gifts including a plant or flower to plant June 7. Meeting for Worship via Zoom on June 7 will include content directed at our younger participants. Stay tuned for more information!

“Vulnerability, the Light, and a Personal Message,” by Sukie Rice

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, May 3, 2020

Message brought by Sukie Rice on May 3, 2020)

I have recently re-read (for the fourth time) a book called “And There Was Light.”  It is an autobiography by Jacques Lusseyran, a Frenchman born in 1924.  At the age of eight, Lusseyran had an accident that caused him to become totally blind.  Much like Helen Keller, his life was an inspiration to countless numbers of people as he made his blindness become his strongest asset.  Indeed, at age 17 he became the leader of a French resistance group that printed and distributed an underground newspaper, which he and schoolboy friends spread widely.  Within a few years the paper had a distribution of about 50,000, making it one of the most reliable sources of resistance news in the country. There was no book containing the hundreds of names and numbers of members of the group, but instead they were all kept in Lusseyran’s head. But that’s not why I’m telling you about him.

What I want to tell you about is his experience growing up without sight.  He says that from the earliest time after the accident, although he was unable to see the light of the world, much to his amazement, the light was still there.  In all its movement, shades, colors, as strong as it had been when he had had his sight.  When others said he would never see light again, what he discovered is that the Light is not in the in the outer world.  The Light dwells where life also dwells: within ourselves.

His second discovery was that this inner light was dependent on him and his soul condition. When he felt fear, sorrow, anger or envy the light decreased accordingly or became extinguished. It was when he was in a negative soul condition that he was truly blind.  The absence of love was what brought on the loss of the Light.

Needless to say, blindness became the catalyst for him to live a new way.  Each day a school chum would meet him at his door and walk him to school, looking forward to their new day.  Boys vied to give him their shoulder to hold onto as they ran down the roads and through the fields.  He didn’t miss out on play for a moment. He was an excellent student, highly respected for his ability to pay deep attention, his ability to sort out the “truth” from fiction, and his insight into the real intentions and character of others.  He says his blindness was his greatest gift as it gave him access to the real Light.

Now I’m going to shift gears, and talk a little about vulnerability.  Everyone has felt vulnerable at some time or another. People usually don’t like to feel vulnerable.  They often tend to walk away from situations that make them feel vulnerable, sometimes closing themselves off, protecting themselves, finding ways not to feel or show vulnerability.  After all, vulnerability is weakness, isn’t it?

Well, I’m going to say, “no.”  In fact, I believe feeling vulnerable is one of the most valuable things we can allow ourselves to feel.  Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to have our hearts be broken, is what can change our lives.  You can’t fall in love without risking getting hurt.  You can’t do most anything worthwhile in life without taking chances and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

But most of all, I think that it is when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable that we accept our “cracks” through which the Light can enter in. Clearly Jacques Lusseyran embraced his vulnerability and, instead of being angry or sorry for himself, he opened himself and discovered a whole world of Light and a way of seeing from the inner soul.  He treasured this gift he had been given.

Now I’m going to shift gears once again.  And talk about myself and my journey with cancer and of being vulnerable, very vulnerable, as facing one’s mortality makes one become.

Most of you know that I have been dealing with cancer for over 2 ½ years. Stage 3 ovarian cancer has a poor recovery rate, and from the beginning I knew my chances of “beating it” weren’t great.  But I also knew it was a challenge from God and I needed to accept it, to embrace it and to give it my best shot and to take advantage of this disease to change and grow.  I knew God had given it to me as a gift, to crack me open, to be vulnerable and to discover new things.

 It has actually been an incredible journey with so much spiritual seeking, inner growth, and an abundance of love and connection with others.  We ARE connected, deeply connected, although it’s easy for weeks and months to go by without our realizing how powerfully true this is.  Because of my vulnerability I have become intensely conscious of these connections, and because of that, more Love and Light has been coming through the cracks, often with great tenderness.

Now I wish to bring you “up to date” with where I am and what is happening with my cancer.  A month ago I shared with Friends about this during our after-meeting Zoom fellowship and they all said, “Please share this with the rest of the Meeting,” which is why I am doing so today.

Two months ago my CT scan showed the cancer was growing and had metastasized into my lung and pleural cavity.  It was brought there by the lymph, and once the lymph starts carrying cancer cells, it can keep spreading.  The doctor said I could either try one more chemo drug that might hinder the growth of the cancer.  Or I could begin on Hospice.  I chose the chemo.

I have now had two of these chemo treatments and tomorrow I am scheduled to go in for a third.  Unlike the other chemos I have had, this one seems to be especially toxic for my system, and the side effects have been very rugged.  It means I have a great deal of fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain or discomfort, and just plain feel crummy.  I have to sleep sitting up to avoid pain and nausea.  Of course there are pills I take to help reduce the intensity of these side effects, and they are certainly very helpful.  But every meal becomes a challenge.  Having my brain and motivation slow down to a crawl is frustrating. 

I do get some “good days” near the end of the 21-day cycle. This past Wednesday, Friday, yesterday were good days.   I’ve chosen today to bring this message because I knew it would be a good day.  But the number of good or partial good days are far outnumbered by the difficult days and, to be honest, I don’t know how many more of the treatments I can take.

This means, my friends, that I don’t know “what’s in store” for me next.  Except that I continue to be vulnerable and face my mortality.  What has been wonderful in all of this, however, are the conversations I have had with people.  Tender.  Loving.  Deep.  Often with a wave of tears that comes over us.  Always inviting the Light to enter and give us deeper spiritual connection.  People don’t talk about dying very often.  Knowing one is going to die is a very special privilege.  It is so different from the deaths of people from the coronavirus.  To me that is absolutely terrifying.  It isn’t “natural” like heart or lung disease, or cancer or all the other illnesses that take us.  Instead, it comes out of the blue, is fast and furious, and people are separated from loved ones in the most horrific way. Most people think about the numbers and the spread, and the protections and the political differences when they talk about the coronavirus.  I think about the suffering of those people who are dying and their family members. Unlike them, I have had time with my family and friends to slowly get prepared for my passing and to grieve in small ways so that when the time comes, I hope my passing will be a gentle release into the spiritual world rather than a sudden, terrible storm of grief.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, mostly because you are my Friends, my spiritual community and we share our spiritual challenges and insights.  I want you to know that I have a very, very deep faith … an absolute conviction of God — the Divine Presence, that is within and all around.  I believe that Christ is a part of that Divine Presence and Light.  I also believe in reincarnation and karma.  I believe that each of us has a Spirit that existed before we were born, lives within each of us as our essential self during our life, which will continue after our death.  It is because of this belief that I can be so accepting of the truth that I am dying.  It is God’s will whenever it happens.  I just want to be surrounded by Love and Prayers to help carry me into my next journey.

