Overcoming Militarism and Racism, by Brown Lethem

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, July 7, 2019

Good morning friends!

I want to start off my message by quoting Meister Eckhart, the 14th century theologian and mystic who believed in a personal path to God.

Know then that God is bound to act, to pour himself out into thee as soon as ever He shall find thee ready ….Finding thee ready He is obliged to act, to overflow into thee; just as the sun must needs burst forth when the air is bright and clear, and is unable to contain itself. Forsooth it were a very grave defect in God if, finding thee so empty and so bare, He wrought no excellent work in thee nor primed thee with glorious gifts.

Thou needest not seek Him here or there, He is no further off than at the door of thy heart; there He stands lingering,, awaiting whoever is ready to open and let Him in…He longs for thee a thousandfold more urgently than thou for Him; one point the opening and the entering.”

There are many ways in which each of us can project the inner spirit of God in our every day lives. Witnessing through giving of our gifts. As Lewis Hyde explained in his marvelous book The Gift, which I highly recommend.

By walking cheerfully over the earth and treating others with kindness is one way….. In service work:…. In practical ways like helping others with a problem: ….SOME, i know do it through singing: …… some by praying or visiting the sick:

Some express this gift in making art.

But as Friends we are also urged to outwardly witness for peace….., As Faith and Practice tells us, that witness is the experience of Christian love. It is that love made visible. It is a form of active prayer.

As most of you know, my leading has focused on elimination of militarism but because of growing up in a very racist culture, a small midwestern town enveloped by fear and paranoia separating me from the experience of a vibrant American multi-culture

(Racism cripples the young)

my message touches on both militarism and racism, both having directly affected my life in negative ways.

Some of you will remember my brief message in Meeting some time ago when I asked the question “ what led Friends among others in the ninetieth century to engage in non-violent civil disobedience by participating in the underground railroad, and by breaking laws that put their own lives at risk?

This question led me to a lot of reading which gradually focused on two authors: John Woolman and James Baldwin. It also turned into the subject of a series of paintings.

In reading John Woolman I got my answer: When enough people of good faith, including Quakers, could no longer tolerate the abuses of slavery. ….. Often even in the face of extreme disapproval by their peers, economic loss, and threat of death ….. They took action.

My query that followed in our recent study of queries was: do contemporary Quakers encourage outward action of liberation from unjust laws and conditions? Or do we endorse sufferance and toleration? Do spirituality and prayer take precedence over action in the world? How can we balance the two?

It is, as Parker Palmer points out, one of those paradoxes that each of us must cope with.

Each day it becomes more clear that American democratic ideals of equal opportunity have been supplanted by a permanent underclass of Native Americans, people of color, and those living in abject poverty who in ever greater numbers go from poverty , to prison, to drugs or suicide.

Why can’t the richest nation in the world change this condition?

The underlying reason, I believe, is the economics of systemic racism and inadequate education which has stacked the deck for this segment of our population.

When we increasingly question this crisis we are confronted by the power elite with the need for national security. In other words, fear.

And that 60 percent of our discretionary budget must go for the military.

It does become evident that power and greed benefit by our endless wars and that racism is built into that status quo. Martin Luther King pointed that out during the Vietnam War era.

What John Woolman and James Baldwin both spoke to so prophetically was the fact that oppression is equally destructive to both sides.

To eliminate the injustice frees up both: the slave owner’s terrible burden of guilt as well as the dehumanization of the slave in Woolman’s time.

Baldwin wrote in the 1960’s:

“The price of the liberation of the white people is the liberation of the blacks… And

in short, we, the Black and the White, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation. If we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity as men and women.”

Both Woolman and Baldwin envisioned the restorative justice principle basic to Christ’s message.

Can we envision a time when the violence of war will not be on the table? And when the abundant wealth of this nation will create an equal playing field for all Americans?

In practical terms, to restore justice, I believe we need to consider a program of reparation for those most damaged by racism, just as the Germans did for the victims of the holocaust. And we need to reallocate our priorities from the military to free education and health care for all.

The time has come.

Then and then only will we achieve full maturity as a nation.

James Nayler, Excerpt from a Letter to Charles II, 1660

Nayler sent this letter to Charles II, who had recently been restored to the throne of England in 1660. (His father, Charles I, had been beheaded during the English Civil War, 1641-1652.)

0 King! God hath in these Nations a People gathered by himself into his Light, who are known to himself better than to Men, and therefore have we suffered by Men under all the Powers that have risen in this Nation ever since God called us toward himself, by his Eternal Light and Spirit.

And though we receive not our Laws from Man, yet we are not without Law as to our God, but have one Law-giver, even Christ Jesus our Lord … from his Laws we may not depart. And by his Law in our Conscience, and the Power of his Spirit in our Hearts, we are ordered and guided to walk holily toward our God, and harmlessly towards Men … however they be minded towards us: and by the Virtue of the Lamb … we are made to give our Goods to the Spoil, and our bodies to the Tortures of cruel Men, rather than defile our Consciences …

[T]his hath God sealed in our Hearts, to seek the Good of all Men, Plot against none; but study peace and live quietly, and Exercise our Conscience faithfully toward whatever Government our God shall set up …

For more on Nayler, see Doug Gwyn (former DFM Pastor), “James Nayler and the Lamb’s War,” Quaker Studies: Vol. 12: Iss. 2, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/quakerstudies/vol12/iss2/2

Woman’s Society Report, June, 2019

Nine women met at the home of Dorothy and Ed Hinshaw for a delightful tea prepared by Dorothy and served by Ed. The only thing missing was a white cloth over Ed’s arm. All expressed great appreciation for the tea and fellowship.

Jo-an Jacobus brought the program reading and walked us through an article written by Pam Nafula, a Kenyan with a heart for ministry in Tanzania. The message was based on Lamentations 3 and encouraged us to move forward with faithfulness and endurance despite obstacles.

In our business meeting we signed cards to be sent out to those in need of encouragement and held two of our larger community in prayer —– John Muhanji of the African FUM office and another who has been revisited with cancer, along with Kat Langelier, who will be having cataract surgery soon.

Our work with Tedford meals was discussed and changes suggested will be discussed further next month.

Dorothy Curtis and Marian Baker shared stories on their trip last weekend to Quebec to visit with a Swahili- speaking Quaker women’s worship group. Slides from this trip will be shared at our July meeting.

Marian Baker closed our meeting with a sung prayer of thanks, hope, and blessings. Our next meeting is July 15 at Helen Clarkson’s home. All invited!

— Martha Hinshaw Sheldon

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, June 16, 2019

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened in worship for the conduct of business on Sunday, June 16, 2019 with 11 people present.  Clerk Susan Rice opened the meeting by reading a quote from Marcus Aurelius.

1. The May minutes were approved with the following addition to minute 13 that Falmouth Quarterly Meeting will have “rotating clerks and recording clerks, as led; Marian Dalton and Sarah Sprogell will serve as co-conveners and contact persons for the quarter.”

2.  Finance Committee and Treasurer: Katherine Hildebrandt reported that the Tom Fry apartment renovation loan has been repaid to the Bernice Douglas Fund. 

   The committee is interested in donating an amount from the Charity Fund Account to Craig Freshley for his Make Shift Coffee house events, a program which brings together persons in civil discourse and sharing across political lines.

   The meeting has received an additional amount from the Janet Douglas estate.  The committee recommends that we designate this money in the same way we did the first amount: 10% to the Charity Account, and the rest into the Capital Account.

