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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Plant and Yard Sale, June 8, 2019, 9am-1pm

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“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.’

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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

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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 

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“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

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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.

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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!

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“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

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Juli Fogg, 1962-2019

Juli Fogg was a beloved member of Durham Friends Meeting.

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Tell Me the Truth: Exploring the Heart of Cross-Racial Conversations, Wednesday, May 1, 7pm, USM

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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

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Climate Change Panel, May 10, 2019, 7pm

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Easter 2019 at Durham Friends Meeting

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“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

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“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

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All Maine Gathering of Friends, May 4, 2019

To register, go here

To register, go here

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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.]

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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!

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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!

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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: 

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“Developing Habits of the Heart, Part III,” by Liana Thompson Knight

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 24, 2019

I’d like to begin with a story that may be familiar to some of you. In fact I think I have even heard this story in this Meeting room before. This is a story out of the Jewish tradition, that comes from the Hassidic masters:

Once, the Hassidic rabbi Zusya came to his followers with tears in his eyes. They asked him: “Zusya, what’s the matter?” And he told them about his vision, “I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”

The followers were puzzled. “Zusya, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”

Zusya replied, “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?’ and that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?’” Zusya sighed, “They will say to me, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?’”

This story resonates deeply for me. I find it really easy to look around me at things that other people are doing—really good, deeply important things—and feel like, ‘well, that’s important, so I should be doing that, too.’ It takes constant work to remember that just because work is valuable and necessary, does not mean that it is my job to take it on. Perhaps I can support the people I see doing this work in some way, but I, myself, cannot do it all.

So what am I supposed to do? This is a question that has been following me around for many years now, and it resonates because I don’t have a full answer for it. And yet sometimes there are ways in which I am pulled. As Quakers, we believe that we can be guided by the inner light, if only we sit and wait for guidance. I have to admit that a lot of times, I feel like I am stumbling about in the darkness. However, sometimes, that inner light gives me a small glimmer, and occasionally that inner light shines a beacon in some direction.

One of the strongest leadings I have had recently is to pursue the Courage and Renewal work—Parker Palmer’s work—that I have spoken about with all of you before. It was out of that leading that I pursued Facilitator Training, and it is that leading that compels me to stand before you here today. And I think that the idea of leadings is useful today as we continue to consider Parker’s Habits of the Heart, from his book Healing the Heart of Democracy.

As a reminder, or super brief primer for those who have missed my previous messages, the five interlocking Habits of the Heart that Parker outlines in that book are habits that he identifies as being necessary to the healthy functioning of democracy. I believe that they are also necessary to the healthy functioning of society. The five habits are:

  1. We must understand that we are all in this together.
  2. We must develop an appreciation of the value of “otherness”
  3. We must cultivate the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways
  4. We must generate a sense of personal voice and agency
  5. We must strengthen our capacity to create community

In past messages, I have spoken about the first three Habits (that we’re all in this together, the appreciation of the value of otherness, and cultivating the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways); these habits Parker connects with the idea of humility. Today I would like to speak about the fourth Habit—the sense of personal voice and agency—which is one of the two Habits that Parker connects with the idea of chutzpah.

The first three Habits ask us to be open to the wisdom of others and to be respectful of others’ positions. The fourth Habit, along with Parker’s idea of chutzpah, acknowledges that I, too, have a voice and a perspective, and lifts up my need to be heard in counterpoint with other voices and perspectives, as part of the fabric of a functional democracy/society.

In his description of this Habit, the need to generate “a sense of personal voice and agency,” Parker writes, “Insight and energy [from holding tensions in life-giving ways, part of Habit 3] give rise to new life as we speak out and act out our own version of truth, while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. But many of us lack confidence in our own voices and in our power to make a difference. We grow up in educational and religious institutions that treat us as members of an audience instead of actors in a drama, and as a result we become adults who treat politics as a spectator sport. And yet it remains possible for us, young and old alike, to find our voices, learn how to speak them, and know the satisfaction that comes from contributing to positive change…”

Having grown up Quaker, I am grateful that I came of age in a religious tradition that honored personal agency. However, I have still struggled mightily to find my own voice. Part of this struggle comes out of being finely attuned to what I perceive others want from me and many years spent privileging those wants—other peoples’ wants—ahead of my own voice. Another part of it comes out of feeling small in a big world: In this world of so many people, why should anyone listen to me? In a society with experts who have numbers and statistics about any topic I can come up with, why should my opinion matter?