And so, I close with this: Let yourself be vulnerable.  Let the cracks happen.  Allow pain and the Light to come in.  Talk about death and dying.  Yes, it is a mystery, but don’t let it be a taboo subject.  Make it personal because some day it will become very personal. 

I express my gratitude to all of you who allow me to share my journey with you, to talk about my final months and days.  I love my husband Lee and my sons so dearly.  And my dear, dear friends.   I believe I will be with them from the other side and will be sharing with them the Light and Joy I experience with my new “eyes.” It will be a new birth.  Let me share it with all of you as well.   (Reference: And There Was Light, by Jacques Lusseyran (New World Library, Novato, CA)

“We Cried Power” About the Poor People’s Campaign to Air May 29 at 7pm and June 3 at 7pm

The Poor Peopler’s Campaign will be hosting two facilitated discussions of We Cried Powera documentary about the PPC. The first discussion will be Friday, May 29th at 7 and the second will be Wednesday, June 3rd at 7.The PPC is committed to the structural change of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the warped moral narrative that allows these problems to continue. If you are not familiar with the PPC, please visit https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/
These showings/discussions will be a lead-in to a huge virtual event the PPC will be holding on June 20th and we are looking for the support of Maine people of faith. June 20th will be the largest digital gathering of poor, dispossessed and impacted people, faith leaders, and people of conscience. 

More information about the Poor People’s Campaign follows:

What is the Poor People’s Campaign?

  • The PPC is committed to the structural change of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the warped moral narrative that allows these problems to continue.
  • Learn more about PPC principles and demands at: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/about/our-principles/

Are you looking for a way to get involved in the Poor People’s Campaign?

  • Register HERE  for our nationwide  June 20th,  virtual mass meeting!
  • Follow PPC Maine social media 
    •  Like Poor People’s Campaign Maine on Facebook!
      • Faith leaders are encouraged to join the “Maine PPC Faith Groups” Facebook group, where we will be posting more info on getting involved 
    • maineppcampaign on Instagram
    • @MainePPCampaign on Twitter
  • Join the Selfie Campaign!
    • Send a selfie video explaining why you signed up for June 20th to Hannah Smith-Erb, Maine PPC student fellow, at hsmith21@colby.edu. The video will be reposted on PPC social media.
    • Post the video on your personal social media. Use #PoorPeoplesCampaign and #PPCMainers. See examples on our social media.
  • Join us for a discussion of “We Cried Power”, a documentary about the PPC
    • View on your own with discussion on Friday, May 29th at 7 and Wednesday, June 3rd at 7
    • RSVP at hsmith21@colby.edu. Hannah will send you the link to the documentary and the zoom link for the discussion. 
  • To be added to our email list, please visit https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/ or email hsmith21@colby.edu 
  • Sign the petition

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, May 24, 2020

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened via zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, May 24, 2020, with 17 people present in their own homes.  Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, co-clerk, opened the meeting with a quote from New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice on corporate discernment.

1.The April minutes were approved.

2. Finance Committee:   Sarah Sprogell reported that the attached budget has a highlighted column reflecting the reduced expenses that were approved at last month’s business meeting.  Total income for the quarter was $16,338.07.

            We received $2000 in “end of year giving” from 2019, which made up for a reduction in weekly giving in March and will help in future months.  Our quarterly disbursement from NEYM pooled funds was received at its expected level of about $3500.  Overall we have met 26% of our projected annual income as of March 31st.

            Total expenses for the quarter were $9,881.49.  Most areas were under-budget as we hoped, with the exception of fuel oil.  Overall we have paid 16% of our projected annual expenses as of March 31st.  This figure is in keeping with our 30% reduction in expenditures, based on the expected impact of Covid19 restrictions.

             Treasurer, Katharine Hildebrandt, reported that expenses for April were $5035 and our income was $6200.

3. Peace and Social concerns Committee: Ingrid Chalufour reminded us to visit the meeting web site for information on upcoming events of the committee. 

4. Charity Account ad-hoc Committee:  Katharine Hildebrandt reported for the committee and presented proposed guidelines concerning the uses and criteria for the Charity Account:

            “The Charity account is to be administered, after careful consideration in each unique situation, for both Charitable Requests and Supported Ministry (Leadings) purposes.

            In terms of Supported Ministry (Leadings), coming from members and regular attenders, the request will be brought to a standing meeting committee first to prayerfully consider said request for funds. The meeting committee will then bring the request to monthly meeting, with the request added to an agenda that is distributed ahead of the monthly meeting.

            In considering proposals to support a ministry, we recommend the following criteria:

  • Alignment of the ministry with the faith and practice of Friends, including the testimonies. 
  • The character and integrity of the person or group seeking support.
  • The likely effectiveness (not just good intentions) of the effort.

In other words, does this ministry help to deepen and promote the life, not only of the individual or group, but the life of the whole meeting as well? 

            In terms of Charitable Requests, the request will be brought to a standing meeting committee first to prayerfully consider said request for funds. The meeting committee will then bring the request to monthly meeting, with the request added to an agenda, distributed ahead of the monthly meeting.

            In the case of emergencies, a request for financial assistance could be brought to the monthly meeting by a meeting committee, where it would be tended, weighed and prayerfully decided on by that monthly meeting. In this case the request would be communicated to the meeting community ahead of time.    

