We Gather on Land That Is a Homeland for the Wabenaki

Durham Friends Meeting sits on land that is a homeland for the Wabenaki for centuries. Nearly all of us who regularly worship at Durham Friends live and work and play in this Wabenaki homeland.

We are in the homeland of the Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn. We extend our respect and gratitude to the many Indigenous people and their ancestors whose rich histories and vibrant communities include the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations and all of the Native communities who have lived here for thousands of generations in what is known today as Maine, New England, and the Canadian Maritimes. We make this acknowledgement aware of continual violations of water, territorial rights, and sacred sites in the Wabanaki homeland. [from the Abbe Museum website]

At its 2020 Annual Session, New England Yearly Meeting brought forward a draft Apology to Native Americans, to be considered at the 2021 Annual Session.

Below are some resources for better understanding of the Wabenaki people.

Resources at the Abbe Museum Educator Hub

The 2020 Annual Meeting of the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust featured presentations by Joseph Hall (a Bates College professor) and Kerry Hall (author of Notes on a Lost Flute).

Films:

  • Dawnland
  • Blood Memory
  • Penobscot: Contested River

Books:

  • Bruce Bourque, Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine
  • Lisa Brooks, Our Beloved Kin and The Common Pot
  • Kerry Hall, Notes on a Lost Flute
  • Jeanne Morningstar Kent, The Visual Language of Wabanaki Art
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
  • Barry Lopez, The Rediscovery of North America
  • Henry Lorne Masta, Abenaki Indian Legends, Grammar and Place Names
  • Alice Mead, Giants of The Dawnland: Ancient Wabanaki Tales
  • Frederick Matthew Wiseman, The Dawn: An Autohistory of the Abenaki People
  • Wheeler, History of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell (1878), chapter 1, “Aboriginal Inhabitants”
  • Colin Woodward, Unsettled
Approximate territorial range of Eastern Abenaki groups

Woman’s Society Report, October 19, 2020

Durham Friends Woman’s Society met October 19, in the evening, via Zoom. Nine women listened to a program given by Qat Langelier on “Go and Tell all the Nations, a call to tell and listen.” We were encouraged to speak with humility and to listen to others from other lands who can teach us. Qat also shared from the book Bread for the Resistance by Donna Barber on ongoing conversion, or what Quakers call continuing revelation.

David Dexter made a donation to Humane Society via the Woman’s Society in honor of Mildred Alexander. Thank you, David! 

Prayers were shared for Friends throughout the world dealing directly with COVID-19. The monthly Tedford house meal was delivered to a smaller group at the house due to COVID-19. Groceries are accepted at the family shelter by contacting beverly@tedfordhousing.org. Conversations and sharing of stories ended the meeting as we continue to grow in our journeys. 

The next meeting is Monday, November 16, at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. All are welcome to attend.

Meetings for Healing, Thursday Evenings at 7pm

Durham Friends are invited to join an ongoing series of Meetings for Healing, hosted by Portland Friends Meeting on Thursdays at 7 p.m. From the convenors: “Meeting for Worship for Healing is an old Quaker tradition. Our goal with this meeting is to focus on the physical and spiritual illnesses of the current world. It’s not intended to be the same as a full meeting for worship but instead is meant to be focused communal prayer. We may be blessed with a time of deep silence. Messages may arise but should be de-centered from our ego.”

Meetings are held via Zoom. Because of changes to Zoom you may be in a waiting room. Don’t worry, someone will let you in soon. (https://zoom.us/j/91925135193,Meeting ID: 919 2513 5193)

“And So We Pass from One Season to Another,” by Doug Bennett

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, November 8, 2020

And so we pass from one season to another. 

The leaves are mostly gone now, gone ‘til next spring, their bright colors just a memory.  The sun is down by late afternoon.  It’s growing chilly.  Mid-day there still may be some warmth in the sun, but there’s a bite in the air toward nightfall that’s there again when we greet the morning. 

It’s a great cycle of life, and I’m one who loves to live in a place that has four robust seasons.  I say this even as I know that I hate the shortening of the days.  There are pleasures, too, in fall, I know, and pleasures, too in winter.  The sun will return. 

And so we pass from one season to another. 

Sometimes seasons are human-made.  We’ve just passed out of one season with yesterday’s election announcements.  I’m sure some hearts were gladdened and others disappointed.  I’m feeling a little of both.  We’ve heard the speeches and taken down the lawn signs. 

And so we pass from one season to another.

I know all this, and yet I also feel like time is standing still, going nowhere.  ‘Every day is Wednesday’ I’ve found myself saying to distant friends for the past few months when they ask how I’m doing.  It’s true, every day is the same, and tomorrow will bring nothing new.  I already know that.  In this pandemic, it feels like someone has hit the pause button on the cosmic remote control.  Nothing moves forward.  The story doesn’t advance. 

We’re like the Israelites stuck in the desert for 40 years unable to enter the Promised Land. 

Of course this week, it seemed like every day was Tuesday, not Wednesday.  Something was supposed to happen on Tuesday.  Tuesday was supposed to be a day when the votes were all counted.  Tuesday was supposed to be a day when the we knew something about the future.  But it didn’t happen that day.  Then it didn’t happen the next or the next, and I found myself thinking it would never happen. 

I’m stuck between these two accounts.  The seasons are turning, the cosmic ones and the human ones.  Time is standing still. 

I’m trying to find my bearings, my spiritual bearings, stuck between these two accounts.  The seasons are turning, the cosmic ones and the human ones.  Time is standing still.  How am I called to faithfulness between these two accounts, these two rhythms, that each have a hold on me? 

Neither seems to be doing me anything good.  One is telling me I’m irrelevant.  Watching the seasons turn I can find myself thinking I don’t have anything to do with any of this.  I can think I have no responsibility. We’re just watchers; it doesn’t make any difference what we do.

But watching time stand still also makes me think I’m irrelevant.  Nothing I do matters; nothing anyone does seems to matter.  We’re just waiting. 

Most people who call themselves Christians follow a liturgical calendar that tells them what spiritual season we are in. It tells them what Saints days to celebrate, or what feast days s are to be observed, or what Bible passages are to be read each Sunday.  Advent leading to Christmas is a season.  Lent leading to Easter and then Pentecost is a season.  Some portions of year are “ordinary time.”

The first Quakers pretty much rejected this way of thinking or doing things.  Just as they believed no persons had special access to God, just as they believed no buildings were more sacred than any others, they also believed no days were more special or sacred than any other.  Early Friends didn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter.  Friends schools were in session on those days. 

For me this goes a little too far.  I like observing the seasons – both the seasons of nature and the seasons of the soul.  I know that I should be the same person each and every day.  I know I should be caring for the same things each and every day.  But it helps me to be reminded, in turn, of various things.  It helps me focus. 

It’s very useful to me that there is a sabbath, a day each week on which I am especially called to worship with others. 

In the same way, it’s useful for me to have a season of thankfulness, a season in which we especially turn our hearts and minds to feeling grateful for the many, many blessings we have received.  Even in this time of pandemic, even in this time of polarization, I know there are many things for which I should be thankful, for which I am thankful if I’ll take a moment to notice. 

I’m grateful for the gift of life,

I’m grateful for the gift of time,

I’m grateful for the gifts of family and friends.

I’m grateful for the love that surrounds us all. 

This year I’m especially grateful that a season of Thanksgiving, a holy season, a spiritual season, follows a season of political combat.  I’m grateful to turn my focus to something else.  As the hymn we sang this morning puts it: “Come, then, thankful people, come, Raise the song of harvest home.” 

Perhaps that is all I should say.  But just as I know that many things have their seasons, I know that some things do not. 