Our society by and large functions on the level of the intellect. Facts and figures are used to make decisions, and there is utility in those facts and figures. However, to find our sense of personal voice and agency, I think we are asked to speak from a different place than the place of intellect, though we may draw on our intellectual knowledge as we speak our truth. I also think we are asked to speak from a different place than the place of emotion, though we may feel or describe emotions when we speak our truth. I think the place from which the sense of personal voice and agency can arise most naturally is from the level of the soul, the inner teacher, the inner light.

Parker loves to lift up individuals who have found a way to align their individual wholeness with their role within society. He talks about these individuals living “divided no more” – no longer having a breach between their individual integrity, the stirrings of their soul, and the way they live and/or work. He talks about well-known individuals like Rosa Parks, and also about anonymous individuals, like a doctor who realized how torn he felt between his personal integrity as a doctor on the one hand and the quotidian sacrifices he was asked to make in his professional environment on the other. Rosa Parks, as we all know, sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott; the doctor went on to change procedures within his medical practice—procedures that directly impacted the quality of care he was able to deliver and helped him to better uphold his Hippocratic oath. For all of the individuals Parker references, he talks about how they find their voice through listening to where their inner teacher called them.

Given that a sense of voice and personal agency arises from the inner teacher, and that leadings also arise from the inner teacher, there is a strong connection between having a leading and developing a sense of personal voice and agency. Having a leading certainly lends itself to developing voice and agency. When I am pursuing a leading, I have clear ideas about why this leading is important. It is easier to speak up or speak out when I feel like I have clarity on why something matters to me.

But what about all those times when my inner teacher tells me that something is right or wrong, true or not true, moral or immoral without also having a clear leading to take action or live into this belief in some new way? Do I have to have a leading in some area to be able to cultivate this sense of personal voice and agency? I do not think that is the case. While having a leading can lend strength to my sense of personal voice and agency, having a sense of personal voice and agency does not require me to be pursuing a leading in the arena about which I have a truth to share. I do not have to be actively pursuing policies that will help make life better for women with small children to be able to share the truths I have experienced about what it is like to try to navigate career and family under the current policies held in our society. I do not have to be an expert on climate change, or a leader in what to do about it, to be able to express my truth that it is a topic of great concern to me.

“Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?” Each one of us has within us a unique combination of truths that we could speak that come from the context of our individual lived experiences and the voices of our inner teachers. I do not have to try to be everything to everyone, I cannot solve all the problems, I can’t accomplish it all single-handedly. But I do have to listen for where I am called, look for where I can be of use, and lend my voice to those things that are within my realm. If I can do that, I will live into being Liana, I will speak with the voice that only Liana can speak with, I will act with the agency that only Liana can bring.

In closing I offer you three questions:

What truths has your life made evident that you give voice to?

What truths has your life made evident that you wish to give voice to?

What leading(s) are you living into?

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“Developing Habits of the Heart, Part II,” by Liana Thompson Knight

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, February 24, 2019

When I last brought the message, in early December, I spoke about Parker Palmer’s Habits of the Heart, from his book Healing the Heart of Democracy. The Habits of the Heart are five interlocking habits that Parker has outlined in the belief that developing and practicing these habits can help individuals from diverse backgrounds better hold tensions in society. As a reminder, the five habits are:

  1. We must understand that we are all in this together.
  2. We must develop an appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
  3. We must cultivate the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.
  4. We must generate a sense of personal voice and agency.
  5. We must strengthen our capacity to create community.

In December I talked about Habit 1: that we must understand that we are all in this together, and Habit 2: that we must develop an appreciation of the value of “otherness.” Today I am turning to Habit 3: “We must cultivate the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.” 

As a way in to thinking about that, I want to share with you a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” Rilke writes:

“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a strange tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given because you would not be able to live them—and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.”

These words have resonated for me ever since I first heard them, probably because I have spent so much of my adult life trying to find answers that have been hard to come by. In school there was an answer for everything, or at least, so it seemed. And so, as I have navigated the first nearly-20 years of adulthood, I guess it is not surprising that I get thrown off by questions and situations that don’t have an obvious answer.

Rilke’s call to “love the questions,” and to “live the questions” is challenging for me because it means embracing not knowing and embracing the lack of a clear answer. But it is also liberating. It is liberating to take a deep breath and believe with certainty – even if only for a few minutes – that I do not have to answer my questions today.