            The Charity Account, in general, would not be a source of funding for other Quaker organizations and causes such as FCNL, AFSC, QUNO, NEYM, Tedford Housing, or LACO, as these are included in the annual budget as contributions.

Requests for funds will generally be no greater than $1,000.00.”

              A thoughtful discussion ensued with suggestions for revisions; the result was that final approval of these guidelines will be made at the June monthly meeting.

5. Trustees:  Donna Hutchins sent a report which stated that they are looking into developing a green burial space at the Lund Road Cemetery.  Tess Hartford is currently painting the meeting worship room. Katharine Hildebrandt reported that Andy Higgins has been hired to do some grounds maintanence.

6. Christian Education Committee and Youth Minister: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that Storytimes are being held each Wednesday evening via Zoom.  Books read so far are: The Wolf’s Chicken Stew, Malala’s Magic Pencil, Moon watchers, and The Tree House.  A Plant Sale will be held June 5th through June 8.  Children and Youth Sunday will be June 7th when meeting for worship via zoom will include content directed at our younger participants.  The committee will sponsor the popular Faith Journey sharing on the second and fourth Sunday mornings, 9:30-10:15.

            Fridays from 5-6pm Wendy is on zoom with New England Yearly Meeting Young Friends during their weekly affinity group check-ins.

            Wendy will be clerking the Committee for this year.

7. Snap Re-Boot project: Although the Charity Fund guidelines are yet to be approved, we reconsidered the request for funds to support this project, which are still needed.  The meeting discussed donating the amount of $1000, with appreciation for the two committees that have recommended support of the project.

8.  We approved the amount of $1000 for the Snap Re-Boot project, with two members standing aside, noting their hesitation to approve the project at this time.

9. Carbon Footprint Ad Hoc Committee: Kim Bolshaw, Katharine Hildebrandt, and Ingrid Chalfour attended a web-based workshop focused on greening meetinghouses, sponsored by New England Yearly Meeting Finance Committee.  John Reuthe from Vassalboro Meeting made the presentation.  John suggested that we, as a meeting, discuss what we mean by greening our meetinghouse.  In the absence of an opportunity to have this discussion, the committee is working on the assumption that our goal is to lower use of carbon fuel.  John’s presentation has influenced our development of a three-phase plan for our meetinghouse regarding insulation, cold air from the basement, and window inserts for the winter.

10. Ministry and Counsel:  Martha Hinshaw reported that at their next meeting they will look at how to safely return to gathering in the meetinghouse.

            The meeting recently received the sad news that member Phyllis White Wetherell died on April 25, in Richmond, Indiana where she had retired at Friends Fellowship Retirement Home.  Ministry and Counsel is preparing a draft memorial minute to be approved in June.

            Martha Hinshaw closed the meeting with the admonition: Go in Peace! 

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Can You Gather With God Over Zoom?

The New York Times asks the question, and shows that Quakers can and do. Photographs and Text by Bianca Giaever. (May be subject to paywall.)

The subtitle: “Quakerism goes virtual, offering an intimate window into silent worship.” Durham Friends Meeting isn’t mentioned; the focus is on Meetings in Brooklyn, Middlebury (Vt.) and Portland (Maine).

Annual DFM Plant Sale, June 5 to June 8, 2020

Annual Plant Sale! Durham Friends Meeting will be holding a safe, self-serve (no contact) plant sale from Thursday June 4 through Monday, June 8 or until all plants are sold.

Please bring plants to the Meetinghouse horse shed by Wednesday June 4. 

We ask that donations include a tag with as many details as possible (see list below). Extra pots and tags are available in the horse shed. Ask Wendy for any help with tags! There will be clear signs and a locked cash box for cash or check donations. Members of CE may be inside the Meetinghouse to oversee the sale from the window. 

The proceeds will be used to support the Durham Young Friends Kakamega sponsee, Cornelius.,

  1. Name of plant
  2. Sun or shade requirements
  3. Annual or perennial
  4. Height
  5. Color of blooms
  6. Any special instructions
  7. Suggested donation amount

“Faith, Understanding and God’s Availability,” by Brown Lethem

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, April 19, 2020

Good Morning Friends,      

In Brooklyn Meeting where I attended for many years, we had a young man who quite often fell asleep in meeting for worship. which was one thing, but being stout, he also snored rather heavily.  As you can imagine, Friends felt some consternation.   

Those worshiping near him questioned, should we wake him with a gentle poke in the ribs, or should we incorporate the snores into our worship as we did the more gentle noises of the children, the coughs and the ticking of the clock.    Since his Faith brought him regularly to worship and into his profound experience of silence, perhaps our faith, that God might speak to him in dreams, would happen, as it often did with the prophets of the Old Testament.

Today in the visual world and with the mute button, we are not faced with that dilemma!

As in my previous messages I am most comfortable speaking out of my personal journey. It was George Fox who cautioned, Speak from experience.  I have spoken in meeting when moved, but briefly, I have never preached. My way in life, has been as artist, carpenter, art teacher… so what I have to say, is simply, personal testimony. And, if I ramble, forgive me. I hope it will come together.

These past weeks have been solitary.  After the first week of this enforced retreat, this Query came to me: God and Nature in Her silent knowing, have plunged us into the mystery of life … and death. Can we decipher it?   Is it leading us towards desired goals of ending wars, healing our environment and right sharing of the world’s resources?  And how might I be a part of that consciousness change? Wow! some query.

Faith must come before understanding.  This piece of meditational wisdom has gotten my attention more than once, most recently, I believe in Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.  The quote immediately rang a bell for me since at age 30 I had experienced a revelatory vision that put to rest the question of God’s presence in my life. That brief epiphany, an experience of pure faith, based on grace, and, in time of desperate need, was indelible.  At that moment GOD was the only reality.                       

That awareness stayed within me, as a lodestone but in seed form.  My active life of work and marriage … and kids took precedence.