  Discussion ensued concerning our use of the Charity Fund and social concerns needs that we might more be able to support. It was decided that we would have an all meeting discussion about our priorities and the use of our funds, in consultation with the Trustees concerning the Capital Fund needs, on Sunday, October 27th.

3.  The meeting approved the amount of $2000 be granted to Craig Freshley from the Charity Fund for the Make Shift Coffee House events.

 4.  Ministry and Counsel:  Martha Hinshaw Sheldon reported that Ministry and Counsel met on June 9th.  They discussed meeting for worship and pastoral cares.  They will be appointing a representative to New England Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel at sessions this August.  They hope to have a ministry and counsel retreat this September.  The theme they offer for the meeting in July, August and September is “How do we get our light leadings out into the world?”

They propose the following for meeting for worship order of service slightly revised from the April monthly meeting minutes: hymns, a reading or prayer, children’s story on the first and third Sundays, message (out of waiting worship) joys and concerns, offering, announcements, visitors, final hymn, and handshake.  We accepted their report with appreciation in the experiment of a different order of service.

5.  Peace and Social Concerns:  Cindy Wood has stepped down as clerk for the time being and Ingrid Chalufour will be filling in. Ingrid reports that “we have had two meetings in the past month, making plans for upcoming events.

  After the generative discussions at Meeting on April 28, we selected the climate crisis as a focus for our work in the coming year. We have three initiatives in the planning stages at this point. 1) An interactive panel with 3 or 4 youth focused on what they think we should be doing to address the climate crisis. This will be Sunday Sept. 29, after Meeting for worship. We will be inviting other Meetings to participate. 2) Show a film, Pittsburg to Paris, that looks at local community climate activists across the country. We are going to try a “house party” format for showing this film during October and November.  3) We will have regular posts in the newsletter with information about local climate events and state legislation.

  There is another christening at BIW on June 22 and Brown will be there. We are hoping others from Meeting will join him.

  We discussed the Kakamega fundraiser that we have been organizing in recent years. We are a small committee with a lot planned and we do not feel we can add that to our agenda this year. We are hoping there might be a few others in the Meeting who can take it over.

  Finally, we are aware of the many needs of the asylum seekers who are in and coming to Portland. We are requesting Meeting make a $500.00 contribution to support the asylum seekers. The donation can be made up of contributions from friends with the remaining, up to $500.00, from the charity account.”  The meeting expressed appreciation for Wendy Schlotterbeck’s involvement in this concern.

6.  The meeting approved a donation of $500 from the Charity Fund to the City of Portland in support of the asylum seekers.  An article will be included in the newsletter regarding this concern and information on how to contribute to this need.

7.  Liana Knight sent a report from the new Communications Committee which met on May 31, 2019.  Liana Knight agreed to be clerk. Members are Doug Bennett (maintaining DFM website), Donna Hutchins (control of DFM Facebook account), David Dexter (phone tree initiator), Margaret Wentworth (mailing paper newsletters), and temporarily Sukie Rice (interim newsletter editor and copier).  They will meet at noon on the first Friday of September, November, January, March, and May.  Sukie is filling in as newsletter editor until a new newsletter editor can be found. 

  The newsletter comes together as a result of three tasks: collecting information, editing the information submitted, and distributing the newsletter (by email and on paper).  Sukie will pass along committee reports submitted by clerks to Doug and Liana. Doug has set up an email address that will forward messages to Sukie, Liana and Doug. The address is DurhamQuakerMeeting@gmail.com.

  The web site is intended to be a resource for both members and the general public to get timely information about the meeting. Doug will put any meeting-related information he receives on the website within 24 hours of receiving it. The website currently has several static pages with information, and one blog page where news and messages are posted on an ongoing basis. The communications committee believes that for information to be publicized on the website or on Facebook it should be about Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends-sponsored events.

  The committee holds a question about Durham Friends Notes, which were started by Daphne Clement, then handled by Sarah Sprogell and Doug Gwyn, and most recently handled by Jo-An Jacobus. They would like to revisit the topic of Friends Notes at Monthly Meeting and have the meeting determine who should generate a Friends Note.  Their recommendation is that as our communication improves, Durham Friends Notes would be reserved for deaths, crises, and any other information of immediacy and importance.

  Doug Bennett has also started a “This Week @ DFM” email that goes to local Friends and contains whatever information he has about who is taking on the various roles of Meeting for Worship (greeting, care of worship, message, refreshments) that week. He will also include information about events happening for that week. 

  The Communications Committee would like a 4th Sunday discussion on September 24th for the meeting to learn about the website, and solicit information from the community about what kinds of information we want in the Newsletter.

8.  The meeting approved meeting on September 24th to discuss the meeting’s communication concerns.

9.  It was approved that the clerk and Ministry and Counsel clerk serve as supervisors of appropriate Friends Notes.

10.  Nominating Committee: Margaret Wentworth reported that it is recommended that Brown Letham be a member of Ministry and Counsel instead of Trustees, and that Donna Hutchins be an official member of Trustees.  

11.  We approved the above recommendations of the Nominating Committee.

12.  Clerk Susan Rice has received a letter from Ellis and Merrill Bolshaw requesting funds to attend Friends Camp.  We approved that the amount in the budget of $1000 be granted to Ellis and Merrill for camp expenses.

13. Recorder Sarah Sprogell gave the 2018 statistics which are attached.  She reports that we have 106 members, gaining one member and losing 2 through resignation and 2 through death.  The attendance at worship remained steady, averaging 39 each Sunday.

14.  Auditor Sarah Sprogell reported that she has audited the records for 2018 and found them to be well organized and in good order.  The job was made easy by the good record-keeping of our treasurer!  She has begun auditing the records for 2013 and hopes to complete the additional years up to 2018. 

15.  We appointed Sarah Sprogell and Martha Sheldon to be representatives to New England Yearly Meeting sessions.

  The meeting ended in quiet worship and a thank you from the clerk. 

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Georgetown Campout Weekend, June 15 (noon)-June 16 (afternoon)

Here is all you need to know about our upcoming weekend in Georgetown on the water!

Directions to the Holt-Muench property at 710 Bay Point Road in Georgetown:  
 
Take Rt. 127 south from where it crosses Rt. 1 in Woolwich (just across the 
river from Bath, Maine) and follow it 8.8 miles to Georgetown center.  On the 
right, after you pass the Georgetown Pottery, post office, Country Store and 
firehouse, Bay Point Road will turn off just before you start down the hill.  
After about 3 miles Bay Point Road will cross a marsh and make a fairly sharp 
bend to the left, then start watching for a white feldspar driveway on the left. 
Our mail box may or may not be out on the right.  After you turn in to the 
driveway a white sign on a tree to the left of the gate says Holt.  Follow the 
driveway down to the end and park on the feldspar circle by the house. Total 
distance is about 12 miles from Rt. 1. Phone: 371-2237.
What to bring? 
1. Bathing suit, towel and sunscreen 
2. Change of clothes, jacket for evenings and bug spray 
3. Sleeping bag, optional-tent (there are several beds and floor spaces inside) 
4. Friends! We welcome your friends

Food-  
--Saturday lunch- bring your own bagged lunch if your arrive at noon.
--Sat supper- bring something to grill and a dish to share 
--Sat campfire time- Snack to share
--Sun breakfast- Wendy will bring eggs and bread for toast, 
     still need: coffee, fruit, and other breakfast goodies you and your 
     family desire!
--Sun lunch- Potluck,  bring something to share (We have left over ice cream 
     from Children's Day; Wendy will bring cones).

 Special info:  My brother Jay had the lawns and other areas around the house sprayed with peppermint oil on Mondayto kill the ticks.