In my adult life one of the biggest questions that remains unanswered is a question about career path. I have always been a goal-oriented person, so my natural tendency in my 20s was to pick something and aim towards it with equal parts intensity and rigidity. On the cusp of turning 30, the economy crashed, and it seemed like all of my hard work towards a career crashed out from under me. All of a sudden I was left to consider what to do with a brand new degree in a field that simply wasn’t hiring anywhere in the country. For the first time in my goal-oriented life, I was really lost.

Finding my way again has involved a certain amount of re-learning how to be in the world and how to approach navigating a path forward. In many ways, I have been living a version of what Parker Palmer would call a “tragic gap.” Parker describes the “tragic gap” as being the gap between the way things are, and the way we know they might be. In my case, this was the gap between knowing that I had all the skills to be able to land a good job and the reality of being an unemployed newly-minted dramaturg.

Parker speaks often of “standing and acting” in the tragic gap—being able to hold the tension between reality and possibility in a way that can open up a new and different way forward. Standing in a tragic gap and holding that tension is hard. It means resisting being pulled towards either pole of the gap: not resigning ourselves to the way things are or giving into cynicism and disengagement on the one hand; not allowing ourselves to escape into excessive idealism or fantasies on the other hand.

The challenge of standing and acting in the tragic gap is as relevant in the ways in which we interact with society as it is in our personal lives. I know that there are many people in this Meeting who are probably standing in their own version of the tragic gap as they work on societal, political, and global problems: climate change, gun violence, immigration, education. The list could go on and on, the relevance of the idea of the tragic gap has no limits.

I think the idea of the tragic gap is also key to understanding what Parker means when he names the third Habit of the Heart as being: An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways. As he fleshes out his description of this habit, Parker writes, “Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others.”

This tension-holding, this standing in the tragic gap, is tremendously challenging. It means having to let go of preconceived notions of what is best, of what the path forward should be, of thinking we have the answer. Sometimes we may have the answer, but I think that holding tension in live-giving ways demands of us to let go of our answers for a little while and be able to live in the questions. When we can live in the questions, and love the questions, as Rilke exhorts his correspondent to do in ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ we expand our capacity for listening to other answers. In listening, to both ourselves and others, we may be better able to walk the line between the poles of a tragic gap, finding a new way forward.

Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai has a beautiful short poem that I think encapsulates this idea of living the questions, and I would like to share it with you. It is called “The Place Where We Are Right.”

From the place where we are right

flowers will never grow

in the Spring.

The place where we are right

is hard and trampled

like a yard.

But doubts and loves

dig up the world

like a mole, a plough.

And a whisper will be heard in the place

where the ruined

house once stood.

As we settle back into silence, I ask you three questions:

(1) What questions are you living at this time?

(2) In what place are you standing that will not allow flowers to grow?

(3) What doubts and loves help you dig up the world?

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“Developing Habits of the Heart, Part I,” by Liana Thompson Knight

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 9, 2018

In worship last week, Keith Harvey brought us a message that began with a story about Jeremiah. He then gave us examples of Jeremiah figures from more recent times: people like John Woolman and Martin Luther King, Jr. Individuals who spoke their truth, even when the views they expressed went against the grain of society.

John Woolman is a figure whom Parker Palmer lifts up at the beginning of his book, Healing the Heart of Democracy. Parker explores how Woolman provides an example of how an individual can hold the heartbreak they experience due to the conditions of the world in such a way as to enable continued wrestling with an issue. Woolman, traveling among Friends to speak out against slavery, continued to speak his truth even when his perspectives weren’t immediately adopted by the community. The community, meanwhile, didn’t shut him down. Woolman influenced many Friends to free their slaves, and over the years his testimony contributed to a shift in perspective on slavery in the Religious Society of Friends.

Though society has changed since Woolman’s time, our polarized society has a desperate need to learn to embrace the kind of tension-holding that Woolman and the Religious Society of Friends exemplified in the 1700s. Quakers have done this tension-holding for over three hundred years in our consensus based system. Somehow we need to model that in our majority-rule based society.

Parker believes that individuals from diverse backgrounds can better hold tensions in society through developing what he calls the Five Habits of the Heart. Taken together, these habits embody what Parker terms as chutzpah and humility. By chutzpah Parker means knowing that I have a voice that needs to be heard and the right to speak it. By humility, he means accepting that my understanding of anything is always partial (and may not be as true as I believe), and that I therefore need to be willing to listen to the perspectives of others.

Within that framework, Parker outlines the five interlocking habits of the heart as:

  1. We must understand that we are all in this together.
  2. We must develop an appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
  3. We must cultivate the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.
  4. We must generate a sense of personal voice and agency.
  5. We must strengthen our capacity to create community.

He links the first three habits—we are all in this together, an appreciation of the value of “otherness,” and the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways—with humility, and he links the last two habits—generating a sense of personal voice and agency, and strengthening our capacity to create community—with chutzpah. Yet each of the habits grows into and out of the others in a web of interconnection.

In today’s polarized political climate, with all of the challenges that we face as a society, country, and world, I often feel like developing my sense of voice and agency is the most important thing. Certainly being able to stand up for what I believe in is important. Just as John Woolman did, we each need to speak truth as we see it. At the same time, I need to be able to listen to others who see the world differently than I do—and to listen deeply, with a willingness to learn—especially when I think, or even know, that I am right.

Listening can be hard. Listening can be really hard. Even on the level of our closest relationships, listening can be hard. When I believe I know the truth about something—whether it has to do with politics or what happened last summer—and my partner has a different perspective, it is really hard to listen and not just try to convince him that I am right. Parker believes that most of our interactions play out this way—we listen in order to respond and in order to rebut. Sometimes in normal conversation we get so carried away with formulating our responses that we’re not even really fully listening.

Through my retreat facilitator training with Parker and other leaders from the Center for Courage and Renewal, I have learned how much listening can impact a relationship. And the kind of listening that is the most impactful is deep listening—listening with the intent to hear and understand someone. Deep listening is different than listening in order to respond with answers or opinions. It is really different than listening with the intent to frame a counter perspective or convince someone of something else.

Deep listening humanizes people. As I have sat in Circles of Trust (the retreat model developed by Parker), I have been privilideged to experience the humanity of total strangers through deep listening. Often, through deep listening, I am able to find pieces of others’ experiences that resonate with my own lived experiences. Always, through deep listening, I am able to find deep compassion for the human beings sitting in the circle with me.

So I see deep wisdom in Parker’s call to cultivate the habits of the heart that connect to humility as an integral part of the fabric of community. And so, today, I invite you to reflect on the first two of the habits of the heart.

Habit One: we must understand that we are all in this together. We are dependent on the same resources, linked by interconnected social and political structures and policies, affected by the same economic and environmental crises. This doesn’t mean that we all experience these things in the same ways, or that political, economic, and ecological change affect us all in the same way. Nor does it presume equailty in our experiences. But we are all affected, for better or worse, in interconnecting ways.

Before we get too grandiose and far-flung in our thinking, I want to bring us back to our own lived experiences to help us consider how we are all in this together on a more person-sized scale. So I offer you two questions:

When in your life have you connected with a stranger due to a shared experience?

Where in your life have you experienced people coming together across differences?

Alongside those considerations, I offer you Habit Two: we must develop an appreciation of the value of “otherness.” Though we are all affected in interconnecting ways, our lived experience is in smaller groups that have distinct ways of being in the world and that hold different perspectives and beliefs. This habit encourages us to practice hospitality and to embrace what people from groups different than ours have to teach us. Perhaps more than any other habit, this one requires us to practice deep listening. So the question I offer you related to this habit is: When in your life have you deeply listened to another’s story?

Recognizing our interconnectedness and valuing different perspectives, beliefs, and ways of being in the world aren’t in of themselves going to bring us to consensus on difficult issues. However, cultivating these two habits of the heart may help us to connect with people who are different than we are, to hear their stories, and to begin to identify the places where we might hold some amount of common ground. It is a beginning.

As we return to silent worship, I invite you to hold the three questions:

When in your life have you connected with a stranger due to a shared experience?

Where in your life have you experienced people coming together across differences?

When in your life have you deeply listened to another’s story?

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State of Society, Durham Friends Meeting, 2018

In 2018 the State of our Society at Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends was healthy and thriving. We gather at our old brick Meetinghouse from towns north, south, east and west from Durham, forming a community grounded in a vital worship life that that both gives and receives strength from a range of other activities in the Meeting.  We are still feeling our way, but more confidently, in our second full year of proceeding without a paid pastor. 

Ministry and Counsel has accepted new responsibilities both for the worship life of the Meeting and for pastoral care of members and attenders.  We love receiving messages from one another, sometimes in linked themes across weeks, and also as each individual is led. We also have been much enriched by invited message-bringers from outside the meeting.  We continue to reserve 5th First Days in a month, when there is one one, for unprogrammed worship.  We have been adjusting our regular schedule to accommodate expressed needs for more gathered silence during Meetings for Worship. 