 Despite my Christian upbringing, my resistance to the miraculous aspects of the New Testament Gospel persisted.  My university education and low-keyed protestant experience prepared me for the Prophet of Love, not the God incarnate. My intellect and understanding kept getting in the way of the extension of my Faith, however it did bring me to Quakers.

When I became a Friend, I embraced the mystery of God’s presence in all persons.  Something I had intuited often… Also, I embraced the truth of ongoing revelation. In both my life and in the world at large.

Larry Floyd was an older Quaker in Brooklyn Monthly Meeting who hired me to do some carpentry work on his house in the mid 80’s.  On a break one day we talked about our faith and my lack of understanding of the mysteries surrounding Christ.   At one point he said casually, you might think about the Christ Within.  Despite my long struggle after that with the misuse of Christ or Christianity in fundamentalist religion, he had planted a slow growing seed.  I have grown to accept that idea. It refused to abandon me. If as I believed as a Quaker, “There was that of God in every person, that could mean that in each of us there is a transubstantiated seed of Christ, That “still small voice,” “The Christ Within,” a beautiful and inspiring metaphor.

The human body and mind, in all its complexity is truly a miracle.  Craig made that point so well last week! The birth of my three children remains a miraculous experience.

AND … Though questions remain, the seed expands, as my own limitations become clear.  New levels of transformation surface.  We are a work in process.  The seed becomes a bridge.  Along that life bridge the seed of Christ’s essential role in my acceptance of God’s will emerges.  I believe God awaits our acceptance and resolution of the material world with the Spiritual world of God.  That process illuminating and incorporating our lives into the body of God must proceed in stages. The first stage available to human understanding is opening to the seed, The Christ Within.                     

Is this not the beautiful message of Jesus in the New Testament?

                        The journey of the seed,

                                    The seed within the Light of On-Going Revelation        

                         journeys to Union with God,

                                    Through The Christ WithIn. 

When I joined Durham Meeting, Sukie gave me a large print copy of the New Testament. I see that as symbolic of a new acceptance of love and opening to community, embodied in this Meeting.

“What Does It Mean to Be Alive?” by Doug Bennett

Excerpt from a message given at Durham Friends Meeting, May 10, 2020

…….It turns out we aren’t so different from the virus.  It can’t exist by itself/on its own.  But neither can we. 

This is one lesson we’ve all been learning as we have been shut up in our homes, distancing ourselves from one another: that we need one another.  But it’s more than that: we need each other in a relationship of love that connects us with God because that is what gives us life.  The Gospel of John expresses this in a powerful metaphor:  Jesus says:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. …

But there is another lesson, harder, but at least as important about ‘being alive.’  In this time of virus, in this time of dying, it is easy to fall into thinking that ‘all living things are good.’ What lives is all part of God’s glory, all to be nurtured, all to be celebrated, all to be saved.  It’s easy to think that — especially easy as spring blooms around us. 

As we gather here separated from one another, however, we know this is not so.  There are bits of creation that are not so good, and this virus is one of them.  The cancers that afflict too many of us: they are another.  Murder wasps: we’ve just started hearing about them.  Black flies.  Typhus and typhoid and smallpox.  I mean all these things, but there’s more. 

There are also bits of ourselves that live all too commonly within us, things that are not good:  selfishness, pride, envy, greed, wrath – things like that.  These things become a part of us all too easily, and they are things that should not live within us.  We might think of them as like a virus.  They live within us, become a part of us, even take over our lives.  They infect us. 

They are little bits of us – within us – that should not be living. 

Jesus asks us to let these things die within us so that we can live a new and transformed life.  Some of the hardest parts of the New Testament are about this. 

Says Paul in Colossians:  Therefore put to death the parts of your earthly nature.   In his letters to the Romans, Paul says:  13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

And in Ephesians, Paul reminds us:  22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Can we think of these things, our “deceitful desires” that too easily become a part of us, as like a virus, having life only because they latch onto us and work their own purposes?  Can we think of these things as parts of us that must die so we can truly live?  Can we think of them as infections – even infections we carelessly pass from one to another?  If we can, we know the cure:  to love one another in the vine.  

Can we find ourselves a new life by ridding ourselves of these, by loving one another?  This is the transformed life to which we are called.

The entire message can be found on Riverview Friend.

Durham Friends Storytime, Wednesdays at 6:45 pm

Beginning this Wednesday, April 28, at 6:45 pm, Durham Friends will be hosting a virtual story time especially for the children and youth in our Meeting community. Listen to the story and then linger if you wish for a few minutes of wondering and sharing. Feel free to log-in as early as 6:30 to greet others.

Wear pajamas if you want and bring your favorite stuffed animal to show off. This week, viewers will meet Wendy’s favorite stuffed rabbit from her childhood!

The zoom login is below- it is the same one used for Meeting for Worship and other meetings at our beloved Durham Friends community. To provide a secure experience, you can share the opportunity with trusted friends. However others more distant who want to join- please send them my e-mail Wendy.schlotterbeck@gmail.com for log in information. 

Questions? Call Wendy at 777-1980 or text her cell phone at 513-9187. (My cell phone does not get good reception at my house for talking or voicemail but texts eventually come through!)

Durham Friends is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Durham Friends StorytimeTime: Apr 29, 2020 6:45 PM Eastern Time

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2814426094
Meeting ID: 281 442 6094;

One tap mobile+19292056099,,2814426094#,,1#,1775# US (New York)

“Gathering,” by Noah Merrill

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, April 26, 2020

Since I was a child, I’ve heard that there’s no such thing as a solitary Quaker. You could say that we are a people defined by gathering.

When you think about it, gathering feels so essential to who we are that a collection of Quakers—really of any size—is called a “meeting.” Even more than other churches or spiritual communities I know, gathering in various forms shapes our common life. The calendars of Friends across New England are filled with “meetings”—meetings for worship, monthly meetings, quarterly meetings, any number of other meetings. One of our most beloved origin stories speaks about George Fox’s vision, on Pendle Hill in England, of a “great people to be gathered.” Gathering, it seems, is in our DNA as a People.    