However that does not do anything against the browntail moths. We didn’t see any around the house last summer or so far this  spring but that is not true of further into the woods.  General principles: If going into the woods: cover up, wear a large brimmed hat that will keep the hairs off your head and neck.  If you see a brown tail caterpillar – KILL IT – and tell me about it. Mosquitoes  are  out in force due to the cold, wet Spring.

Also because of the Spring weather the Coast Guard has a special warning out to boaters about dangerously cold water.  I am imposing a rule this year that no one goes out in a boat floating in water deeper than their own waist without wearing a life preserver. This includes adults.  For adults judgement this means life preservers when boating if the tide is up within about a foot of the seaweed line of the white rock island. It also means that the sea breeze will be cold – bring sweaters accordingly.

Two Poems for Children’s Sunday

Two poems read by Amy Kustra on Children’s Sunday, June 2, at Durham Friends Meeting

On this day, we pray for tender compassion on all the little ones, whose souls, so fresh from the light, shine in our midst with a darling adorable brightness.  May we honor them deeply, learn from the truly, respecting the deep wisdom they carry.  Make us wise in our nurturing of then, generous in our loving, unending in our compassion, expansive in our wisdom, kind in our intelligence, and graceful with our hearts.  Let us give to them and receive from them, and let it be known among us that they are neither our projects nor our possessions, but messengers of light, illuminations of love.     – Daphne Rose Kingma from the book A Grateful Heart 

Today with Spring here finally we ought to be living outdoors with our friends. Let’s go to those strangers in the field and dance around them like bees from flower to flower building in the beehive air our true hexagonal homes.  excerpt from “The Whole Place Goes Up,” – Rumi

David Johnson to speak on the Gospel of John, June 9

Early Friends’ understanding of the Word was deeply rooted in the gospel of John. Come hear a student of both John and early Friends speak about early Friends’ understanding of the “measure” of Light given to each person and how it related to their understanding of perfection, and what their relevance are to us today.

Australian Friend David Johnson, author of A Quaker Prayer Lifeand Jesus, Christ and Servant of God: Meditations on the Gospel According to John (both published by Inner Light Books), will offer the message at meeting and a small workshop after worship at Durham on Sunday, June 9.  All are welcome.

We write this to make our[a] joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin. John 1, 4-7 NIV

New England Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions – August 3-8

359TH ANNUAL SESSIONS
AUGUST 3-8, 2019 
CASTLETON UNIVERSITY
CASTLETON, VERMONT

SESSIONS REGISTRATION NOW OPEN

Click Here to Register

What are the “Annual Sessions” of New England Yearly Meeting?

Each August, more than 600 Friends come together for worship, fellowship and seeking how God will guide us in meeting for business. Having first gathered in 1661, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends is the oldest “yearly meeting” in the Quaker world.

While this gathering is large—among the largest Quaker events in North America—there are many opportunities to connect with Friends old and new: vibrant youth programs, adult small groups, variety shows, topical interest sessions and shared meals. In recent years, Sessions has featured plenary addresses, Bible Half-Hours, a contra-dance, and coffeehouse.

CONTENTS

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, May 19, 2019

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened in worship for the conduct of business on Sunday, April 19, 2019 with 11 people present. Clerk Susan Rice opened the meeting by reading from the New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice: “Meeting as a Caring Community.”

1. The April 21, 2019 minutes were approved.

2. Ministry and Counsel: Martha Hinshaw Sheldon reported that Falmouth Quarterly Meeting has sent a letter of transfer of membership from Lewiston Friends to Durham Friends Meeting for Renee Cote of

Auburn, Maine. Ministry and Counsel recommends we approve this transfer. Other business included conversations about the worship hour, pastoral care, and a support group.

3. We heartily approved the transfer of membership of Renee Cote from Lewiston Friends Meeting to Durham Friends Meeting.

4. Finance Committee: Nancy Marstaller reported that the Capital Account has been moved from a savings account to a money market account.

10% ($1810) of the Janet Douglas bequest has been put into the Charity Account, and the balance ($16,200) has been added to the Capital Account.

They agreed to move $25,000 from the checking account into an 18th mo. CD with interest of 2.l%. Someone from the committee will attend Trustees’ meetings for communication purposes.

5. Nancy Marstaller reported for the ad hoc care committee for Ralph and Twila Greene financial support. As noted in last month’s monthly meeting minutes, additional funds are required for renovation of their house. It was suggested that we give an amount from the Charity Fund, and that persons are encouraged to donate to the Charity Fund. A full report concerning this project is attached.

6. The meeting approved donating $600 from the Charity Fund to help with the Greene house renovation with the understanding that they will be able to stay there indefinitely. People who wish to personally contribute to this fund are encouraged to do so (checks made to Durham Friends Meeting).

7. Christian Education Committee: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that they encourage “baby” noise in meeting for worship; it is waiting worship, not necessarily silent.

Sanitary stations were added to the bathrooms.

The Sunday School Godly Play teachers are “retiring,” and new teachers will be needed for September.

Upcoming events will be advertised in the newsletter or Friendly Notes: June 2: Children’s Day;

June 8: Yard and Plant Sale; June 15-16 Georgetown Campout; July 12-15: Wabanaki support circle.

8. Youth Minister: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that she participated in a racial justice event, and the climate change panel. She attended the All Maine Gathering. She is making plans for next year’s children and youth activities and Sunday School. We expressed appreciation for her work with children and youth.

9. Nominating Committee: We approved the nomination of Brown Letham and Bob Eaton to Trustees.

10. Trustees: Leslie Manning reported that Trustees met on May 5, 2019. The Cemetery Accounts were reported by Donna Hutchins to have $4.837.95 in checking, $4225.12 in savings, a CD of $22,339.92 as well as the Pratt Fund of $2,645.00. They will combine the Pratt Fund with the CD upon maturity of the CD if there is no restriction on the Pratt Fund. They recommend that the CD be renewed for a longer period of maturity.

They approved the sale of two plots in Lunt Cemetery to a new neighbor, James Holland. They viewed the standards for headstones and markers in the sale agreement.

On-going projects were listed which are included in the attached detailed report.

We were reminded that the current meetinghouse building will be 200 years old in 2029. They hope to have it in good condition for that anniversary.

Leslie Manning confirmed that she will be stepping down from Trustees. Donna Hutchins has offered to serve as clerk.

11. We expressed our appreciation for Leslie’s diligence and care as clerk of Trustees.

12. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Cushman Anthony reported briefly on past activities and Ingrid Chalufour reported that on April 27 approximately 6 people from meeting participated in the protest at the destroyer christening at Bath Iron Works. The Durham Friends Meeting banner was prominently displayed. On April 28 Linda Muller delivered the message at meeting followed by a discussion on the possibility of the meeting adopting a corporate concern. On May 10 the meeting co-sponsored an event titled “What Can We Do About Climate Change?” with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick. Approximately 100 people attended this panel discussion.

13. Falmouth Quarterly Meeting met during the All Maine Gathering of Friends held at the Friends School of Portland on May 4, 2019. Martha Sheldon reported that Falmouth Quarterly Meeting met with 26 Friends from throughout the Quarter in attendance. Co conveners were Marian Dalton and Sarah Sprogell. A proposal was presented and approved that the Quarterly Meeting:

-have business meetings twice a year; May and October for the purpose of reading state of society reports, memorials, pastoral care and other business that promotes, encourages, and supports caring and mutuality among area monthly Meetings,

-have rotating clerks and recording clerks, as led (Marian Dalton and Sarah Sprogell will serve as co-conveners and contact persons for the quarter),

-continue the present treasurer,

-notes that with fewer gatherings pastoral care can be informal with the help of Ministry and Counsels in Monthly Meetings taking on some of the concerns that arise,

-programs would occur when and if possible,

-worship would be a vital part of the Quarterly Meeting agenda.