All of us are still not completely comfortable proceeding without a pastor, but we are finding ways to have various committees and individuals do what a pastor once did for us.  An ad hoc committee appointed in 2017 led a yearlong consideration of the issues in proceeding without a pastor.  We asked ourselves, what can we do to strengthen the Meeting?  We came to focus on three needs to which we need to be attentive:  pastoral care, outreach and coordination.  Without a pastor, each of these areas is an important function with which we may struggle if we do not fresh approaches.  An adult Sunday school meets regularly and we have been experimenting with prayer circles. 

Our membership numbers have stayed relatively constant with a few passings and a roughly equal number of new members.  Nearly every week we have visitors.  We average 30 to 40 in worship each week except in the summer when, with one and another of us scattered to other Maine pleasures, numbers are a bit lower.  We meet for business regularly and appreciate an excellent monthly newsletter. 

Ministry Counsel has taken on responsibility for pastoral care of members.  Having this as a committee responsibility rather that mostly relying on a pastor has been an important challenge.  We have developed an organized approach to seeing that we are attending to all expressed needs.  Some of us are still learning to see a visit from a fellow member rather than a pastor as pastoral care. 

We take delight in the presence of children among us and are grateful for the creativity and care of our Youth Minister.  We provide childcare every Sunday, and children’s programs on 1st and 3d Sundays.  Our Christian Education Committee continues to be a source of vitality for the whole Meeting.  It has developed an inter-generational approach to reaching out to families and provides spiritual nurture to youth through Godly Play and Young Friends seeking.  CE also arranged a series of Game Nights for children of all ages and these will continue.  Through our budget and extra efforts we arranged support for several children to attend Friends Camp.

We aim to make a difference in this world guided by the Spirit, love and our understanding of scriptures. Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee has new members and new energies for a variety of initiatives.  The Kakamega Orphan Care Center, Lisbon Area Christian Outreach’s food bank, witnessing for peace at Bath Iron Works, a quilting project to address gun violence, the American Friends Service Committee and Seeds of Peace camp all received our attention and support. Towards the end of the year, P&SC arranged a thought-provoking social justice film series. 

Our Trustees have been faithfully attentive to caring for our Meetinghouse, horse shed, parsonage burial grounds, and phone/internet service.  Each has needed and received attention.  Our Finance Committee and our Treasurer have the Meeting’s financial house in good order.  We vexed ourselves with disagreements about whether and which clock to allow in the Meeting room but we appear to have found a solution.  We share the Meetinghouse regularly with a 12-step Group and a Native American fellowship group. 

Outreach has been a question on our minds.  How can we reach out beyond ourselves to bring our message and the delights of our community to others?  We have taken this on as a challenge for all of us, as we turn to a new year. 

Approved by Monthly Meeting, March 17, 2019

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Meeting Music and Pianists, by Nancy Marstaller

            Currently there are 3 of us who take turns playing the piano during meeting for worship: Dot Hinshaw, Sue Wood, and Nancy Marstaller.

            Dot started taking lessons when she was 6 years old. She could play by ear and found it harder to learn to read music. When she was taking lessons, her teachers would remind her to play the notes on the page! She practices all the hymns in our books, concentrating on those that might be called for in the current season. She didn’t play for worship services until coming to Durham. We’re lucky to have her with her lively playing style, especially as she can transpose a piece to make it easier to sing, and add chords and flourishes to pieces with only the melody written down.

            Sue also started taking lessons as a young girl. She fell in love with the organ and started playing for churches when she was in her teens. She doesn’t practice particular hymns for meeting, and likes to work on classical pieces at home. We are fortunate to have her accompany the choir too; she plays with such feeling.

            Both Dot and Sue choose pieces to play during the offering based on what’s said or arisen in worship.

            I also started taking piano lessons at an early age. I’m glad sight-reading was one of the skills the teacher stressed. When I first started playing at Durham Meeting, mostly filling in for Mary Curtis or another pianist, the pastor picked the hymns, and I chose a piece with the same theme for the offering. Now, of course, we don’t know what will be called for. It may be a piece we really don’t know, and I’m grateful no one points out all my mistakes! I practice a few pieces with the offering in mind, and may play one of them or another that seems called for by worship. I miss playing organ/piano duets with my mom.

            We’d love to have others play, for the hymns or for the offering. Speak to any of us if you are interested.

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