And yet, here we are. Click here for the rest of the message.

These are the opening words of the message that Noah Merrill, General Secretary of New England Yearly Meeting, brought to Durham Friends on April 26, 2020 — brought via Zoom. Three dozen or so Friends heard this message in their homes as Noah spoke from his home many miles away. Follow the link to the NEYM website for the rest of his message.

Memorial in Solitude — Remembering Phyllis Wetherell

Memorial in Solitude — From Derek Parker, Pastor, First Friends Meeting, Richmond, Indiana — April 26, 2020

            Saturday night Nancy Tyndall phoned me, to let me know that Phyllis Wetherell had died.  Phyllis died in hospice care at Reid Hospital, from non-Covid causes.
            As of the morning of Sunday, April 26 about 54,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus.  Other people like Phyllis also die of non-Covid causes.  If you are reading this you may only be one or two degrees removed from somebody who has died from coronavirus, or from other causes.  With social distancing, funerals will likely be limited to small groups of 5-10 people, outdoors, and graveside.  It can hurt to be apart when we need our family and friends; and when we need an opportunity to say goodbye.
            Many of us say, “I will pray for you.”  And I have no doubt that we do that.  But most Protestants get little instruction about how to do this.  It is easier to follow through on our prayers, when we have a plan.
            So today I got out the prayer-books in my office to make a plan for how to pray for Phyllis, and for others whose memorials I may not be able to attend.  I recommend finding a quiet place to make your plan, and then carry it out.

O Thou kind Lord!  Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock.  Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household.  In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all humankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; and all are illuminated through the light of Thy Providence. – Amen           

After that first prayer I’m going to take a silent moment to think about Phyllis.  I’ve known her for a long time.  She was finishing her employment at ESR when I was a prospective student over 20 years ago.  As a student at ESR we had a picnic table dedicated in celebration of her years of service.

            She was a member of West Richmond Friends Meeting, but I reconnected with Phyllis through the Thursday First Friends Book Group that met at Friends Fellowship.  Her thinking about the books was sharp, and her humor was bright.  I can still picture her sitting in her chair at Book Group.  Her sudden departure from this world is a bit of a shock.

            At some point I will need to end my silence.  And close with another prayer.

O Lord, support us all the days of this life, until the shadows lengthen, the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then in Your mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last.  AMEN

I plan to pray this way.  I would even appreciate somebody else praying for me this way, after my life comes to an end.  I suggest that you make a plan for how to pray in memory of others who have died.  You don’t need to use the same prayers I used.  You could substitute the Lord’s Prayer, or Psalm 23, or Psalm 24, or a more spontaneous prayer.  In the face of terrible news in a time of solitude, respond with faith and prayer.

            May God give us strength in times of sorrow, whenever those times come.  And wherever we are, may we be inspired to pray with those who mourn.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, April 19, 2020

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened via Zoom (electronically) for the conduct of business on Sunday, April 19, 2020 with approximately 19 people present in their own homes, due to the pandemic coronavirus crisis.  Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, co-clerk, opened the meeting reminding us that the meeting is located on Wabanaki land; and that people are the church, and not the building.

1. The February and March minutes were approved.

2. Ministry and Counsel:  Martha Sheldon reported for the committee:

            The State of Society Report (attached) was read with appreciation to Douglas Bennett who drafted the report.

            Memorial Minutes for Clarabel Marstaller and Eileen Babcock were presented.  All expressed gratitude for their long lives of service in the Society of Friends and Durham Friends Meeting. These minutes are attached.

            Ministry and Counsel discussed end of life issues, political expressions in meeting, and pastoral care concerns.  Please inform Ministry and Counsel of those in need. 

            The meeting learned with sadness that member Edith (Edie) Lamb Whitehead died April 18, 2020. 

3. We approved the State of Society Report which will be reported to Falmouth Quarterly Meeting.

4. We approved Memorial Minutes for Clarabel Hadley Marstaller and Eileen Babcock.

5.   Peace and Social Concerns: Ingrid Chalufour reported that the committee was asked to review and bring forward a recommendation made in February for funds to support the SNAP ReBoot project.  It was sent to Peace and Social Concerns because requests for Charity Fund Account money is best to come from a standing committee.   Peace and Social Concerns Committee researched additional information about this project and, being fully satisfied with Theresa Oleksiw’s answers and having received a letter of strong support from the Maine Equal Justice Project for the project, they recommend that the meeting support the project to the level of $3000.  The full committee report is attached. 

             We then revisited the February 2020 monthly meeting decision to use the Charity Fund for this project.  A lengthly discussion ensued, with a number of options how we might proceed.  One option was to proceed with assistance to the project but at a level of $1000.   We will revisit this option at the May monthly meeting to give the meeting time to season the decision.  If anyone wishes to contribute to the Project at this time, they are encouraged to send donations to the Durham treasurer who will send them on directly to Theresa.  Notice of this will appear in the Newsletter.  

6.  We approved the following persons to serve as an ad-hoc committee for reviewing guidelines for the Charity Account:  Joyce Gibson, Tess Hartford, Katharine Hildebrandt and Brown Letham. 

            The Peace and Social Concerns Committee urges us to visit their posts on the Durham Friends Meeting web site.

7. Christian Education:  Wendy Schlotterbeck reported for the committee. CE met on March 1 and discussed the the Annual Plant and Yard Sale, tentatively set for May 23, Children’s Day, usually the first Sunday in June (June 7), and the Annual Family Campout June 13-14 or June 20-21.  The committee will re-evaluate whether/how these events might happen because of the stay at home order.   Easter was none the less celebrated: Wendy ordered chocolate Easter bunnies and gummy carrots from a local candy shop and had them sent to 7 Durham families with children. In addition, Amy Kustra drew a coloring page of Durham Meeting house and “hid” Easter eggs in the picture for the kids to color. Wendy created blank stamped and addressed postcards for the kids to color and send to a Durham friend. The postcards and coloring pages were sent to the Durham children along with a letter from Wendy.