Two letters of transfer from Lewiston Friends Meeting were read and accepted, one to Durham Friends Meeting and one to Portland Friends Meeting.

Memorial minutes, Treasurer’s and State of the Society reports were read and accepted.

The following minute regarding Lewiston Monthly Meeting of Friends was read:

“Thankful for the prayers, guidance and fellowship of Falmouth Quarterly Meeting and New England Yearly Meeting, members of Lewiston Monthly Meeting attended a called Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business at The Center for Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston on 12th Day, First Month, 2019.

In sadness, but with appreciation of our many years of worshipping together, and after prayerful discernment, we agreed to dissolve Lewiston Monthly Meeting, which began in 1972 as a Worship Group under the care of Durham Monthly Meeting and became a Monthly Meeting in 1980. We further agreed that our remaining funds of just under $2,200 be allocated as follows: $1,000 to New England Yearly Meeting, whatever amount is necessary for the administrative costs of dissolution, and the remainder to Trinity Jubilee Center, Lewiston, Maine. Approved 12th Day, First Month, 2019 Christine Holden, Recording Clerk.”

Four immigrant students are asking for support to attend Friends Camp. Approval was given for Falmouth Quarterly Meeting to allocate $100 for this purpose and to encourage individual donations.

The next meeting will be October 26, 2019 at Durham Friends Meeting.

14. We approved a request brought by Kitsie Hildebrandt that two of her Muslim friends use the meetinghouse for a wedding.

15. We approved a request that the Wabanaki Youth Group utilize a portion of our meeting garden.

The meeting ended in quiet worship.

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“Learning Compassion,” by Leslie Manning

This past Sunday (May 26) Leslie Manning brought us a message that grew out of Hebrews 13:1-3:

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

She invited us to settle into worship seeking the place where our compassion grows. After a time together in silence, she invited us to go out onto the grounds (as we felt led) and reflect on the passage from Hebrews.

When we returned to the Meeting room, she reflected on the difference between empathy, where the focus remains on what we ourselves are feeling, and compassion, where the focus remains on what another person is feeling or suffering. For many of us, empathy comes more easily than compassion.

To help us learn compassion, she taught us a Buddhist Metta, a meditation practice to learn compassion. In meditation, start with yourself, say inwardly ‘may I be healthy and whole, may I be strong, may I be at ease.’ When ready, move your focus to a friend or loved one, and say inwardly ‘may you be healthy and whole, may you be strong, may you be at ease.’ And then when ready, move your focus again to someone beyond your accustomed circle of family of friends and say inwardly ‘may you be healthy and whole, may you be strong, may you be at ease.’

Woman’s Society Meeting, May 20, 2019

Seven women gathered together at the home of Martha Hinshaw Sheldon on the 20th of May.  After signing cards to be sent out for encouragement and birthdays Kat Langelier brought the program.  She invited us to look at how we welcome children into our meeting.  This conversation was inspired by a concern shared from Kathleen Wooten, a traveling Friend within New England Yearly Meeting.  Kathleen had visited meetings that were discouraging to children being in Meeting for worship.  How can we be welcoming to all?  How can we creatively imagine ways to be with differing opinions about worship?  How can we be careful not to unintentionally alienate others?  How can we elder nicely? 

Business matters.  Minutes were read and approved.  Treasures report was given and accepted with appreciation.  Prayers were shared for Oscar Mmgali, a Kenyan who recently started ministry work in Belize.  Tedford meals were discussed to make sure all is well.  All officers renewed their positions for the next year:  President – Dorothy Curtis, Treasurer – Nancy Marstaller, Recording clerk – Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, Cards ministry – Margaret Wentworth and Vice President – Kitsie Hildebrandt.  The June meeting will be at Dorothy Hinshaw’s home at 5:00 with Jo-an Jacobus giving the program.  If you are interested in carpooling meet at the Meeting parking lot at around 4 to drive to Sumner. 

We closed with a poem on Kind hearts and a moment of silence. 

Humbly submitted by Martha Hinshaw Sheldon

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, April 21, 2019

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened in worship for the conduct of business on Sunday, April 21, 2019 with 14 people present.  Clerk Susan Rice opened the meeting by reading a verse from a hymn, “Christ Be Our Light.”

1.  The March 17, 2019 minutes were approved.

2. Ministry and Counsel:  Martha Hinshaw Sheldon reported for the committee. At their April meeting they discussed a proposal for a change in the order of worship: Hymns – Call to worship – Children’s message (1st and 3rd Sunday) – The message – Open worship – Joys and Concerns – Offering – Final Hymn – Handshake – Announcements.  They also discussed a concern shared from New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM).  More information will be posted in the Newsletter with further discussion planned in following weeks.  Pastoral care concerns were shared.  One was a report on the housing upgrades for Ralph and Twila Greene.  Nat Shed sent a second request to Obadiah Brown Fund for funds for renovations on the house the Greens moved to recently.  While it is better than the previous house it still needs a few repairs to make it more comfortable.  If you are led to help financially with this project or want to help with the renovation work, contact the team who have been working on this concern – Nat Shed, Edwin Hinshaw, Dorothy Hinshaw, and Nancy Marstaller.  There are other such pastoral care teams throughout Durham Friends Meeting who have been laboring tirelessly to share ministry and support for many who have been in need in the past few months.  “As clerk I am very appreciative of these individuals and groups as they shine the light and love of God to many in our meeting,” Martha added.  

    The meeting thanked Ministry and Counsel (M&C) for their careful consideration of our worship hour and suggested that we try their changed format during the months of May and the first two weeks of June, with further discussion on this new plan at the June Monthly Meeting.

3.  Christian Education: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that an egg hunt was held this morning for Easter Day, and we enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by Katherine Langelier, Dorothy Curtis, and Kim Bolshaw, with other tasty donations by attenders.  They announced that the annual yard sale will be June 1.

4.  Peace and Social Concerns:  Four members of the committee met on April 9 at Brown Letham’s apartment: Linda Muller, Cush Anthony, Brown Letham and Ingrid Chalufour.  They discussed upcoming events.  Linda and Ingrid reported that the group planning the climate panel had their third meeting at the UU church, and Ron Turcotte, the moderator of the panel, attended.  The group outlined an agenda and talked through all the details of the evening.  Brown volunteered to get a climate change banner and to be on the clean-up crew. All will distribute posters.

  Ingrid reported on her first Brunswick Area Interfaith Council meeting, where she passed out a preliminary flier about the climate panel. 

   They discussed the April 27 Bath Iron Works vigil. They will car pool from Brunswick and hope others will join them.  Brown has printed a handout showing research on the costs of war.

   Plans were made concerning the message and potluck discussion on April 28.  Linda will deliver the message planned by the group and Ingrid will organize small and large group discussions. 

5.  Trustees: Kitsie Hildebrandt reported for the Trustees. Katherine Langelier has asked that parents of home school children schedule the meetinghouse and grounds for a regular Gentle Parenting Meeting. 

    Trustees have asked Rick’s Pump Service to make recommendations to update our water system; Dan Henton will carry out a “dump run” with trash from the horse shed; and they will begin having a trash pick-up at the meetinghouse.

6.  We approved the scheduling of the Gentle Parenting Meeting group using the meeting house social room area partitioned off from the library.