I recently re-read a Pendle Hill pamphlet by Wilmer Cooper.  He was a midwestern Friend who was the first Dean of the Earlham School of Religion.  Ellen and I got to know Wilmer and his wife, Emily, when we were at Earlham. The pamphlet is titled “The Testimony of Integrity.”  Wilmer begins it by saying that for many years he had a hard time giving a short, helpful answer to the question “What Is a Quaker,” or “What Is Quakerism?”  And then he realized “Perhaps the word ‘integrity’ comes as close as any single-word answer.” A Quaker is one who lives a life of integrity.   

We Quakers speak often of the testimonies, and more often than not we’re thinking of the peace testimony or the testimony of equality.  But Wilmer Cooper says “’integrity’ is the essential Quaker testimony.”  At all times and all seasons, a Quaker is called to speak the truth and to live a life that is genuine and straightforward. 

Britain Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice puts it this way:  “Arising from the teaching of Jesus as related in the writings of John and James: ‘Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no’, Quakers perceived that with a conscience illuminated by the Light, life became an integrated whole with honesty as its basis.”

Even as the seasons change, we are called to live with integrity in all things.  That is something we can do, each of us every day. 

And so we pass from one season to another.

Also posted on Riverview Friend

Queries for the 2020 Election

On November 1, 2020, our worship focused around Query 11, Social Responsibility, from New England Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice.

  • Do you respect the worth of every human being as a child of God?
  • Do you uphold the right of all persons to justice and human dignity?
  • Do you endeavor to create political, social and economic institutions which will sustain and enrich the life of all?
  • Do you fulfill all civic obligations which are not contrary to divine leadings?
  • Do you give spiritual and material support to those who suffer for conscience’s sake?

“Those Who Go Out Weeping … Will Return With Songs of Joy,” by Johan Maurer

The message at Durham Friends Meeting on October 25, 2020 was given by Johan Maurer, a member of Eugene Friends Meeting, worshipping now at Camas Friends Meeting. His message drew from Psalm 126:

Psalm 126

A song of ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Johan Maurer regularly posts messages on his blog Can You Believe Me.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, October 18, 2020

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends virtually convened via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, October 18, 2020, with 10 people present. Martha Hinshaw Sheldon opened the meeting with a quote by Jeff Foster: Let Yourself Rest, from the Contemplative Monk blog.

1. The September minutes were approved as printed in the newsletter.

2. Sarah Sprogell announced that Falmouth Quarterly Meeting will meet on Saturday, October 24, at 10:00 a.m. on Zoom. Sarah Sprogell and Leslie Manning (upon her assent) were approved as representatives from Durham Meeting.

3. Clerks Committee: Martha Sheldon reported that the meeting Handbook revision is ongoing; Martha read a proposed revision of the section on “Pastor,” which will be edited with suggestions and approved in November.

4. Communications Committee: Liana Thompson Knight is currently serving as both clerk of the Communications Committee and interim newsletter editor. The committee asks that she be replaced as interim newsletter editor because she has a very full plate. Mey Hasbrook volunteered to lend a hand while a replacement is sought. 

Doug Bennett has been serving as the meeting’s website editor for the past three years. During this time, Mason Langelier has provided technical services. Doug requests that he now handle both the content and technical sides of the website, believing this would be smoother and more efficient. We expressed much appreciation to Mason Langelier for his efforts.   

5. Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell brought the third quarter finance report, which recorded that the total operating revenue is $49,039.36, and total operating expense is $26,943.73 as of the end of September. 

6. Treasurer: Katharine (Kitsie) Hildebrandt reported that a memorial contribution for Susan Rice and Clarabel Marstaller of $1,500.00 has been received. She suggests splitting this amount in half with a donation to the Charity Fund (from Susan Rice) and the General Fund (from Clarabel Marstaller), for approval next month.

Andrew Higgins was given $1,000 from the Charity Fund to help with expenses incurred due to an accident, as reported last month.

7. Trustees: Katharine Hildebrandt suggested that ongoing work to the physical plant be funded by both the Capital Fund and the General Fund. A decision about this funding was delayed until next month.

Donna Hutchins reported that Sam Miller, Durham resident and mason, will be pointing meetinghouse bricks and replacing windows in gable and basement. 

8. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Nancy Marstaller raised a concern about our connection to Velasco, Cuba, Friends Meeting and that Portland Meeting would like to join us as a sister meeting relationship. We suggested that Nancy Marstaller and Wendy Schlotterbeck collaborate with Portland Friends Meeting members to form a committee to continue contact with Velasco Meeting. Nancy Marstaller volunteered to write an article for the newsletter regarding this new collaboration and with information about our relationship with Velasco Friends.

Ingrid Chalufour sent a report which stated that the committee is focused on the Becoming Antiracist discussion series, and hopes future activities will grow out of these discussions. They are looking for new committee members to help grow a bigger agenda for the coming months.

The committee reviewed their entry in the Handbook and agreed that it did not need any changes.

9. We approved a joint committee to collaborate with Portland Meeting regarding communication with Velasco Friends Meeting, with Nancy Marstaller and Wendy Schlotterbeck as committee members.

10. Christian Education Committee: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that the committee met October 8 via Zoom and spent most of the time planning the Halloween party; detailed information was in the newsletter.

The first art/music kids/youth gathering was held the afternoon of October 17.They built musical instruments (xylophones and wind chimes) using sticks, bamboo, corks, and string.

Tess, Wendy, and Kim constructed an outdoor fire pit in the meetinghouse back yard, hung the refurbished Black Lives Matter sign, and tied festive corn stalks to the porch walkway posts.

Trustees gave permission to “landscape” the area behind the horse shed to make a nature space friendly to all ages.

11. Youth Minister: Wendy Schlotterbeck continues to staff NEYM Young Friends activities. She was a resource person for the October 7-9 Young Friends Virtual Retreat and the October 16 virtual “Art Group.”

Wendy plans to have monthly gatherings for kids/youth throughout the coming year on Saturday afternoons outside the meetinghouse.

12. Ministry and Counsel: Renee Cote, recording clerk of Ministry and Counsel, reported that there have been occasional problems with Zoom access for meeting for worship and the Monday morning prayer group. There have been issues with the “waiting room” and the “passcode.” Wendy Schlotterbeck, Mey Hasbrook, and Doug Bennett will work on solving Zoom problems, and see if anything needs to be changed on the website. Ministry and Counsel is considering applying to the New England Yearly Meeting Legacy Fund to support hybrid (in house) worship. NEYM has suggested a number of options. Doug Bennett will research these options to consider which setup might work for us.

They announced two forthcoming speakers: October 25, Johan Maurer, former General Secretary of Friends United Meeting, member of Eugene Friends Church, Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting; and November15, Cai Quirk, Ithaca Friends Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting.

With sadness, we learned of the death of member Mildred P. Alexander on September 18, 2020. Her obituary is on the website. Several persons will be asked to help the clerk write a memorial minute for Mildred.

Doug Bennett took down the calendar on the website as it was not being used. Google Calendar is suggested as a possibility, if the ability to add to the calendar can be limited. This calendar would pertain to use of the meetinghouse. A first step is to set up Google Calendar just for use of the clerks of the different committees. Anyone interested and knowledgeable in helping is very welcome.

13. Meeting Care Coordinator: Mey Hasbrook reported that more Zoom sessions with her will be forthcoming with attenders and members; at this time, though, requests have come to a standstill. Additionally, local volunteers to bring messages are fairly silent. Speakers are scheduled for most of November. Names of speakers will be posted in the newsletter and on the website upon confirmation. She encourages Friends here at Meeting for Business to consider bringing a message in meeting. She thanks us for our discernment.

Martha Sheldon, Clerk, closed the meeting by reading a letter from former member and pastor Ralph Greene, who expressed appreciation for and support of Durham Friends Meeting.

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, Saturday, October 24, 10am to Noon

Falmouth Quarterly Meeting will meet on Saturday, October 24, 10am to Noon. The Meeting will take place via ZOOM. Link information:

  • Meeting Link        https://zoom.us/j/2814426094
  • Phone number     301-715-8592
  • Meeting ID           281-442-6094
  • Password            Ask your Quarterly Meeting representative or e-mail dougb AT earlham DOT edu

Maine Young Friends Meetup, Saturday, October 24th 2-5pm

Mark your calendars! Teens from Southern Maine who are Quaker or curious about the Quaker way are getting together for an afternoon of fellowship and fun in person. 

We’ll meet outside at Durham Friends Meeting and spend time playing games, going for a short hike, and enjoying meaningful discussion with a small group of youth and staff. 

RSVP here and use that form to let us know your ideas for more things we could do together.

For more information, contact Maggie Nelson, Young Friends Events Organizer, at maggie@neym.org or at 978-382-1850.

Woman’s Society Report, September 21, 2020

Woman’s Society members gathered via Zoom on Monday, September 21, with seven in attendance. 

We shared prayer requests of our local and extended community and Nancy Marstaller shared a program based on John 15:12-17 — love one another, care for those near and far, and cultivate our internal mission field. This internal reflection is looking at our motivations for helping others.

We then discussed one of our most important outreach programs of bringing monthly meals to the Brunswick Tedford House. Many within and connected to the Meeting share in this task. 

The treasurer’s report listed donations to Good Shepherd, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, Kickapoo Friends Center in Oklahoma, and New Beginnings. Dorothy Curtis made and delivered baby quilts to Wendy Schlotterbeck for her granddaughter Eva and to Paul Miller for his grandchild. 

Our next meeting will be Monday, October 19, at 6:30 on Zoom. All women of the meeting are most welcome! — Blessings, Martha Hinshaw Sheldon

“My Rose, My Thorn and My Bud,” by Brown Lethem

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, September 27, 2020

Good morning Friends,

My heart is torn in two directions as I speak this morning, no actually three.  I want to share my rose and my thorn, as we used to say at the Addams/Melman house dinner table. We had four adults and two youngsters, so it was a way to draw everyone in as we talked of the days activities.  The rose was our joy for our day, the thorn our sorrow, and not to overlook the bud, that was our hope.

So my message today will have those three parts.

Linda spoke my mind last Sunday, as did Eden Grace previously, when they kept us focused on the urgency of racial justice at this time.  They also engaged the issue of reparations.  I believe the time is right and I join Linda in calling for our federal government to address it.

At the expense of spending six times more on military hardware than all the developed nations in the world, I hope we can find a way to afford reparations.  That hope is my bud for the future.

I want to speak next of my rose.  It is a positive and loving message to this meeting, especially as I am leaving soon to be with family in California.

I  came to this meeting after 45 years of attending silent, non-pastoral meetings, so I arrived with a stubborn mindset regarding worship as well as an abiding interest in activist peace and social concerns.     

What I found was a small but beloved community, truly devoted to Christ’s message of loving as the essential commandment.  I also found a vital vocal ministry coming from depths of experience. So I am thankful to Durham Meeting for accepting me into this community, and for helping me to grow with it’s loving concern for its children and it’s active sensitivity to those in need.

That said, I continued to be outspoken regarding my concerns for a deepening of silent, expectant waiting that I needed personally to center down.  I did find ways to make this happen.  Way opened, as we like to say.

My other concern was my leading to advocate for peacetime conversion of our local industry of weapon production, Bath Iron Works.  I did, with time feel supported in this leading. Again, my gratitude to Durham Friends.

On turning 88, I find the past does become more insistent. Reaching this age opens more awareness of the arc of my life and the culture which influenced it.  The two overriding or recurring threads in my life have been expressed most effective in my painting: they are (1) Human vulnerability to violence and the fear and distortion which arises from the enormous human potential for violent behavior.  (2) Racism, specifically, the racial incident which took place in my home town which haunted my imagination and profoundly  shaped my sensibility.

This paradox arises:  That my creative joy in the craft of painting was combined with an overriding need in its content to deal with the demons of a racist and violent society, that was acculturated into my subconscious.  That is my thorn.

The degree to which I was affected by hearsay accounts of the rape and murder of a young country school teacher in 1931 continued to permeate my subconscious until my 30’s and 40’s when it began to surface in my painting.  In my 60’s I tried to write a novel about it.  That it percolated all those years to become something of an obsession was evident.

It is the story of Raymond Gunn, a young black man growing up on the fringe of a small north western Missouri town and being accused of the crime.  It was my home town and the county seat, with a population of less the 10,000.  The town had maybe thirty black families.  The country school house in the incident was in a much smaller community five miles west, within the area where Raymond trapped.

As a young and very idealistic adolescent, the story confused me and I identified with the accused but untried young black man who was immolated by a mob.  Raymond’s fate kept cropping up in my painting as though it was a personal buried trauma.  I later learned how traumatized my mother was by the incident while I was in utero.  The lynch mob had spilled over on to our front yard with great noise and dust as Raymond was being dragged by rope to his death.  My mother emerged from the house searching frantically for my five year old brother playing outside.  That she developed some phobias around human violence as well as natural events like the flood of her childhood in Nebraska, is not surprising.  Nor is it surprising that I grew up with a guilty view connecting sex, violence and justice. The entire small town reacted immediately after the incident with massive paranoia and fear of reprisal.

My father was out of town working when Raymond way lynched.  The failure of the good town fathers to prevent the violence always puzzled me.  The threat of a violent mob was known.  The governor had anticipated it by ordering the local National Guard to stand by.  The local chain of command chose to stand down doing nothing.  The lone sheriff escorting Raymond to the court house for arraignment was over powered.  There were reports of instigators having come from other places.  The local papers reported that Raymond led the police to the murder weapon making the case against him.  That a fair trial would have changed the opinion was doubtful.  Raymond was, after all, an illiterate black trapper who lived in the shadows of the woods and creeks.  He had been raised an orphan by his uncle who lived in abject poverty, collecting trash with a mule and wagon.  Newspaper accounts called Raymond a moron.

All the blacks moved out of town overnight.

As a teenager raised in communities that were predominantly white, my contacts with people of color were few and charged with false stereotypes. The  inability to break through the surface to make real human contact with Afro-Americans continued until the age of 19 when I moved to New York.  I now realize how crippling that pervasive cultural racism was to my growth as a human being despite the mantle of white privillage, with it’s accompanying guilt.  I felt the frustrating sting of being quietly turned away when trying to bridge the gap to a Black high school classmate and  not understanding why he was so wary of me.  It took years living and working in Brooklyn, N.Y. in a neighborhood of predominately Black and Latino population and at close quarters to build intimate friendships and to fully understand the tragic divide created by the underlying “white supremacy”.  The irrational fears perpetuated by distorted White superiority, I later learned were coverups for the deeply buried economic injustices of slavery and genocide of Native Americans.  The resulting Jim Crow system keeping Blacks locked into a caste system of poverty just as the Indian laws did the Native Americans.  The institutional and systemic racism buried in my cultural background that has crippled countless thousands of Black and Brown children, has also wounded and impoverished my life.  James Baldwin was so right in his recognition that White people will never be free until equal justice is accorded all Americans.

Only now, sixty years after the civil rights movement,  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and affirmative action we are seeing the burst of wonderful artists of color, writers, intellectuals and politicians that were lost to previous generations. This is the time to openly admit to a national injustice  and debt to those who still suffer under the system of Jim Crow, Indian Policy, redlining, segregation and inferior education, health and housing opportunities.           

We now  see the relationship between the concept of restorative justice, Baldwin’s insights and Christ’s message.  A restorative justice that leads to forgiveness, reconciliation and ultimately to love, is the hope for an extended Beloved Community.  Christ led the way.

Passing of Mildred Alexander

Our longtime member Mildred Alexander passed from this life on September 18, 2020. Below is an obituary and notice of her services.

Mildred P. Alexander 89, a longtime resident of Pinkham Brook Rd. Durham died Friday September 18, at Mid Coast Senior Health, with her family at her side. She was born in Lisbon Falls a daughter of the late Louis and Annette (Boultbee) Dumas. She was educated in local schools.
Mildred married Andrew Alexander in January of 1949, and they spent many happy years together until he passed in 2009.
Mildred enjoyed her jigsaw puzzles her cats and most of all enjoyed time spent with her great grandchildren.
She is survived by her sister Laurette Chapman of Lewiston, four grandchildren: Thomas St.Germain of Durham, Carrie St.Germain of Lewiston, Angela Loucka of Tampa, FL and Johnell Ramos of Costa Rica, four great grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. She was predeceased a daughter Pauline (Alexander) Harvey in 2006 and three sisters, Annette Tibbets, Beverly Craig and Bernice Curtis.
The family would like to send a very big thank you to the entire staff at Mid Coast Senior Health for the exceptional care given to Mildred, especially in her last days.

You are invited to offer condolences and pay tribute to Mildred’s life by visiting her guest book at www.crosmanfuneralhome.com

Visitation Crosman Funeral Home Thursday 9/24 from 10-11:30 am, with a graveside service to follow at Pleasant View Cemetery at 12 Noon. Those wishing to make memorial donations in her memory may do so to Midcoast Humane Society 30 Range Rd, Brunswick, ME 04011.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, September 20, 2020

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends virtually convened via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, September 20, 2020 with 18 people present.  Clerk, Martha Hinshaw Sheldon opened the meeting with two quotes from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice who recently passed away:

“Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” 

  1. The August minutes were approved.
  2. Ministry and Counsel:  Martha Sheldon reported that Amelia Mae Marstaller (Mimi), who has been a junior member of the meeting, was recommended by the Meeting on Ministry and Counsel for adult membership.  Friends enthusiastically approved the change to adult membership and look forward to seeing her via Zoom and in person in the future.
  3. Meeting Care Coordinator:  Mey Hasbrook reported that she has been meeting with her support committee, Clerks Committee, and Ministry and Counsel.  She now has the task of finding speakers.  She has been meeting members and attenders via Zoom in small groups. She has been especially busy with the transition to Maine and we expressed our support and understanding as she and her family make the move.
  4. Christian Education Committee: Wendy reported that the committee met September 9 via zoom.  They decided to continue nurturing relationships and connections with the Maine Native American history and community. They hope to collaborate with Heather Augustine’s Native American youth group. 

      Family game nights are on hold for now.  They discussed spiritual connections for the children and youth of our meeting. Virtual meetings have not been working for most of the families. Starting in October they will be organizing 2 events per month- both outside, wearing masks and keeping social distance. One will be focused on art and nature, the other including drums and music. Children and youth will be invited according to interest with mixed ages encouraged. 

      Halloween party: since masks are a natural part they will be having an outdoor Halloween Party at the meetinghouse with masks and social distance on FRIDAY, OCT 30. Everyone is invited- safe, social distance games will be available. And, a special incentive: each child or youth will be asked their favorite candy so they can make individual “COVID- safe” treat bags. Stay tuned for the time- likely late afternoon.

5. Youth Minister:  Wendy reported that she will continue checking in with Durham Friends families to get a sense of their needs.

             She will continue to participate in the Young Friends program of NEYM and will continue to help staff/offer help with upcoming Young Friends retreats. The next Young Friends retreat will be the weekend of Oct 2-4. Durham Young Friends are encouraged to participate!! See link- https://neym.org/online-retreat-registration

              Wendy will be researching and building a safe outdoor space at the Meeting House for gatherings including a fire pit, with approval from Trustees.

6. Treasurer: Katharine (Kitsie) Hildebrandt expressed appreciation for financial support of the meeting (checks are being received) during this time of our virtual meetings. 

      Kitsie reported that the current contract that she negotiated with Consolidated Communications for the phone and internet is a better rate than for the internet alone.        

7. The Trustees have been busy with many projects regarding the meeting property previously mentioned in the minutes, i.e., paint, hallway floors, and horse shed repairs.  Thank you, Tess for washing the fleece blankets in the meeting room, and airing bench cushions.  Contact Trustees for a detailed list of completed work and future projects. 

       The Trustees recommended a donation of $1000 from the Charity Fund to Andrew Higgins who has suffered injuries from a serious accident. 

8. We approved a donation of $1000 to Andrew Higgins from the Charity Fund.

9. Jo-an Jacobus thanked the meeting for the use of the meetinghouse for the Sunday night 12 step group as they resume meeting together when it is safe to physically gather.

10. Peace and Social Concerns Committee launched a discussion series on Becoming Antiracist on Sept. 15. Twelve attenders participated in a thoughtful discussion. The next discussion is on Oct. 6 and you can attend even if you did not attend the first one. If you have any feedback on the first discussion please share it with Ingrid.

       Ingrid has begun attending the Bath Brunswick Hub meetings of the Poor Peoples Campaign. She will cautiously look for ways Durham Meeting can be involved. The goals of the campaign are very aligned with Quaker values. If you are interested in learning more about the campaign there is a link to information on the Meeting website.

      The committee is losing Brown (Richard Lethem) as a member due to his moving away. He has been an active member for several years. They are looking for two new members to help take on the many peace and social concerns we all share.

11. Carbon footprint:   Kitsie Hildebrandt and Ingrid Chalufour reported that they are consulting with John Ruthe from Vassalboro Meeting regarding our effort to reduce our carbon footprint.

12. The Clerks Committee is working on updating our Handbook and will present a draft of their suggestions next month. 

Martha Sheldon closed the meeting expressing appreciation for those who have assumed various responsibilities.  She repeated the quote: “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time,” and said that as a community, we are taking steps toward change as we follow the Spirit’s guide.

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“Reparation and the Reconciliation Process,” By Linda Muller

Message at Durham Friends Meeting, September 20, 2020

Friends please join me in exploring an emotional and important subject. As we seek understanding, we want to work from emotions other than fear, anger and defensiveness. I say this because of my own experience, upon initially hearing of reparations I was overwhelmed, even angry!  How can I possibly restore, repair or repay for wrongs committed deep in the past.If reparation is cash payment from individuals, then I must tell you that all in my possession is nowhere near enough. Besides, how does it help the injured if I am penniless?

So, there is my defensiveness!

Another fundamental concern for me is this; I am set against the injustice and oppression occurring RIGHT NOW!As this has intensified lately, my feelings of; frustration, fear and anger at my own lack of effectiveness loom.

NEVER THE LESS, there is work to be done!

One way forward in the reconciliation process starts with getting HISTORY more accurate. It is essential to start this  process. As Eden Grace shared last week; It is part of the work that white people have to do, and can be done on the  personal level.  Active remembering and telling ALL the story, including how the engineering for longterm inequality occurred. This is how we become ANTIRACISTS and find our way to APOLOGY. Apology frees our hearts, bringing-up courage and creativity.

Since our US history includes severe inequality, perpetrated to keep black, indigenous and brown people  impoverished and powerless, AMENDS must include deep policy change. At the tip of this iceberg we can see economic and racial injustice in; healthcare, ecology, agriculture, housing, finance, government, education and all  access to resources. These aspects of life are still deeply permeated and injustice will only give way through courageous  action. This action attended by longterm commitment to work together;  white, black, brown and indigenous, is needed.

To repair our relationships, white people must PERSIST, despite the inevitable resistance of the upper 10%, the top 1%. The AMENDS and REPARATION that will bring RECONCILIATION will have to take into account;

1) The labor RIP-OFF of enslaved African Americans and the further engineering to prevent wealth, choice and security for people of color .

2) The land RIP-OFF and violent cultural erasure  visited on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

One way to move forward with REPARATION is to explore what would be best to do first, what would be effective and fitting to do at the Federal government level. That is the purpose of HR40, a bill in the US House of Representatives. It is “stuck” and needs people power to “unstick” it.

Another essential motion must take root in our hearts and minds. We must quiet our defensiveness and have the HUMILITY to seek spiritual guidance. We must dredge up the energy and courage to commit to this work longterm.

This is what is ahead of us if we want to reach real RECONCILIATION, peace and the joy known when justice prevails.

The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform: A Moral Policy Agenda to Heal and Transform America:

From Peace and Social Concerns Committee:

The Poor People’s Campaign is now launching a Moral Policy Agenda to Heal and Transform America: The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform. This platform proclaims that moral policy is also economically sound policy, because the 140 million are not only the hope of the poor. The least of these, who are, in actuality, most of us, can lead this country out of the pain we have been suffering. The rejected are leading a moral and economic revival to save the heart and soul of this nation. Forward together, not one step back!

The Platform is grounded in five principles:

  1. We need a moral revolution of values to repair the breach in our society. This platform abides by our deepest Constitutional and moral commitments to justice. Where harm has been done, it must be acknowledged and undone.
  2. Everybody in, nobody out. Too many people are hurting and we can’t be silent anymore. Everybody is deserving of our nation’s abundance.
  3. When you lift from the bottom, everybody rises. Instead of “trickle-down,” we start with the bottom up.
  4. Prioritize the leadership of the poor, low-income and most impacted. Those who are on the frontlines of these crises must also be in the lead in identifying their solutions.
  5. Debts that cannot be paid must be relieved. We demand freedom from servicing the debts we cannot pay.

For more on the Jubilee Platform, go here.

Verses from the Book of Ruth (Bader Ginsburg)

[From Worship this morning at Durham Friends] At our house we’re mourning the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a slight woman but a warrior for justice, for equality, for the rule of law.  She was someone who won some important victories, and also someone who spoke up forthrightly when she was on the losing side.  So this morning, a few verses from the Book of Ruth:

1. “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

2. “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”

3. “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

4. “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out.”

5. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

6. “You can’t have it all, all at once.”

7. “I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.”

8. “In the course of a marriage, one accommodates the other”

9. “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”

10. “A gender line…helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”

11. “If you want to be a true professional, do something outside yourself.”

12. “Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”

13. “Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.”

14. “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

15. “If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it. I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.”

16. “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

17. “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”

Source: https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/17-powerfully-inspiring-quotes-from-ruth-bader-ginsburg.html

Durham Women’s Christmas Meeting in 1988

By Twila Greene, August 2, 2020

It’s been a lonely season and I hunger for my friends,

And I find my thoughts reverting to the past.

For last night I took a journey, that gave my soul delight,

As I walked across an old familiar path.

Elated, I surveyed the scene that was in front of me,

For all my Friends were gathered there in peaceful harmony.

All the women of the group were gathered in the Meeting,

Together for our fellowship, with pleasure in our greeting.

Bee was sitting by the bookcase, with Margaret in the loop,

Sue Wood suggested one to use for our discussion group.

She had read it and it touched her heart,

It would benefit all if we read it from the start.

Lida, Eileen and Sylvia were putting out the dishes,

With lots of festive goodies that all looked so delicious.

Dorothy, Mary and Charlotte Ann were in the kitchen with the food.

Something from the oven was smelling mighty good.

Dotty, Susan and Norma were in the Nursery Extension,

Reading to some little ones too numerous to mention.

This was the winter of ’88 with lots of little tots,

To love and teach and sing to them the joyous Meeting thoughts.

Nancy, Linda and Charlotte were decorating the tree,

With homemade socks and mittens for those who were in need.

Clarabel was trying to peacefully end a squabble

Syretha and Tess vied for the privilege to hang the treetop bauble.

Kitsie and Muriel were leading in devotions,

Giving us things to ponder and asking for our notions.

Elizabeth and Mabel were engaging in a chat,

Remembering all the old times and discussing this and that.

Dorothy Henton and Ruth Graham and also Del Weed,

Were inviting Helen Clarkson to join them for the feed.

Mildred had come early to make coffee and fruit punch,

Such were the events that made our Christmas lunch.

Everyone was gathered in contentment and accord,

Lunch was ready and everyone paused to thank the Lord.

Dorothy, from the Henton House, insisted on saying grace,

And a happy smile was seen to come on to Gracie’s face.

After gifts were open and we all had had our fill,

Sukie had a gift for us which was our closing thrill.

She had brought her harp with her, we all joined voice in song

I’m sure the angels joined with us in singing right along.

Such a pleasant time I spent with all the women there,

I woke up then refreshed and joyous music filled the ‘air,’

What a joy and gift I found in reliving that delight,

All was so realistic as I pondered on that night.

That was such a pleasure, a joy that was all mine,

Such a glorious meeting, such a glimpse of Love divine.

What I wouldn’t give if I could visit just once more,

And share that joy of entering through that meeting door.

I sure do miss those days and all the women that were once involved. Wish we lived closer, so I could continue in worship and get to know the newer members. When this pandemic is over I hope to visit. Durham is my heart’s home. Love to all, Twila

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, August 16, 2020

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends virtually convened via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, July 19, 2020, with 14 people present. Martha Sheldon shared a quote from Howard Thurman: “There is something in every one of you that wants and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself.  It is the only true guide you will ever have.”

1. The July minutes were approved with one correction: the title of Angie Thomas’s book should read, The Hate U Give in minute no. 6.

2. Sarah Sprogell reported that the Clearness Committee for Ingrid Chalufour’s request for membership felt united in recommending approval of her request.

3. We enthusiastically approved the membership of Ingrid Chalufour and welcomed her as an official member of Durham Friends Meeting.

4. Sarah Sprogell reported for Falmouth Quarterly Meeting which met on July 25, 2020. “Sixteen Friends met by Zoom to share and reflect on experiences of caring for our communities during this time of pandemic restrictions. We found the spirit moving among us as we listened and joined in worship sharing, as each monthly meeting spoke to its condition. We intend to meet again on October 24 for business and a review of our budget. 

             “As a follow-up, a small group of Friends agreed to serve on a Care Committee for Windham Meeting, and will convene on August 18 to begin listening and discerning with Windham Friends regarding their concerns for their future as their numbers grow smaller.”

              We are asked to hold Windham Friends Meeting members in prayer as they consider the future of the meeting.

5.  Sarah Sprogell, auditor, reported that the audit for 2019 is complete, and that significant financial events for the meeting in 2019 were: the receipt of a bequest of approximately $32,000 from the estate of long-time member Janet Douglas (ten percent of the bequest was placed in our Charity Account and the balance was placed in our Capital Account); completed the management and final distribution of funds to support the Greene family, which we carried out on behalf of New England Yearly Meeting; and we received reimbursement for reserve funds that had been approved to help renovate a member’s condo in preparation for its sale.

            In June we transferred our Charity, Capital and Bernice Douglas Funds from savings type accounts to money market accounts which earn more interest and have check-writing capabilities. We also moved the Woodbury Fund and our operational reserve account to two 18-month CD accounts at a promotional interest rate. In October the meeting approved transferring the balances from the Cox and Bailey Funds into the Charity Account; both of these funds were unrestricted and had been unused for a number of years.

            A new hot water heater was purchased for the parsonage in December.

            An audit of the operating records shows that this information, as well as bank statements and related documentation, continue to be well-documented, organized and readily accessible for review.

            Many thanks go to our treasurer who does an excellent job of managing our financial responsibilities and accounts, a knowledgeable and faithful steward of the meetings finances.

We expressed appreciation for Sarah as auditor.

6. Christian Education/Youth Minister: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that the committee did not meet in August. Wendy participated in the Religious Education discussion at NEYM on August 8 and two sessions of the global Quaker Religious Education Collaborative this past weekend (Aug. 14-16) with participants from three continents. It was especially rich to hear from Friends in Bolivia, El Salvador and Kenya.

            Wendy will be contacting families to offer various possibilities for connections and spiritual formation for Durham Friends children and youth in the coming year.

            Our Durham Friends Game Night August 15 was attended by four valiant Friends and they had a lot of fun. They may offer the Trivia Game at our picnic on August 29. More questions can be submitted for this event!

7. Peace and Social Concerns: Ingrid Chalufour sent a report from the committee. A 5 ´ 3 foot Black Lives Matter banner has been ordered to hang between posts on the horse shed. If you have experience hanging banners and are willing to help, please let Ingrid know.

            The Bangor Daily News was the only paper to publish our letter-to-the-editor and they removed the Durham Meeting signature and replaced it with Ingrid’s name. Next time the committee will embed the Meeting name in the text.

            They hope that you are all picking out readings on racism and planning to participate in their upcoming discussion series. Topics, dates, and times for the Zoom discussions will be in the next [i.e. this] newsletter.

            If you have additional ideas on how we might respond to the “peace & social concerns” of the day, please let them know.

            Wendy Schlotterbeck announced that she has racial justice posters available for use.

8.  Trustees: Donna Hutchins sent a report.  The flooring in the back hall was replaced and the flooring in the front entry was refinished in the meetinghouse. A door was replaced, and posts and doors were painted on the horse shed. They removed pillars and a dead tree at entrance of the cemetery. They are moving a sand pile to the green burial area to make a separate parking area, and designing a new fence.  We expressed our appreciation for Donna’s thoughtful work as trustee.

9. We were sad to hear that Andrew Higgins, who does our plowing and mowing, has had a serious accident which crushed and injured his legs. He has had 10 surgeries, and three weeks in the hospital, and all this alone due to the COVID restrictions. He awaits skin graft surgeries. Friends of his family have set up a “Go Fund Me” page for him, with a goal of raising $20,000 to help cover medical bills and other costs associated with the accident. The meeting was asked to make a contribution to the family of $500 to $1,000 from the Charity Fund. The suggestion will be referred to Trustees for consideration, with a recommendation coming back to Meeting for Business in September. 

            An unusual ending to our meeting occurred when all wished Edwin Hinshaw a happy 86th birthday. 

                                                                                    Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk 

“Telling the Truth About Whiteness,” by Eden Grace (Director of Global Ministries, Friends United Meeting)

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, September 6, 2020

Scripture: John 8:31-33: 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Thank you for inviting me to worship with you this morning. I’m joining you from our family home in Ocean Park Maine, but I normally worship with West Richmond Friends in Richmond Indiana. In this time of Zoom, it seems a particular blessing that we can gather from wherever we are, and experience the bonds of the body of Christ across the distance.

I had perhaps my first real and acute awareness of my own whiteness at the 1998 Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Harare Zimbabwe, an experience of the emptiness at the heart of white American identity. During the three-day pre-assembly gathering of the youth delegates, there was the “cultural night”, which I now know to be a tradition at WCC youth events. Each delegate is invited to wear the beautiful clothing of their cultural identity and to share a song, dance or other cultural expression that represents their belonging to a particular cultural group.

The youth were instructed to gather in country-groups to organize their offerings, so all of us from the United States gathered in our assigned room. Quite quickly, the Native American delegates formed their own group and went off to plan their part of the program. The African-American delegates did the same. The Latinex. The Asian-Americans. Until finally there were about 5 or 6 of us white Americans left in that room. We were lost. None of us had any idea what our “culture” was. Do we try to represent MacDonald’s and Walmart on that stage? Wear blue jeans and t-shirts as our national costume? Who, even, are we, this group without a hyphen, without a particularity, without any self-knowledge of our ancestors’ particularity? We were the “norm” against which all others were hyphenated, but there was no “there” there. Just a sense of emptiness and loss. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.

In the end, we decided to sing “Simple Gifts”, thereby co-opting a culture that we were not – Shaker – in perhaps the most unironic and unaware meta-representation of ourselves as white American master co-opters and erasers of particularity. I left that event with a deep sense of the hollow anguish of whiteness, which has stayed with me ever since. So much has been lost in the grand bargain that provides me with white privilege in exchange for any sense of story and identity.

That was my first moment of self-aware exploration of the meaning of being a white American, and it has sent me on a decades-long personal quest to understand how whiteness functions.

So it took me by surprise when, in early August at New England Yearly Meeting, I was swept up with a completely new question about my own white identity. Why had it never occurred to me before? I don’t know. But now that I’ve had this idea, I my mind is exploding like fireworks with it.

This new idea, this new question that has gripped me, is to learn the particular story of my slaveholding ancestors. I’ve always known that I was descended from Virginia plantation-owning aristocracy. I’ve always known that they were enslavers. And in my childhood there was even a certain kind of classist “pride” in being descended from such high-status people. (Lord, forgive me.)

Who were these people, my people? In the just-concluded AFSC course on racism, which maybe some of you participated in as well, we learned about the process of white identity development. We learned that one of the stages of becoming a white anti-racist is to research our family history, to reclaim our identity story. To make whiteness a conscious, rather than invisible, aspect of our personal story. Not just the vacant norm against which others are hyphenated, but a self-knowing story.

Who were these people, my people? Where, specifically, did they own plantation land? Which indigenous people were displaced so that they could occupy that land? How many slaves did they “own”? Who were those enslaved people and how did they come to be under my family’s control? How much wealth was created, and passed down to me, through the exploitation of those enslaved people? Do I have distant dark-skinned cousins as a result of rape committed by my ancestors? What do I do with that information, when I find it? How does it become part of my story, my particularity? What responsibility do I have, to apologize, to atone, to make amends, for the sins of my ancestors?

The Bible seems to say contradictory things about whether the sins of the fathers are a responsibility of the sons (or daughters). Ezekiel 18:20 says “A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent”, but in Exodus 34:7, God says that he will “visit the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” None of us want to be held responsible for something we didn’t personally do, but I think we can also understand the concept of collective responsibility, especially when we have inherited wealth and privileges derived from the sinful acts of those who came before us. I feel under the weight of this knowledge, as a moral burden.

But at this point, I don’t even know enough to name the specific sins of my ancestors. I can’t jump to taking responsibility and making amends, when I don’t yet know what I’m atoning for. I have to do the work, to learn the Truth, to uncover the stories, to find the details. Will knowing the Truth set me free?

Jesus said “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And they answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Seriously?? “We’ve never been enslaved to anyone?” Have they completely forgotten that they were slaves in Egypt? They have so erased their own story that they have no conception of the moral plumbline of what it means to be Children of God, offspring of Abraham? Their hypocrisy is rooted in their utter forgetting of who they are.

The fact that they went immediately to the implication of slavery says something about the word Jesus used that we translate “free”. Perhaps liberate or emancipate would be a more specific English translation? We are enslaved by the untrue stories we tell, by the “whitewashing” of our history. In the case of the story of whiteness, we are enslaved by the negation, the “white space” of the story. It takes active forgetting and erasure to manufacture an identity of whiteness.

I’m only just beginning to uncover the stories of my ancestors, but already it is fascinating and provoking so many questions! I stumbled upon the fact that my mother is a first cousin of Robert E Lee, and that the future Confederate General lived with, and was educated by, his aunt and uncle, my great great great great great grandparents, at Eastern View Plantation in Fauquier County, Virginia, from the ages of 7 to 13. My ancestor John Carter established the very first slave plantation in Virginia, in 1613. My 1st cousin 7 times removed, Robert Carter III, emancipated his 500 slaves in 1791 under religious conviction, having converted to Swedenborgianism. My second cousin seven times removed, James Robinson, was the child of my slaveholder ancestor and a black woman. He became the richest black man in America, and built a home he called Bull Run, where two Civil War battles were fought literally in his front yard.

I didn’t know any of these people’s names until this last month, but I wasn’t completely unaware of my family’s “status”. I was raised with stories (maybe not as specific as stories, but more like the air I breath) that conveyed a sense of pride at being descended from this class of people. As the Book of Hebrews says, we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses” – those who came before us bear witness to us, with who they were, about who we are. What if they are not such a benevolent cloud? What if it feels more like smog?

It takes active forgetting and erasure to manufacture an identity of whiteness, and it will take active remembering to resist the inheritance of white supremacy. Resistance requires telling the stories, uncovering the silenced narratives and speaking them out, not just the stories of heroism and justice-making, but also the stories of sinful actions and misguided beliefs.

My mother clearly remembers her mother saying, with warmth and pride, that “the slaves loved our family.” This echoes, of course, the widespread myths that many aristocratic plantation families treated their slaves humanely, that slaves were happy in their condition, that there was genuine affection and even love between enslaved and enslaver, and that the cruelty exhibited by some slave owners was an aberrant exception to an otherwise bucolic situation of mutual contentment. The persistence of these myths attest to the skills of enslaved people in masking their true feelings, for the sake of their own and their family’s safety. The fact that my grandmother’s cherished self-image as the daughter of the beloved master was founded on utter rubbish was actually quite apparent to my mother, even as a young child, although she couldn’t at that time put words to the unease she felt with the received narrative of her family. She could only grasp that this version of whiteness was founded on a profound lie.

I wanted to be able to speak in this message about apologizing for the sins of our ancestors, about healing and making amends and offering reparations. I wanted to give Biblical direction on how this could happen, and what it would mean for me, and maybe for you too.

I have some experience with the power of an apology for collective sin, since I received a gut-compelling leading to offer an apology on the floor of New England Yearly Meeting in 2011, an apology to LGBT Friends on behalf of Christians, apologizing for the harm caused by homophobic theologies, policies and biblical interpretations. The experience of offering that apology was profound, and will stand as one of the moments in my life in which I felt most connected to the power of God, the power to repair that which has been broken.

So I find myself now yearning for a similar sense of leading in relation to the harm caused by my family’s participation in slavery. And I wanted to have clarity about that for you today. But I have to admit that I’m not there yet. I don’t know yet what that will mean, for me. What it will cost, not just in terms of money and words, but in terms of risk and reorientation. I can’t intellectualize it, and I certainly can’t preach it, until I’ve discovered how to live it. So, in order to stay within the integrity of what has been given to me experientially, I think at this point all I can reflect on is the importance of uncovering our ancestor stories and grappling with them. I can’t yet talk about how healing or apologizing or making amends or reparations will take shape for me.

But surely, truth-telling is a necessary step in the process of making amends. Unearthing the truth, especially when it has been purposefully forgotten or whitewashed, can in itself be a liberating task. As I scour the internet for information about my own ancestors, and rush into the other room to tell my family what I’m finding, I feel the magnetic compulsion toward the Truth. And I continue to believe that the Truth will set me on a path to freedom from white supremacy, for Jesus promised that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Becoming Anti-Racist, A Discussion Series

An Invitation from Peace and Social Concerns

In Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist, he says, “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equality and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” Join the Peace and Social Concerns Committee in an examination of racist ideas and policies with a goal of moving our thinking and actions toward an antiracist future.

Meet with us on Zoom on the following Tuesdays at 7:00:

September 15 – Where are you in your journey toward antiracism? What are you reading and thinking about? Where do you see, through reading or lived experience, racism in our society and our communities? Have you had new insights into the way systemic racism has played out in our country?

Readings: Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations, The Atlantic, June 2014. Nikole Hannah-Jones, What Is OwedNYTimes, June 26, 2020.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story (TED Talk). Leonard Pitts, The Appraisal of How Little a Black Life Is Worth Begins at Birth

October 6 – Where do we see change happening? What do you understand about making change happen? Can attitudes and beliefs be changed or is policy the route to change? Does changed policy lead to changed attitudes and beliefs?

Readings: Zona Douthit, OK, Boomer, It’s Time To Fund ReparationsFriends Journal, September 1, 2020. Parker Palmer, The Broken Open HeartWeavings, March/April 2009.  

October 27 – Where are you feeling called to act? What is your leading at this time? Do you feel complicit? How? What would lead you being more antiracist?

Readings: Catherine Besteman and Joseph N. Jackson, Maine Voices: Want to help remedy racial inequity in Maine? Here are places to start, Portland Press Herald, June 13, 2020. Bill Brown, What Do Quakers Owe Blacks? Tools for Racial Justice, July 2002.

November 17 – Hold the date for a possible follow-up discussion

**Please prepare for the first discussion by reading one or both of the double-starred articles on the list below. Both are available on the Durham Meeting website. We recommend other readings in addition (see list below), particularly Ibram X. Kendi’s book.

  •  *How to be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
  • The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
  • So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
  • White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
  • The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
  • Cast: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson
  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad
  • The Color of Law, by Richard Rothsein
  • Waking Up White, Debby Irving
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • **The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic Monthly 6/2014
  • **What is Owed, by Nikole Hannah-Jones in the New York Times Magazine 6/24/2020
  • America’s Enduring Cast System, in the New York Times Magazine 7/1/2020

Links to other readings are on the Peace and Social Concerns page of the Durham Friends Meeting website.)

“A Strong Foundation,” by Max Carter

Max Carter, of New Garden Friends Meeting in North Carolina gave the message at Durham Friends Meeting on August 23, 2020. His text was Matthew 7:24-27:

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise person who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish person who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

An audio recording of his message is here.

The message made frequent references to the Quaker Meetinghouse in Ramallah, Palestine, built of limestone (and on a sturdy foundation) in 1910 through the efforts of a Quaker couple from Maine, Timothy and Anna Hussey. The Meetinghouse was restored in 2005.

The Quaker Meetinghouse in Ramallah, Palestine

“Preyed Upon and Prayed For,” by Leslie Manning

A Message at Durham Friends Meeting, August 16, 2020

Leslie Manning began with a query and a thought:

I. “Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.” Britain YM Queries and Advices

II. Trauma constricts our vision and breathing, interrupts our compassion and restricts our ability to give and receive trust. It leaves us unable to open to the promptings of love, for our selves, our neighbors, our enemies or the Divine. Trauma robs us of joy.

Leslie invited us into a guided meditation, in which we each were asked to see ourselves, and then to see ourselves “just as we are” as a baby. We were asked to see this baby cradled in someone’s arms, tenderly. And we were asked to imagine saying these words:

“Just give me this:

A rinsing out, a cleansing free of all my smaller strivings

So I can be the class act God intended,

True to my purpose,

All my energy aligned behind my deepest intention.

And just this:

A quieting down, a clearing away of internal ruckus,

So I can hear the huge stillness in my heart and feel

How I pulse with all creation,

Part and parcel of Your great singing ocean.”

This guided meditation is from Belleruth Naparstek, a social worker and educator who specializes in working with trauma, and has created a series of guided imagery.  Her program of healing is called Healthjourneys and is widely used in hospitals, some prisons and jails and among refugees.

“NEYM Sessions: An Apology to Native Americans,” by Martha Hinshaw Sheldon

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, August 9, 2020

“Each year, hundreds of Quakers from across New England and beyond join together for worship, fellowship and seeking how God will guide us in meeting for business.  Having first gathered in 1661, in 2020 New England Yearly Meeting of Friends celebrated 360 years of journeying together as a community of faith and witness. 

Annual sessions provided many opportunities to connect with Friends old and new: vibrant youth programs, adult small groups for interpersonal connection, encouragement, and spiritual exploration, discernment of how Quakers in New England are led by the Spirit to act and serve, and guest speakers offering explorations of the Bible and sharing ministry responding to our condition and the challenges of our times.”  New England Yearly Meeting Web site.    

We gathered over zoom to share ideas, to share stories, to share an apology, to encourage breathing, to be invited, by Amanda Kemp, to move into the heart when facing racial injustices and move toward restoration, to learn of the interrelationship of ecology and theology with Cherice Bock.

Amanda is the bestselling author of ‘Stop Being Afraid! 5 Steps to Transform your Conversations about Racism’, and ‘Say the Wrong Thing’, a collection of personal essays about racial justice and compassion.  

Cherice Bock is adjunct professor of ecotheology at George Fox University and Portland Seminary, and she works as the Creation Justice Advocate at Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.  A recorded Quaker minister, Bock sees environmental concerns as one of this generation’s most important social justice issues.  Her academic work focuses on nonviolent theology, Quakerism, contextual theologies, feminism, environmental justice, and ecotheology. 

There was a greater intensity this year.  There was greater intentionality.  Business meetings were devoid of the usual reports with the aim of focusing on racial justice and ecological restoration.  Another enriching element this year was the presence of a group called ‘Noticing Patterns of Oppression’.  Yearly meeting being intentional about noticing how those who have benefit from privilege may unknowingly speak and act in ways that oppress and ignore.  This was the second year for this group to offer their observations and help some become more aware of how their words can imply a sense of other, disregarding, self/cultural centrist perspectives.  Eye opening for those of us who need help in seeing, understanding how words impact others.  

Minutes and letters were presented.  Discussions engaged.  Challenges presented.  Encouragement given.  Minds opened.  Hearts softened.  Souls led. 

To do, to walk, to grow, to learn new language, to envision a world of inclusivity of the oppressed, of earth of life and health.  Two statements came out of the work of YM sessions.  NEYM Apology to Native Americans, and Call to Urgent, Loving Action for the Earth and Her Inhabitants.  Both will be sent out to Monthly Meetings to ponder and reflect upon in the coming year. 

This morning I want to share with you the apology for us to begin that process. 

In the silence that follows ponder:

  • How this letter affects my thinking, my heart, my leadings, my understanding of my journey with others. Others of the past and present. 
  • What do I know? What do I feel?  What do I think?   
  • What is my story? What is the story I want to create?  What do I need to learn? 

Do not let your guilt or defensiveness lead your response but your hope and leadings for a restorative future.

At yesterday’s last Bible half hour Cherice Bock invited us to understand ourselves as fractals of hope, embodying our part in the unfolding of Love, in relationship with and throughout Creation.  May this influence how we hear the letter. 

NEYM Apology to Native Americans 

To the Algonquian peoples of the Northeast who continue among us: the Abenaki, Mahican, Maliseet, Massachusett, Mi’kmaq, Mohegan, Narragansett. Nipmuck, Passamaquoddy, Pennaook, Penobscot, Pequot, Pocumtuc, Quinnipiac, Tunzis, and Wampanoag,

Apology

As participants in European colonization and as continuing beneficiaries of that colonization, Quakers have participated in a great and continuing injustice. For too long and in too many ways, we as a faith community have failed to honor that of God in you, the original peoples of these lands, and in doing so betrayed that of God in ourselves. We are deeply sorry for the suffering we caused in the past and continue to cause in the present. Today we acknowledge that injustice and apologize. 

We acknowledge that Quakers participated in and benefited greatly from the colonization effort which stole your land and displaced your ancestors and caused genocide and sought cultural erasure. We know that the injustice of displacement and disrespect continues. We also see the ways that we continue to benefit from broken treaties and genocidal policies. We have much work to do to attain right relationship.

We are sorry for our advocacy of the “Indian Industrial Boarding Schools,” which we now recognize was done with spiritual and cultural arrogance. Quakers were among the strongest promoters of this policy and managed over 30 schools for Indian children, mostly boarding schools, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We are deeply sorry for our part in the vast suffering caused by this system and its effects.

On behalf of New England Quakers, in particular those of us with European ancestry, we offer this apology. We commit to continuing our efforts to learn, to see more clearly the implications of settler colonialism in our own lives, and to work toward right relationship. We hold ourselves open to suggestions and to dialogue, holding no expectations of you. We will continue to pray for guidance and to seek divine assistance in the transformation we know is needed within each of us, and in the world.

A Call for Us to Act  

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends acknowledges that we have much work to do to enter into right relationship with Native Peoples and with all of Creation. To that end, we urge each of our monthly meetings to undertake the following: 

• Determine the identity of the Native occupants of the region in which their Meeting House rests and acknowledge that with a plaque. 

• Work within the meeting to raise awareness of the history of settler colonialism and our debt to Native Americans. 

• Follow the lead of Native Americans and support their efforts toward social and environmental justice, including preserving the integrity of their lands in the face of ongoing resource extraction, recognizing that theft of Native American land is not just a matter of history; it is happening today. 

• Support state and federal recognition of the status of tribes as acknowledged sovereign nations entitled to self-government and reparations. 

• Explore the implications for the meeting of restitution of lands unlawfully taken from Native Americans in violation of treaties. Once clear on what it would actually require of the meeting itself, support efforts by Native Americans to reclaim control of their sacred and culturally significant lands, including the restitution of lands unlawfully taken from them in violation of treaties.

Friends are encouraged to apply to the Legacy Gift Committee for funds to support their spiritual leadings in response to the above objectives.

“Pastoring Without a Pastor”

The most recent Friends Journal, August 2020, is organized around the theme “Pastoral Friends,” an unusual topic for Friends Journal. The articles are worth reading. Especially interesting is “Pastoring Without a Pastor,” by Kathleen Costello Malin, about the experience of Smithfield Friends Meeting, which, like Durham Friends Meeting, is part of New England Yearly Meeting. And, like Durham Friends, Smithfield is trying pastoral worship without a pastor. I recommend the whole article. Likely you’ll need a subscription to read it, but here’s a snippet or two:

We continue to try things to keep our pastoral meeting’s tradition alive. We had several volunteer “pastors” and have also tried to share the duties of presenting messages among our members. We know that we have people who come to our meeting for the programmed worship. They have alternatives that offer sermons and hymns, including a welcoming Old Catholic church that some of our members also attend. Pastoral care for the members of the meeting was certainly the hardest thing to replicate when we tried it on our own. Not everyone is suited to this type of ministry, and the duty usually falls on those most willing to help.

“After our last pastor retired, our Ministry and Counsel Committee met to explore our options. …

“[F]or several years we took turns giving messages from the lectern during our meetings for worship. We would start with a song and follow with sharing our joys and concerns of the week. After some silent worship, the volunteer would give a message, and then after another period of open worship, we ended with a song.