We have a need for substitute Sunday School teachers for the Godly Play and youth classes; if anyone would be willing to help out if a teacher is sick or unable to teach on a particular Sunday, please see Wendy Schlotterbeck.

Ashley Marstaller informed us that due to staffing changes at her work, she can no longer be the Childcare worker on Sunday mornings. We are looking for a replacement. In the meantime Amy Kustra volunteered to be present from 10:15-12:15 on 2nd, 4th and 5th Sundays to take care of children until we find a replacement.

Wendy has met 3 times with Durham youth over Zoom to check in during March/April, and checked in with families by phone, text and/or e-mail.  She has met via zoom at the weekly NEYM leadership meetings, and will continue to join the calls,

and staffed the Young Friends virtual retreat held Friday-Saturday April 17-18. Twenty-three youth attended and seemed especially grateful for the chance to be together with other NEYM youth and adults.

8. Finance:  Sarah Sprogell reported for the committee which outlined major sources of income which stand to decrease, and the committee recommended steps to reduce the meeting expenses.  A full report with recommendations is attached. 

9. We approved an adjusted budget, and accepted with gratitude the Finance Committee report.

10 Trustees: Katharine Hildebrandt and Donna Hutchins reported that C & Z Plumbing installed a new water heater and a new toilet at the Parsonage. Plumbers checked the building and no other issues were noted.  The electrician installed a new breaker for the new hot water heater and the bathroom outlets. He inspected wiring and said there are no issues and the building is up to code. Dan Henton installed a new lock and door knob on front door. These repairs thus far have cost $ 2731.29.

Meetinghouse repairs::The electrician installed a new outside security LED light at the Meetinghouse, and put in a new pull switch over the piano. C & Z Plumbing installed new faucets and cleaned up and replaced old plumbing under the five sinks. A water test has been done and a system was recommended to address mineral issues. The water is safe to drink. A backwash filter system has been installed in the basement and all other existing, outdated and/or malfunctioning filter systems were removed. Trustees recommend that Tess Hartford continue her painting in the meetinghouse. These repairs thus far have cost $ 4150.00.

The cell phone tower has recently been approved by the town. The company, Northern Pride, is ready to install the tower.

The balance of the Capital Account is now $24,311.80 which includes the Efficiency Maine rebate for the new water heater in the parsonage.  This is a corrected balance which was reported as $41,765 in the Newsletter.  A complete report is attached. 

Trustees would like to recommend that Craig Freshley be added to Trustees.

11.  We approved the addition of Craig Freshley to Trustees.

12.  We approved that Tess Hartford perform painting tasks in the meetinghouse

13.  Martha Sheldon reminded us that Falmouth Quarterly Meeting will be held this Saturday, April 25, via Zoom. Representatives are Martha Sheldon and Sarah Sprogell.

14.  .Sarah Sprogell presented the 2019 Statistical Report which is attached.  Sarah reported that we have 106 members, with 44 active.  We had two new members and 2 deaths for 2019.

15.  Sarah Sprogell, auditor, presented the 2016-2017 audit for Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends.  This report was accepted with appreciation.

16.  With regret, the United Society of Friends Women International and Friends United Meeting triennials have been canceled for this summer.  Funds donated to our representatives for travel and participation will be refunded to the meeting.

            Our monthly meeting lasted longer than usual with much discussion about various matters, so we departed without much ado; we bade each one farewell until the next time!   Walk in the Light.

 Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Message from Pastor Yadira of Velasco Friends Meeting, April 12, 2020

[Velasco Friends Meeting is our Sister Meeting in Cuba]

Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) Commemorates the resurrection of Jesus.

Luke 24: 1-7; Matthew 28: 1-10; Mark 16: 1-8; John 20: 1-10). Mark-16: 1-8 He is risen!

One thing is certain: If Jesus had not risen, we would never have heard anything about Him. The attitude of the women was that they had come to offer the last tribute to a dead body. The attitude of the disciples was that everything had ended in tragedy.

By far the best proof of the Resurrection is the existence of the Christian Church. Nothing else could have changed those sad and desperate men and women into people radiant with joy and inflamed with courage. The Resurrection is the central fact of the entire Christian faith. Because we believe in the Resurrection, certain things are followed.

1- Jesus is not the character of a book, but a living Presence. It is not enough to study the history of Jesus as we would study the life of a great historical figure. We may start from that, but we must go to meet Him and this encounter leads to transformation, change, witness to a new life.

2- Jesus is not a memory, but a Presence. The dearest memories fade away. The Greeks had an expression to describe time, which means time that erases everything. Long ago, time would have erased the memory of Jesus if it were not for the fact that He has remained a living Presence with us forever. Jesus is not someone we argue with, but someone we meet.

3- The Christian life is not the life of a person who knows about Jesus, but the life of a person who knows Jesus. There is an insurmountable difference in the world between knowing something about a person, and knowing a person. Almost everyone knows something about the President of Cuba or the President of the United States; but not so many know them. The greatest scholar in the world who knew everything there is to know about the Jesus of History is less than the humblest Christian, who knows Him.

4- The Christian faith has an endless quality. It must never stand still. Because our Lord is a living Lord there are new wonders and new truths waiting all the time for us to discover them. But the most precious thing about the passage (in Mark) is  in two words that do not appear in any other gospel. “Go,” said the messenger, “tell His disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee- there you will see him, as he told you.” How Peter’s heart must have been moved by that message when he received it! He must have been tortured with the memory of his disloyalty, and suddenly a special message arrives for him. It is characteristic of Jesus to think, not of the evil that Peter had done to him, but of the remorse that was besieging him. Jesus was far more interested in comforting the penitent sinner than in punishing his sin. As someone has said: The most precious thing about Jesus is that he confirms his confidence in the same terrain in which we have suffered defeat.

Thanks to Nancy Marstaller for forwarding this.

Domingo de Pascua o de Resurrección: Conmemora la resurrección de Jesús (Lucas 24:1-7; Mateo 28: 1-10; Marcos 16: 1-8; Juan 20:1-10). 