7.  Finance Committee:  Kitsie Hildebrandt handed out the first quarter financial report (attached) which we accepted with gratitude.  The parsonage pellet boiler damage was repaired, and the insurance payment received.  We were reminded that the Ralph and Twila Greene fund is a project of the NEYM, but that Durham Friends Meeting is a conduit of financial contributions received for their house repair.  More information may be gained from the ad hoc “Greene Care Team” mentioned above in the M&C report.

   We are very thankful for a generous donation from Janet Douglas’ gifts and memorials. It was suggested that 10% of this fund be added to the Charity Account, and that the remainder be used for the capital account for upkeep of buildings and grounds. 

8.  We approved the above use of the Janet Douglas Fund: 10% be added to the Charity Fund account, and the rest for buildings upkeep. 

   The meeting closed with a short period of worship. 

            Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk 

“Learning to Drive” by Doug Bennett

Message at Durham Friends Meeting, May 19, 2019

We celebrated my Dad’s 100th birthday two weeks ago.  He wasn’t with us; he died in 1990.  But I made him a cake and we celebrated his good life.

He taught me a lot of things.  More things than I learned: I should have paid better attention.  One thing he taught me was how to drive.  I wanted to get my license so I did pay attention to that, and so I learned.

He was a pretty tough, demanding driving instructor.  Good enough wasn’t good enough for him, so he made sure I knew how to handle difficult situations of all kinds.  For example, this was in Rochester, New York, and he wanted to be sure I could handle icy roads.  So there was a Sunday we went down to a supermarket parking lot.  There weren’t any cars because supermarkets weren’t open on Sunday when I was a teen.  And for an hour and a half he had me get up to speed in our family sedan, slam on the brakes, and then deal with the resulting skid.  Over and over again, skid after skid.  He wanted me to be comfortable behind the wheel with the car out of control.  He wanted me to have that experience. 

We also had a little Renault that he drove to work.   It had a five speed manual transmission.  Evening after evening, after dinner, he’d take me to a dirt road on a nearby county park and make me practice with that manual gearshift. Often the road was muddy so starting up was harder.  And after I sort of got the hang of it, he had me start the car in second gear.  When I got the hang of that, he’d find a little hill and have me start the car moving in second gear on that little hill.  It all felt a little severe at the time, but I’m glad he made sure I learned to drive well. 

Learning to drive has been on my mind because now Ellen and I are teaching Robbie to drive.  He’s had his learner’s permit for several months, and his first times behind the wheel, at least legally, came in his driver’s education course.  But since he’s had his permit he drives every chance that comes his way. 

I just said “Ellen and I are teaching Robbie to drive.”  Now I know that isn’t quite right.  It’s rather: “we’re helping him learn to drive.”  There’s a big difference. 

What gets done, what gets learned, he has to do.  We’ve introduced him to a succession of challenges and he’s figured out how to handle them.  Instead of a Renault Dauphin, he’s learned to drive a stick shift in our 1987 Jetta, which has sadly just failed a basic safety check so he can’t take his driving test in that.  I’ve had him start the car up in second.  I’ve looked for muddy dirt tracks up at the Topsham Fairgrounds.  He’s dealt with starting up a stick shift on hills.    He’s handled a few skids – though no icy supermarket parking lots. 

I’m not downplaying the role of teachers when I say what we learn we have to learn ourselves.  Teachers can play a big role, but the learning is something you have to do yourself.  The learning can’t be injected with a needle or poured down your throat.  Whatever it is: learning to drive, learning geometry, learning to bake a cake – learning what’s important in life. 

Teachers can encourage, they can coach, they can challenge, they can pose tasks or problems, but they can’t do the learning for you.

As I’ve been sitting next to Robbie in the passenger seat, he’s in control and I’m not.  It’s his hands on the steering wheel; his feet on the pedals.  I make suggestions and comments. I call attention to hazards and situations.  I talk to him about other drivers; how you can’t be responsible for what they’ll do and you’d better be prepared for the worst.  I talk to him about speed limits, about conditions when even going the speed limit isn’t safe. 

I quickly realized – I already knew this, but the realization really hit me – that I can’t tell him things fast enough, even when I’m sitting right next to him.  His learning to drive has to be a matter of his having fully taken in what he needs to know to drive well.  I can’t be some voice in his head he’ll hear every time he turns on the ignition.  (“What would my Dad say about that?”) 

I can still hear my dad talking to me about driving if I really put my mind to it, but that’s not how I drive. 

Nevertheless, there are lots of occasions when I wish I could hear from my Dad.  There are lots of matters I’d love to talk over with him.  There are so many questions I never asked him, and so many others I where didn’t listen carefully the one time or two I did ask him.  Wherever I’ve gone, he’s been there before me: being a teen, falling in love, having children, working, retiring from work

All this about learning to drive and wishing I still had my Dad sitting next to me helping me learn to drive has gotten me thinking about how we learn from God – how we might learn things from God: about living the good life, about fixing the things that aren’t right in this world, about what’s worth celebrating and what’s worth mourning.  Those sorts of things.  Here I am in the driver’s seat.  Is God there next to me?  I think God is.  I think that’s something we Quakers know and maybe can teach others.

Learning life is tougher than learning to drive.  None of us ever quite learns everything we need to know.  It’s like we do need our dad, or better, our mom sitting next to us, giving us the occasional suggestion, pointing out a difficult situation ahead.  And here’s the deal, the wonderful deal.  There she is sitting beside us.  She doesn’t say much most of the time, and we don’t expect her to say much most of the time.  But she’s there sitting next to us.  She’s ready to offer advice, or simply tell us it’s all OK.  When we ask.  When we’re prepared to listen. 

Of course that’s not exactly what George Fox meant we he said “Jesus has come to teach his people himself.”  He didn’t mean Jesus would be literally sitting next to us when we’re driving.  He meant something stranger and yet more wonderful. 

He meant Jesus, or the Inward Teacher, or the Seed, or the Light was always with us, always inside us — as well as all around us.  When we need guidance, we have to be sure to ask.  We have to be ready to still ourselves and listen.  That takes some learning: how to seek, how to ask, how to still myself, how to listen.

And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 28.  What an amazing, reassuring promise. 

Today I don’t have my Dad with me in the way that I’d like.  So it’s a great comfort to me to know that I have the Inward Teacher wherever I go. 

crossposted on River View Friend

Peace Vigil at Bath Iron Works

On the morning of April 27th at 8:30 a coalition of peace groups including the Durham Meeting of Friends gathered at the Bath Iron Works to witness their opposition to the military buildup represented by the “Christening of another Zumwalt destroyer. Approximately 75 vigilers proposed the conversion of this powerful facility to peacetime production, especially on renewable energy sources and away from the wasteful and redundant defense budget. This budget represents a clear threat to the serious environmental and human resource needs of this country and the world. To address this urgency, 25 protestors were arrested for civil disobedience.

–Brown Lethem

Here is an article by one person who was involved:

For the whole article, click here.

Intergenerational Game Night, May 12, 5pm

Because New England Yearly Meeting’s Permanent Board will be at the Meetinghouse all day, this Intergenerational Game Night will begin at 5pm, with a potluck supper at 5:30 pm. These game nights have been a lot of fun for everyone whether playing games or getting a chance to hang out and visit. Hope to see you there!

“A Language for the Inward Landscape,” by Doug Bennett

Message at Durham Friends Meeting          May 5, 2019

I’ve been reading a remarkable recent book.  It’s by Brian Drayton and William Taber, and published in 2015.  Its title is a little forbidding: A Language for the Inward Landscape: Spiritual Wisdom for the Quaker Movement.  Let me explain a little how this book came to be and what it’s about.

Bill Taber was a remarkable Quaker, an Ohio Conservative Friend who had deep spiritual gifts.  (If you don’t know what it means to be a Conservative Friend, let’s talk about that during social hour.)  I came to know Bill Taber when he was a member of ESR’s Board of Advisors.  He taught at Pendle Hill for many years.  He did many, many workshops and wrote a number of books and pamphlets. 

He had a concern that we modern Quakers had lost touch with the meaning of many Quaker phrases that we have inherited from the first generation of Quakers.  He meant phrases like “hold in the Light” or “the measure of Truth given to each of us.”  He wanted Friends to understand those terms as they were first used because he thought they were important, essential even, to understanding Quaker spirituality.  He did a number of workshops on these old Quaker phrases, which he called “A Language for the Inward Landscape.”  He imagined writing a book, but he died before he could write it.

Brian Drayton is a member of New England Yearly Meeting, a member of Weare Friends in New Hampshire, and another person of deep spiritual gifts.  After Bill Taber’s death, he drew on Taber’s notes and his own understanding to write the book Bill Taber might have written. 

Our Meeting library has a copy and that’s how I came to read it.  There’s an inscription on the cover page, signed by Brian Drayton, which reads “for dear Clarabel, friend and fellow worker in the gospel.” So this is a special book for us here at Durham Friends. 

Why do Drayton and Taber speak of the inward landscape?  Because for many, especially Quakers, our spiritual life unfolds within us, not ‘out there.’  Look around this Meetinghouse: no pictures, no statues, no stained glass, no soaring arches, no incense.  No one dressed up in robes, no kneeling, very little performance.  There may be people for whom a spiritual life requires that external sensory pageant.  But for Quakers (and not only Quakers) the life spiritual unfolds within us as we seek a still small voice: the teacher within, or “the Light.”

Today, let me just say a little about what Taber and Drayton tell us about what early Quakers meant by “the Light”  — what we’re looking for in this inward landscape. 

For starters, of course there is the remarkable opening of the Gospel of John. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 

About this, Drayton and Taber say  “It must be emphasized that the first Friends did not start with this and other “Light” passages in the Bible, and then set out to make them part of living experience.  Nor was it that these seekers read the scriptures, and found the answers to their questions, ending their search.  The “light and life” passages had power for Friends because they expressed the way in which these spiritual pilgrims encountered Christ among them.” 

In short: the experience of “the Light” came first:  the felt experience.  That helped them make sense of what it says in the Gospel of John. 

Drayton and Taber quote something written by Isaac Penington, an important early Quaker.  Penington imagines having a conversation with a person first learning about God and Jesus. 

Hearing of the Savior, the learner asks “But hath not this Saviour a name? What is his name? “

And Penington answers “It were better for thee to learn his name by feeling his virtue and power in thy heart than by rote.  Yet if thou canst receive it, this is his name: the Light, the Light of the World.”

So Penington is sating we should strive to know The Light (whatever we call it) by our own experience, not from doctrines or creeds nor even, first, from the Bible.

Drayton and Taber quote Rufus Jones, a much more modern Quaker saying much the same thing.  Here is Jones:

“The Light Within, which is the central Quaker idea, is no abstract phrase.  It is an experience.  It is a type of religion that turns away from arid theological notions and that insists instead upon a real and vital experience of God revealed to persons in their own souls, in their own personal lives….

“We no more need to go somewhere to find God than the fish needs to soar to find the ocean or the eagle needs to plunge to find the air…

The Pioneer Quakers believed with all their minds and strength that something like that was true, that they had discovered it, tested it, and were themselves a demonstration of it.”

For these early Friends, “The Light” was a powerful metaphor, a way of referring to something so powerful that it was difficult, maybe impossible, to capture in words.  They didn’t want us to know it through words; they wanted us to know it through direct experience. 

For these early Friends, The Light was a illumination, it was the source of Truth, it was an antidote to sin, and it was a basis of unity. 

That’s a lot, but they didn’t want us to take their word for it.  They wanted us to seek to experience it inwardly, for ourselves.

+++

Drayton and Taber want us to be careful, even self-conscious, when we use the term “Light.”  So I want to read an important paragraph that ends with a few queries. 

“In areas of Quakerdom in which the language about ‘the Light within’ has come to be used in the context of a great deal of theological diversity or uncertainty, it is important to ask, ‘What do we mean when we say “I will hold you in the light?”’  When the Light is identified, as traditionally, with the inward presence and work of Christ, this identification implies some expectation of spiritual experience. The Light is interpreted by what we learn of Christ in the Gospels and New Testament Letters; at the same time, the scriptural record is also interpreted by our encounter with the living Christ in ourselves and others.

“If the Light is not linked with the Spirit of Christ, then we must seek other ways to understand what in our experience is in harmony with the Light that we know, and what is not. So it is good to take some time in our meetings to ask each other with real interest such concrete questions as:

“(1) What do you mean by the Light, and is that an important way you experience God’s presence and action?

“(2) Have you experienced the Light visually? Do you know someone who has or unusually does?

“(3) What are the ways you distinguish between some prompting or teaching of the Light, and a prompting or urging from some other source? 

“(4) What is the relation between the Light you experience and that which I experience?”

Many have found we experience the Light in waiting worship.  So let us settle into worshipful seeking together. 

_____________________________

  • Brian Drayton and William P. Taber, A Language for the Inward Landscape: Spiritual Wisdom from the Quaker Movement (Tract Association of Friends, 2015), chapter 2, pp. 15-38. 
  • Isaac Penington, “Short Catechism for the Sake of the Simple-Hearted,” in The Works of Isac Penington, a Minister of the Gospel in the Society of Friends, volume 1, pp 123-4.
  • Rufus Jones, An Interpretation of Quakerism,” https://www.pym.org/publications/pamphlets/an-interpretation-of-quakerism/.

cross-posted on River View Friend

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, March 17, 2019

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened in worship for the conduct of business on Sunday, March 17, 2019 with 20 people present.  Clerk Susan Rice opened the meeting by reading from the 1985 New England Faith and Practice, “The Quaker Method of Making Decisions,” paragraph 2.

            1.The February 17, 2019 minutes were approved.

            2. Ministry and Counsel:  Martha Hinshaw Sheldon reported that they met in March to share pastoral care concerns and discuss possible changes to meeting for worship. A few new modalities will be introduced over the next few months to get a sense of what if any changes might be made.  Feel free to share concerns and responses with the committee.  The opening theme of “Leadings” will continue through March shared by the Care of Worship person at the beginning of worship in the form of a reading or prayer.  The theme for April through June will be “Attending to the Light.”  More information on this theme will be included in the Newsletter.   

            A welcoming dinner happened with Cush and Maureen Anthony and Bruce Ludders.  Other dinners will occur as needed.

            The State of Society Report was shared, and we expressed appreciation for this report.

            3.  The State of Society Report was approved with revisions; it is attached.

            4. Christian Education and Youth Minister: Katherine Langelier sent her report and reported that the committee met on March 3rd.  The intergenerational game night and potluck supper on March 9th was very enjoyable.  They thank everyone who came: 19 in attendance. Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that there will be a Ukrainian egg painting on April 6 at 2:00, and an Easter breakfast with children’s activities on April 21.