Marcos-16:1-8-! Ha-Resucitado

Una cosa es segura: Si Jesús no hubiera resucitado, nosotros nunca habríamos oído nada acerca de Él. La actitud de las mujeres era que habían ido a ofrecer el último tributo a un cuerpo muerto. La actitud de los discípulos era que todo había acabado en tragedia.

Con mucho la mejor prueba de la Resurrección es la existencia de la Iglesia Cristiana. Ninguna otra cosa podría haber cambiado a aquellos hombres y mujeres tristes y desesperados en personas radiantes de gozo e inflamadas de coraje. La Resurrección es el hecho central de toda la fe cristiana. Porque creemos en la Resurrección se siguen ciertas cosas.

1- Jesús no es el personaje de un libro, sino una Presencia viva. No basta con estudiar la historia de Jesús como estudiaríamos la vida de una gran figura histórica. Puede que empecemos por eso, pero debemos pasar a encontrarnos con El y este encuentro lleva a transformación, cambio, testimonio de una nueva vida

2- Jesús no es un recuerdo, sino una Presencia. Las memorias más queridas se desvanecen. Los griegos tenían una expresión para describir el tiempo, que quiere decir el tiempo que borra todas las cosas. Hace mucho que el tiempo habría borrado el recuerdo de Jesús si no fuera porque Él ha seguido siendo una Presencia viva con nosotros para siempre. Jesús no es alguien de quien discutimos, sino Alguien con Quien nos encontramos.

3– La vida cristiana no es la vida de una persona que sabe de Jesús, sino la vida de una persona que conoce a Jesús. Hay una diferencia insalvable en el mundo entre saber algo acerca de una persona, y conocer a una persona. Casi todo el mundo sabe algo del presidente de Cuba o del Presidente de los Estados Unidos; pero no tantos los conocen. El más grande erudito del mundo que supiera todo lo que se puede saber acerca del Jesús de la Historia es menos que el cristiano más humilde, que Le conoce.

4- La fe cristiana tiene una cualidad interminable. No debe quedarse nunca parada. Porque nuestro Señor es un Señor vivo hay nuevas maravillas y nuevas verdades esperando todo el tiempo a que las descubramos. Pero lo más precioso de este pasaje está en dos palabras que no aparecen en ningún otro evangelio.  Id -dijo el mensajero, decid a Sus discípulos y a Pedro. ¡Cómo tiene que haber emocionado el corazón de Pedro ese mensaje cuando lo recibió! Debe-de haber estado torturado con el recuerdo de su deslealtad, y de pronto llega un mensaje especial para él. Es característico de Jesús el pensar, no en el mal que Pedro Le había hecho, sino en el remordimiento que le estaba asediando. Jesús tenía mucho más interés en confortar al pecador penitente que en castigar su pecado. Como ha dicho alguien: Lo más precioso de Jesús es que nos confirma Su confianza en el mismo terreno en que hemos sufrido una derrota.

Durham Friends Guidelines for Zoom Meeting for Worship

April 9, 2020

We’re so glad you are willing to participate in our Zoom Meeting for Worship. While less-than-ideal, we find this a helpful way to gather in spite of our need to keep our distance. We try to make our Zoom Meeting reverent and as similar as possible to the meetings in our Meetinghouse. Note: you will need a password and we’ve sent this out via e-mail. If you don’t have it, please ask another member of the meeting.

To join you will need the following information:

  • Meeting Link        https://zoom.us/j/2814426094
  • Phone number     301-715-8592
  • Meeting ID           281-442-6094
  • Password            Ask a Friend if you don’t have it or send e-mail to dougb@earlham.edu

To Join by screen:

  • Click on the meeting link
  • Allow the page to open zoom.us.app
  • Enter the Durham Friends Zoom Meeting password (ask a Friend if you don’t have it)
  • You will be put on hold until you are admitted by the Host

If you have trouble trying to join by screen

  • If you receive a prompt that says “This Meeting is Authorized for Attendees only” it means you have a Zoom account but are not logged into it. Click “Sign in to join”
    • Enter your email address and the password associated with your Zoom account
    • Enter the Durham Friends Zoom Meeting password (ask a Friend if you don’t have it)
  • If you receive a prompt that says “When prompted, select Open with and then OK,” click OK or Download here.
    • Work through a series of prompts to install software. You may need to provide your computer username and password (the username and password used to access administrative features on your computer).
    • After installing software automatically, if the Zoom Meeting doesn’t automatically launch, find where the software is installed on your computer and double click it to launch (On a Mac use Finder to find it in Downloads or in Applications. On a PC use Explorer to find it in Downloads or Programs)

To Join by Phone:

  • Dial 301-715-8592
  • When prompted enter the meeting ID 281-442-6094 followed by #
  • When asked for the Participant ID, enter #
  • Enter the Password when asked (ask a Friend if you don’t have it)

Timing:

Join the Meeting anytime after 10:15am on any Sunday. Like entering our Meeting Room in Durham, this is quiet time unless absolutely necessary to speak up because you are having some sort of technical difficulty. The Meeting will formally begin around 10:30, opened by the Meeting Leader. The Meeting will typically end around 11:30 followed by informal and un-moderated fellowship time for catching up with each other.

Your name as it appears to others:

Please write your first and last name when joining. To change how your name appears after the meeting has started, open the Participant list by clicking the participant icon at the bottom of the scree, find yourself on the list and mouse over your name, click more, click rename.

To Unmute:

All are muted upon entering the meeting. To unmute if participating by screen, press the space bar on your keyboard or unmute yourself by clicking the microphone icon in the bottom left of your screen. To unmute if participating by phone, press *6 to unmute or mute.

To Raise Your Hand:

By screen, raise your hand as usual. Make sure your Video is unmuted.

By phone, press *9.

There are times when raising a hand is not necessary to speak. Use your judgment. If people are waiting to be called on, it is the Meeting Leader who calls on people.

Chat:

By clicking the Chat icon at the bottom of your screen you can send written messages to the whole meeting or to specific people. Phone participants don’t have access to these chat messages. If you want something to be conveyed to the whole meeting, raise your hand and say it out loud.

Hymns:

When it’s time for a hymn someone will play it on piano for all to hear. Words will be provided in advance or on the screen. You are encouraged to sing along but only if you are on mute. It doesn’t work well for anyone to be singing unmuted because it overrides the piano. If you are singing unmuted, the Host might mute you.

Roles:

Meeting Leader (also know as Care of Worship)

  • Opens and closes the meeting
  • Says when we’re doing what
  • Handles announcements and calling on people as needed

Host (also known as Zoom Support):

  • Serves as Zoom Host
  • Let’s people enter the Meeting
  • Handles muting and unmuting people as needed
  • Activates and de-activates break-out rooms as needed (such as children having a meeting in another “room”)
  • Shares and un-shares words to hymns at appropriate times (someone needs to share a words-to-hymns document with the Host in advance).

Uneasy about Zoom?

Before joining our Zoom Meeting you can do a test Zoom Meeting here: https://tinyurl.com/y3p2v4db. Also at this website are answers to many questions about Zoom. If you have additional questions or troubles, please contact Craig@Freshley.com.

“What If the Virus Is Medicine?” by Craig Freshley

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 22, 2020

Go here for an audio version and a song. Read on for a written version.

Well, I had a different message planned. It was gonna be really great, by the way. It has stories and quotes. I was even gonna play a song for you at the end. The message came to me a month ago. I called Martha and said, “I got one for ya!”

That was a month ago. That message was not about coronavirus.

I tried to hang onto that message. I told myself, “Well that’s okay. I’ll start this morning by telling everyone that this message is not about coronavirus. I’m gonna give you all a break and take you to a different place.”

But a new message has come to me. It’s about coronavirus. This is the place where we are.

As I struggled with, you know, what message to give – still hanging onto the old – I realized that the things I have to say about coronavirus are things that might be hard to say or even impossible to say a few weeks from now. The time is now.

As Quakers we’re supposed to be open, and proceed as way opens. I’m trying to do that.

And I am going to tack on a little song at the end. I love singing in this place and I think you might like it. Okay ready? I hope so. Let’s hold on.

What if the virus is medicine? What if the virus helps and heals, rather than hurts and harms.

Imagine a little chat between the Mistress of the Universe and the Master of the Universe. Reading the morning paper back in November 2019.

You know? Earth is in trouble?

I know! Those people are going to burn the place up?

Think we should do something?

I don’t know, maybe?

Like what? What would we do?

I don’t know. Something, something that slows them down for gods sake.

Right, and maybe…maybe it should start small and slow and give them plenty of time to adapt.

Right yeah, but it needs to be something that has real impact. You know, give nature a serious break.

Oh yeah, totally. We should do something.

Hmm. Want to try the old plant a microbe trick? We could start with just one microbe in one person.

That might work.

Well you do it this time.

No you do it.

No you.

Okay, okay maybe I can get to it next week. Right, well this will be interesting.

Pass the toast.

This is a provocative conversation, I know. The idea that God is intervening to save the earth. The idea that God is intentionally curtailing a specific species to save the earth.

I’m simply offering a different point of view. Looking at this from a different perspective. My little “Mr. and Mrs. Universe” conversation; I don’t mean to make light of this crisis. It is going to get bad. This is going to have real implications for real people. People are going to get sick and people are going to die. And when that starts happening it would have been way harder to bring this message. It is easier to talk at a high level before stuff gets real on the ground.

So let’s talk. What if the virus is medicine?

Some good things are happening. I heard that in the Wuhan Province, where the virus started, people are seeing blue skies for the first time. Some people there have never seen blue skies in their whole lifetime. People are hearing songbirds for the first time. For some people, the first time hearing a bird in their whole lifetime.

The great global industrial machine that scoops up natural resources and spits out pollution is being slowed down. Grinding to a halt in some places. Nature is being given a chance to recover, to heal.

When I look out the window of my house, I see  people out walking more than ever before. I bet that we are all seeing that. Carol and I have noticed a fox hunting in the field. We have time to notice. It is kind of fun, the fox tends to show up about 6 o’clock every night. We’ve gotten to calling it Fox News! It’s way better than the other Fox News.

Fishing season usually opens April first, but have you heard that our governor changed the rule? She’s encouraging us to go fishing now. Do what Mainers do and get out on the water.

I saw two photographs on Facebook, side by side, maybe you have seen this too? The parking lot at Wolfe’s Neck State Park in Freeport: full. The parking lot at L.L.Bean in Freeport: empty.

Isn’t this the world that some of us have been hoping for?

I’m simply offering another way to look at it. Another perspective. In my work, and running Make Shift Coffee Houses- you know I have learned that there is always another perspective. Always another valid perspective. You could say that is it just a matter of perspective.

And a matter of values. It’s really a classic dichotomy, one of the great yin yangs of our existence: “me first” or “we first?” Do I want to help me? (Hoard toilet paper) Or do I want to help my community? (Give toilet paper.) Do I want to help my business? Or do I want to help the economy for everyone?

These questions go on. Do I want my race to thrive? Or do I want my species to thrive? How big is the perspective? When we ask that question, “me first” or “we first”, how big is the me? How big is the we? Do I want my species to thrive, or do I want the world ecosystem, mother earth to thrive?

These are not simple choices, and it’s never just one thing or the other. And, I change my answers depending on a situation, depending on what answers I find within. Sometimes, I’m all about “me first”. Sometimes I’m all about my neighborhood first, my people first. Sometimes I’m all about “we first;” I’m all about my community, my earth community.

I’m not bringing you an answer. I’m bringing you a question: What if the virus is medicine? This is our Quaker tradition, to bring questions and encourage you to look within for the answers. Honestly, I was afraid to bring you this question. So many of us are dealing with so many hard questions right now. And here’s another one! My thinking is, that if you and I can get even a smidge of clarity on this question, it might help with some other questions.

As Quakers we try to be always open to other views, always open to questions, and are led to proceed as way opens.