            5. Trustees: Leslie Manning reported that they met with Kim Bolshaw, our custodian and with Kitsie Hildebrandt our treasurer to get caught up on recent events at the parsonage and expressed gratitude for all the work done to handle the freeze up and problems with the pellet boiler.  The tenants are concerned about energy use and Kitsie’s son, Willis Beazley, who does this for work, has agreed to look at the parsonage with an eye toward weatherization.  Things seem stable now.  They will be looking at alternatives for the laundry pipes placement soon.

            The water filtration system in use at the Meetinghouse is 15 years old and obsolete.  The installer, who is still in the business, will come to consult and make a recommendation.  The water is safe but does contain minerals and has a brackish taste.  We are using a Brita filter and continue to use water jugs brought from home to keep us supplied.  We hope to have this all resolved later this year.

            The lock on the front door has been replaced by Dan Henton; if you need a key, please see Kim. 

            They are pleased with the repair work on the ceilings and will get an estimate from the same painter for the painting of the walls of the meeting room, which they will have done this spring, after Easter.

They appreciate that everyone is cooperating with the closing of the Meetinghouse at the end the day or meeting.  Please keep it up so that we can continue to reduce our heating costs.

They ask the Nominating Committee to name replacements for Trustee vacancies.

Everyone expressed satisfaction and gratitude for the custodial work being done by Kim Bolshaw and the plowing and sanding being done by Andy Higgins who continues to donate his services.

             6. Finance Committee:  Sarah Sprogell brought the year-end report for 2018: revenue income for the year, expenses listed by category totals, a breakdown of designated accounts, and a breakdown of our savings and investments.  A second page listed detailed expenses line by line for each category. We ended the year with total income of $57,047.79 and total expenses of $45,409.96.  Attached are these reports. We expressed gratitude for this detailed report.

            7. Nominating Committee:  We approved the appointment of Margaret Copeland to serve on the Lisbon Area Christian Outreach Board.

            8. Peace and Social Concerns Committee:  Brown Letham reported for the committee.  Upcoming events were announced for April:   April 27 – vigil at BWI at the christening of a destroyer; April 28 – the committee will bring the message, have a finger food potluck, and following worship a discussion on the meeting’s corporate discernment for the committee’s direction.  Brown brought a brochure regarding the call for a conversion to peacetime production at Bath Iron Works.  The committee recommends that Durham Friends be a co-sponsor of the vigil for conversion of BIW to peacetime production at the warship christening. 

            On May 10, the committee is cooperating with the Brunswick Unitarian Church to hold an event on climate change and how congregations can get involved on different levels of action.

            Details and information about these events will be included in the Newsletter.

            9.  We approved supporting the April 27 vigil at Bath Iron Works as a co-sponsor, including our meeting name on a flyer, and possibly displaying a banner. 

            10. We approved the following persons to be representatives at Falmouth Quarterly Meeting which is meeting on May 4 in conjunction with the All Maine Gathering: Sarah Sprogell, Wendy Schlotterbeck and Betsy Muench. 

            11. New England Yearly Meeting Permanent Board has asked to meet at our Durham Meeting on May 11, and we approved.  Sukie Rice will be the point person for arrangements for our hosting them.

            12. It is with sadness that we report that our member Julianna Fogg died at age 56 on February 22, 2019.

            The meeting closed with expressions of love and appreciation for our time together. 

            Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“When I Was In Prison, You Visited Me,” by Jan Collins

Message at Durham Friends Meeting, April 14, 2019

Thank-you for welcoming me here on this glorious Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus was welcomed like a King into Jerusalem,  less than a week before his death and rebirth. On this day, I am considering Christ’s prescriptions about what it means to lead a good life and to be transformed/reborn/resurrected. 

I consider this passage from Matthew 25. Jesus has referred to the people on his right and tells them they will be with him in heaven –

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’…”

The righteous respond that they have never done this for him, and he says

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’

Why did Jesus choose the phrase, “I was in prison and you visited me”? At first glance it appears to be out of place.

We have all fed the hungry and clothed the naked, taken in strangers, or looked after the sick. It is easy to do. Who would not share their food with a hungry child who approached you begging?

….But, who among us have visited in prison? It is not so easy to do. Prisons and jails are not easily accessed, they are out of the way and there are barriers to visiting. They also require more than giving things. They require us to give of our deepest self.

 Do not let these barriers dissuade you, the visit will be transformative.

When I was three, my father was imprisoned. He had a drinking problem. He went to a convenience store, stole some beer and money from the cash register.

He was also the breadwinner in our family. His imprisonment meant that we had no income and were soon homeless… My mother was now a single parent of four children under the age of 5.

We were lucky. My uncle, a farmer, offered us a small plywood trailer that he used to travel to county fairs as our new home. It had a set of bunkbeds. My sister and I slept on the top bunk each of us at either end. My mother slept with my two little brothers in the bottom bunk.It was without running water, but did have electricity and an outhouse. Before winter set in we were able to move to a small house that another uncle owned and rented.

While Dad was in jail, my parents divorced because my dad was also violent when he drank.

These events shaped who I am. When a parent goes to jail, it is a public event. I grew up believing everyone knew, but trying to hide it just the same. We carried, I carried that shame.

When you visit jail or prison, you will find people of all colors, religions, and creeds…but mostly you will find the poor, the mentally ill, the abused, societies cast-offs. At a recent meeting of inmates at Maine State Prison the speaker asked those who had not had a court appointed lawyer to raise a hand. In a room of over 40 people only three raised their hand. Only three people in the room were deemed to have adequate resources to pay for their own attorney.

This week, you may or may not have seen a report from the 6th Amendment Foundation(the 6th amendment guarantees the right to an adequate defense)which was presented to the Judiciary Committee of the Maine State Legislature. The report gave a scathing inditement of Maine’s indigent legal defense system, saying in some cases it completely failed its constitutional requirements and was ripe for a class action lawsuit.

In most jails, 70%-80% are awaiting trial, too poor to pay bail. Not yet found guilty of anything, they will likely lose their jobs while they await trial. Others are serving time because they are too poor to pay their fine.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. …higher than Cuba, higher than Russia, higher than Iran. Our rate of incarceration is 7 times higher than any other NATO member.

Who do we incarcerate? In the late 1970’s we decided to stop treating addiction as a medical problem and to instead treat it as a criminal issue. Up to 80% of inmates have a substance use disorder. Sixty percent have a co-occurring mental health diagnosis. Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce is fond of saying that he runs the largest mental health facility in the state….and yet he has no mental health resources. Families tell him that they are glad that their family member has finally been arrested, because maybe now they will be able to get the help they need.

Sadly, that is not true. We do not do addiction treatment in jails, except in rare instances, and we do not do mental health treatment. In fact, the Department of Corrections will tell you they have no budget for programming. We have so many people incarcerated, that we do not have money for rehabilitation. You have probably heard of the prison “wood shop” at Maine State Prison, but did you know that most positions there are for people who will never be released? People with short sentences will likely not receive skills training.

In Maine, we release close to 1600 inmates each year. Only a tiny fraction are lucky enough to be chosen for reentry beds.

Many inmates released from Maine State Prison, are given $50 and their clothes in a garbage bag when they are released. Barely enough for a day’s meals, it is certainly not enough to start a new life.

Why am I here? In 2014 my son was sentenced to 20 years in prison. My husband and I had adopted  him and two siblings from foster care where they had been in 5 homes in 5 years.

His imprisonment began my journey of reclaiming my past and of discovering, sadly that he would not get the help he needed in prison. In fact, he would get the opposite.

I hope you will join me on my journey, because in it I have discovered just why Jesus required us to visit those in prison. They are the hungry, the sick, the naked, and the strangers among us. And they are the disappeared, the people no-one sees, and the people without a voice.

Please join me in prison and in giving the incarcerated a voice.

Jan Collins, Wilton, ME

Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition Assistant Director

“Message or Miracle: Awakening to the Light,” by Doug Bennett

From a message given at Durham Friends Meeting, April 7, 2019

For some, Jesus’s message is what you take to heart.  What he preached, what he taught, was so very different from what anyone else was teaching.  Not just turn the other cheek.  The last shall be first. Be not proud but be humble.  Ask for forgiveness.  Help the poor in possession, body or spirit.  He taught a new way of life that turned upside down the common sense of the world, and you find it oddly compelling even if very, very challenging to follow.  

For others, it’s the miracles.  There were miracles he performed while he was alive.  Water to wine, lepers cleansed of their affliction, the sick healed, a multitude fed on a few loaves and fishes, even one raised from the dead.  Like a master magician, he saved his most stunning miracle for the end by coming back from his own death. 

Message or miracle? Miracle or message?  Speaking for myself, I’ve been more drawn to the message, the challenging message, than to the miracle.  I’ve not been sure what to make of the miracle story.  This spring season presses us to think about the miracle. 

I grew up in a church that recited the Apostles Creed nearly every Sunday.  It wasn’t really written by the Apostles, but it is old, probably from the 4th century.  Quakers are suspicious of creeds.  George Fox, our founder, said, “You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this: but what canst thou say?”  But just today I want to read the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

I am struck by how much that 115-word summary stresses the miracle.  It hardly says a word about the message – maybe nothing at all.  Where is the Sermon on the Mount in that Creed?  The Good Samaritan? Where is the tenderness to the poor or broken-hearted? Where is the call to peace and justice?

That Creed with its focus on the miracle side gives us guidance about how we are to understand the miracle.  “Resurrection of the body”: that would be a miracle. “Ditto “Life everlasting” – the door to heaven swung open to believers.  “Forgiveness of sins”: some theologians speak of “substitutionary atonement:” Christ died for our sins so we can be forgiven, a dramatic ‘paying it forward.’ 

But let’s note.  People don’t write creeds to sum up what everyone believes.  They write creeds to forge agreement, maybe even force agreement.  Among early Christians there was disagreement about what the miracle of Jesus’s last days was about.  Serious disagreement.  The Apostles Creed was put together to insist on orthodoxy.  If you didn’t subscribe to that you were a heretic.  Hence the Quaker reluctance about creeds.  “What canst thou say?”

The entire message is available at Doug’s blog, River View Friend

Report from Peace and Social Concerns, March 17, 2019

By Brown Letham

Upcoming events:

April               Lenten Saturday vigils at Bath Iron Works

April 27          Vigil at BIW for the christening of a destroyer          

April 28          P&SC give message, and sponsor potluck and discussion at Durham Friends Meeting

May 10           Co-sponsoring a panel discussion of climate change action at the Brunswick  Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church

May 11           New England Yearly Meeting Permanent Board will meet at Durham Meetinghouse

May 11            Game Night to follow

May 17           Peter and Annie Blood concert at Portland UU church

Ingrid Chalufour reports that she will be attending meetings of the Brunswick Interfaith Council. Cush Anthony is involved with the Maine Council of Churches.

Planning of the Friday, May 10 climate change action panel discussion: Panelists will be Sen. Brownie Carson, Rev. Sylvia Stocker, and Ann D. Burt. There might also be a Bowdoin student.  The purpose of the panel and the activity below is not to describe climate change or debate its existence but to talk about actions that people can take on an individual, legislative , and most importantly, organizational level.

Sunday April 28 Worship, potluck and discussion: The P&SC committee is generating queries to prompt thinking and discussion about corporate witness as a Meeting. A short First Day message may spring out of the queries that will be brought into worship.  Finger food potluck followed by discussion.

Peace vigils at BIW: Brown mentioned that the next destroyer christening at BIW was planned tentatively for April, as well as the remaining Saturday Lenten vigils there. He brought a pamphlet about a call for a conversion to peacetime production at BIW and asked if Durham Friends would consider endorsing/sponsoring it.

The Minute reads: “Peace and Social Concerns Committee recommends to Monthly Meeting that Durham Friends be a co-sponsor of the vigil for conversion of Bath Iron Works to peacetime production at the upcoming warship christening.”

Sponsorship would entail permission to print our name in the flyer, display the banner at the vigil, but no financial obligation.

[Editor’s note: the destroyer’s christening has been scheduled for April 27 at BIW.]

Library News for March 2019

By Dorothy Hinshaw

Hal Tucker was an ordained United Church of Christ (UCC) minister and a mentor to many students at Bangor Theological Seminary (BTS) and in the UCC tradition.  He was one of “Bee’s Boys” and learned to love our Quaker way during his years at Bowdoin College while rooming with Bernice (Bee) Douglas. He also served our meeting as a pastor while a student at BTS.  He and his wife, Bettina, have given us many valuable Quaker books from their collection. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading one of these donated books, Living in a Larger World, the Life of Murray S. Kenworthy, who grew up in the Midwest (as did I). Kenworthy became a well-loved Quaker pastor, teacher at Earlham College, and served with the American Friends Service Committee.  This book gives an insight into the development of the Quaker pastoral system and programmed meetings, and the AFSC feeding program in Russia.   His son, Leonard, was a prolific writer about Quaker subjects; several of his pamphlets are on the pamphlet shelf. 

“Check out” these valuable books and pamphlets!

Egg Decorating – Ukrainian Style

By Nancy Marstaller

Saturday, April 6, at the Meetinghouse from 2-5 PM

Please RSVP so I can set up appropriately: marstallern@gmail.com or 207 725-4294.

I’ll lead/teach egg decorating using the Ukrainian wax resist method. This process creates beautiful, colorful eggs AND takes patience and fine motor skills, so is for older children and adults. There will be other activities scheduled for younger children during this time.

I have dyes, tools, and directions for my own and traditional Ukrainian designs, or you can do your own thing. Bring a small donation for dyes if you wish.

I will bring extra eggs and candles, but if you can please bring a one or two eggs (raw, not blown out) and a candle in a holder. Take your eggs out of the refrigerator the night before. If eggs are store-bought, rinse with a solution of about 1 TBSP white vinegar in 1pint water, then rinse with clear water and gently pat dry to remove any commercial cleaner residue. If they are newly laid at your place or locally, just wash gently with water, and know that they may not take the dyes evenly until they are at least a few days old.

I hope you’ll join me!

Attending to the Light — Worship Theme April to June 2019

Quakers have an unusual way of talking about what we are seeking: we are seeking “the Light.” 

The Gospel of John, long a favorite of Quakers, begins by saying “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  That’s an arresting way of talking about what we are seeking, but quickly John moves to speaking of the Light.  John says the Word was “the light of all humankind.”  Moreover, “the light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Of the coming of Jesus, John says “the true light that gives life to everyone was coming into the world.” John 1:1-9.  And later John quotes Jesus as saying “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12. 

The early Quaker James Naylor said  “Art thou in the darkness? Mind it not, for if thou dost thee will feed it more. Stand still, act not, and wait in patience till light arises out of darkness and leads thee.”

The early Quaker theologian Robert Barclay said “That for this end God hath communicated and given unto every [person] a measure of the Light of his own Son, a measure of grace, or a measure of the Spirit.”

And in worship we often ask that we hold someone “in the Light.”

What a remarkable gift is “the light.” How can we awaken the Light within us?  How can we wait in patience till light arises out of darkness and leads us?

Worth watching is this QuakerSpeak video: