“Has Anyone Asked Jesus What He Wants for His Birthday?” by Leslie Manning

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 20, 2020

From Richard Rohr:  “The common Christian understanding that Jesus came to save us by a cosmic evacuation plan is really very individualistic, petty, and even egocentric. It demands no solidarity with anything except oneself. We whittled the great Good News down into what Jesus could do for us personally and privately, rather than celebrating God’s invitation to participate in God’s universal creative work.”  

Grace is available to all.  Grace, the unmerited favor of God to all humanity, is always present, always available, always abundant, if we but see it.   This season, called Advent, meaning arrival or coming, is not part of our Quaker understanding since we believe that the long-awaited Jesus is already in our midst.  “Christ is born” not “Christ was born”.

But we welcome it and practice our waiting a little more intentionally.  In this season, say from December 6, the feast of Saint Nicholas to January 6, the feast of the Kings, or Mages, the world joins us in waiting for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us, to dwell within us–Emmanu-el, the in-dwelling God.  Living together – in the things that endure.

This time of darkness deepens and the natural world stills; We celebrate the Festival of Lights of the Jews, the Solstice of the Pagans, the Saturnalia of the Romans, the lighted evergreens  and Yule of the Druids, and call it Christ mas—Christ’s Mass, which is the celebration of his birth, death and resurrection in the rites of the Catholic Church, enacted daily in every Mass.

But, if it is Jesus we are celebrating, has anyone asked him what he wants for his birthday?

The origin stories of the birth of Jesus differ, as accounts written down after being told for generations would.  Matthew tells us what we as observant Jews need to know to fulfill the Messianic prophecies; Luke tells us of the non-Jewish world about the Christos, the anointed one, through the eyes of his mother; Mark cuts right to the chase and tells us about the priest, teacher and healer who calls us to action. 

It might be said that Matthew tells us what we need to know, Mark tells us what we need to do, Luke tells us who we need to know and John, often called the Quaker evangelist, tells us who we need to be.  Living together in love.

And yet, none of this is necessary.  We don’t need to know the origin story of Christianity to be filled with grace.  Christmas happens, in the veins of the needle user and the dealer, whether it is recognized or not.  Grace is available to all.

Whether our drug is consumption or caffeine, Christmas happens.  Whether our shopping is done, our presents mailed, our bills paid, our rent overdue, our stomachs empty or full, Christmas happens.  Whether the baby is conceived before the couple is married, after the ruling power orders his death, the family flees to safety in another land or the angels stop speaking to us in dreams, Christ’s birth, Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection happen, because grace is available to all.

Have we asked, “What does Jesus want from me for his birth day?”

So, whether this Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah, or Messenger, or Metaphor to you; whether you walk with Jesus in your daily life or honor him as a prophet or use his name as a cuss word, remember, Christmas happens.  And not just on December 25th.  Grace is available to all.  Just ask his mother.

“My soul”, she sang, “magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in the One who has saved me… He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich– he has turned empty, away….

Yet, grace is still available to all.  The Light returns.

“We Wear the Mask,” by Mimi Marstaller

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 13, 2020

This week in my class we discussed the poem “We Wear the Mask”. I teach 11th and 12th grade English literature, and most of the students are immigrants and refugees from Central Africa, Central America, the Middle east, and Southeast Asia.

The poem “We Wear the Mask” was written in 1892 by the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. I’d like to share with you some of my students insights about this poem, so first I’ll read the poem.

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

Each day we explored different lines of the poem that students drew out as being interesting or bringing ideas to their minds. At the end of class each day we wrote our thoughts, and have been working on editing those thoughts into an essay. I’ll share some of the thoughts that students wrote.

Leya, who is a 12th grader from Tanzania who has been in the US for three years, wrote this.

 Nobody knows your struggle until you tell them, or it comes to them, a common saying is “people throw the spear to the pig and they feel good but if you throw it to the humans it hurts them”. This means if somebody struggles you don’t feel it even when they tell you, you will think they lie. A quote from the poem says, “We sing but oh the clay is vile”. This means to me, we are telling people we struggle but they are not hearing us and even if you tell the world, it will not help you. If we look back at how black people have been tortured, nobody was able to give them the rights, but they were telling people we need the right which is like singing to someone and they don’t even listen to you.

Asho is from Somalia. She has been joining our class on video each day, because her mom’s health is fragile and she doesn’t want to bring exposure from school into the household. Participating in an in-person discussion from Zoom is hard, but Asho does great. She will break into the conversation flow saying “Miss, can I say something?” We in the class are always glad for her insights, and we often spend the rest of the class discussing her point. In this instance, she presented a totally new way to read the poem. She said,

This poem seems to be talking about the problem of celebrity with the media. I think wearing masks is not about the physical mask but another mask that has different meaning. In this poem it seems like the writer is talking about the two faces of the famous people. Famous people have two faces that they used. One is which they show the media, while the other is the one they show when they are far from the media.

Famous people can’t express their feelings in front of the media for many reasons. The most clear reason they don’t express their feelings is that they are scared the world will know them. In the poem it says, “Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs?“  It seems this line is saying that the world shouldn’t care about us and neither shouldn’t care if we are happy and sad.

Another Somali student, Hamda, wrote about this same idea of whether the world cares for us. She started out by saying,

This poem is an example of how many of us view the world today, which is all people just being selfish, nobody cares about how other people are feeling. People are no longer interested in speaking about how they feel because they will be judged for expressing their feelings. 

When the author says, “Why should the world be over-wise in counting all our tears and sighs?” This sounds like he is saying that the world feels great about noticing that he is in pain and crying.

In a writing conference, I asked Hamda to say more about how she thinks people have changed in how they relate to others. Had she seen such changes over her own lifetime? In her parents’ generation? When she answered, I encouraged her to add that to her essay. Here is what she wrote:

People always change after they fight for unification, in my own experience I think that selfishness was beginning after my parents’ generation because they had developed as a nation and all they could think of was getting ahead of each other.

            These three students were not the only ones to identify the problems of competition and judgment in our society. Their comments reveal their understanding that while showing one’s true self sounds like a good thing, the mask provides protection from the judgment and violent misunderstanding of others. The mask protects us, but they acknowledged there is a cost to concealing the true light within us. The last student I’ll quote is a young woman named Aluet. She is from South Sudan.

Everyone wears a mask and we all know, if we do then why are we wearing the mask? We cannot live life peacefully if we keep wearing the mask, we are also teaching this generation to wear the mask.

The prayer these students’ words bring to me this morning is,

Guide me in my own use or disuse of the mask. And help me create, especially for the young people in my life, a space where the mask is slightly less necessary. Where we can work toward creating the kind of peace Aluet mentions, a peace based on our understanding of each other’s truths, not the phony peace that comes from masking our differences. Help me remember that that space is created mostly by listening. Listening without judgment. And let the light of our joy and our complexity and our pain and our passion shine from beneath the mask. Amen.

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends – Handbook – DRAFT, November 2020

Current Monthly Meeting Handbook (2007) is here. What follows is a draft revision for consideration at Monthly Meeting, December 2020.

Purpose and Goals

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends is a community discerning and serving the will of God.  Our understanding of God comes through corporate worship, study of the Bible and other literature, a sense of God through Jesus Christ, through continuing revelation, and in confirming experiences, many of which we share with one another.  The Meeting should provide opportunities for the individual to grow in faith and in expressing that faith.  For these purposes it is important for us to attend Meeting for Worship and Monthly Meeting for Business, to support the Meeting financially, to serve on committees as time and energy allow, and to take part in opportunities provided by the Meeting for worship, study, and fellowship with others. 

The Meeting is ideally a supportive community for those in it.  Those in the Meeting should be aware of its involvement in Friends groups at many levels beyond our own community: i.e., Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, Friends United Meeting, Friends General Conference, American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends World Committee for Consultation.  The Meeting is a member of the Brunswick Area Interfaith Council and the Lisbon Area Christian Outreach. 

Monthly Meeting

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends meets once a month for business in accordance with Friends’ custom as stated in Faith and Practice of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (1985).  These meetings are held the third Sunday of each month after worship.  Business of the Monthly Meeting includes minutes, treasurer’s reports, Ministry and Counsel reports, reports of committees as appropriate, and consideration of other concerns as they arise.  Fund raising beyond the budget requires the approval of the monthly meeting. 

Committees, both standing and ad hoc, are appointed to help conduct and carry out the business of the Monthly Meeting.  Concerns, issues raised, and proposed actions may be assigned to appropriate committees for ‘seasoning’ and careful consideration.  Such committees then report their recommendations back to Monthly Meeting for further action.  Committees also present to Monthly Meeting concerns which they have discerned, and proposed actions.  Each committee of the Monthly Meeting at its organizational meeting chooses its own clerk from among its members.   It is recommended that an agenda be sent out previous to monthly meeting by Friday noon if possible; and that substantive materials (reports, proposals, etc .), from committees and individuals be sent as e-mail attachments.  Remind people that the meeting will generally consider only matters that have been first considered and brought forward by a committee appointed by the meeting.  Generally the meeting will not make a decision the first time a matter is brought forward but rather allow it to season for a month.

Clerk

The Clerk or a Co-Clerk of the Monthly Meeting presides at the Monthly Meeting for business, takes care of correspondence and the details of the business items unless such responsibilities are delegated to others.   

Recording Clerk

The Recording Clerk makes a record of the minutes and reports of the Monthly Meeting.  In preparation for archival storage the minutes are recorded on acid-free paper.  Periodically the minutes are bound and copies are made for Durham Monthly Meeting, the New England Yearly Meeting Archives, and the originals deposited at the Maine Historical Society in Portland. 

Recorder – Archivist

The Recorder keeps a record of each member and of all changes in membership, such as births, marriages, deaths, applications, and transfers.  Records should be kept in a form approved by New England Yearly Meeting.  No recorder’s pages are destroyed but kept for archival purposes.  A statistical report is prepared each year for the Monthly Meeting and the Yearly Meeting.  It is recommended that the Recorder issue annually to the membership an up-to-date list of names and addresses of all members.  Once every tenth year an up-to-date list of the membership is to be attached to the Recording clerk’s records. (started in 2007)

Ministry and Counsel

Monthly meeting appoints at least six members to Ministry and Counsel. The youth minister, and Meeting clerk meet with the committee.  The primary functions of Ministry and Counsel are to oversee and to nurture the spiritual life of the Meeting.  Visiting within the Meeting community, especially but not limited to those who have a particular need, shall be a high priority.  Ministry and Counsel shall visit and encourage, nurture and support visiting by others in the Meeting community.  Ministry and Counsel shall encourage members and attenders to develop their skills and calling in the many facets of the mission of the Meeting. 

M&C oversees Meeting for Worship, encouraging members and attenders to share messages and care of worship.   M&C oversees the instruction of attenders and others who show an interest in the Meeting and considers applications for membership and, if favorable, recommends that the Monthly Meeting accept the applicant as a member.   M&C prepares an annual state of the society report which is forwarded to the Monthly Meeting for its consideration and then sent on to the Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel.

M&C should appoint annually one of its members to be clerk to preside at its meetings and a recording clerk to keep minutes of proceedings.  Meetings are held regularly each month.  Special meetings may be called by the clerk of M&C on request of three members of Ministry and Counsel.   Representatives are appointed to attend and report back on Quarterly Meeting and New England Yearly Meeting Ministry & Counsel sessions.  Recorded ministers who are members of the Meeting are ex officio members of M&C. 

Meeting Care Coordinator

The Meeting Care Coordinator and members of M&C share responsibility for attending to individual pastoral care needs of the Meeting.  The Meeting Care Coordinator would help ensure that those needing visits or special care have their needs met and help maintain connection with those who may seem to be drifting away.    The Meeting Care Coordinator would assist M&C or take the lead in contacting members to find message givers for each Sunday worship.  The MCC helps coordinate prayer groups and prayer partners, as needed.  The MCC also maintains coordination with the Youth Minister.   The MCC provides assistance, as needed, in scheduling and communicating about these events and in coordinating with other churches or organizations with similar concerns.  The MCC would also provide follow-up with visitors to the Meeting.    Committee meetings to attend to gain clarity on the above are Clerks Committee, M&C, Monthly Meeting, Peace and Social Concerns.

Pastor

In the past the Meeting hired pastors who have inspired, encouraged and challenged the community.  After an extended trial period beginning in 2017, we explored the feasibility of continuing as a semi-programmed Meeting without a pastor, and found that we continued to experience the life of the spirit within the Meeting, without having a paid pastor.  We have adopted this practice for now, allowing financial resources to be used in other ways as the Meeting is led.

Music Committee

The Music Committee coordinates music (choirs, etc.), will accompany hymn singing, and provide offertory music for Sunday Meeting for Worship. 

Christian Education Committee

The Christian Education Committee provides the leadership and resources for each participant in the meeting community to grow in the knowledge, understanding, and commitment to his/her personal faith and our shared faith tradition. 

Specific committee responsibilities include, but are not limited to, providing:

-Oversight of the youth minister role as consistent with the agreement which notes the committee’s responsibility for assessing whether the youth minister has met the expectations in the agreement.  This includes appointment and responsibility for the Youth Minister Care and Oversight committee and support for the youth minister

-Responsibility for Sunday School for all ages, with an appropriate planned or purchased curriculum in consultation and with support from the youth minister.  Support for Sunday school teachers, including: providing opportunities for leadership training relating to Christian Education, maintaining necessary supplies, and maintaining a directory of all the children in the Meeting

-A summer children’s Christian education program and a regular Sunday program

-Encouragement for the use of resources of the Meeting for study (library and curriculum library), different methods of instruction (flannel boards, maps, audio-visual equipment), grounds around buildings (cemetery, trails). 

-Utilization and dissemination to the Meeting of resources from the Yearly Meeting (e.g., through its Christian Education Committee), Friends General Conference and Friends United Meeting

-Communication with the Meeting at large regarding the Sunday School programs, special programs, providing Bibles or devotional books for each child in middle elementary school and/or graduates.

-Study groups as the need arises.

-Education about and opportunities for involvement in Friends work outside the local Meeting including overseas work.

The Christian Education Committee is made up of approximately six named members and all of the Sunday school teachers.  The youth minister is an ex officio member. 

Youth Minister

The Youth Minister has a flexible function within the Meeting.  Within set priorities, the youth minister shifts her or his emphasis over time to address the varying needs of our children and changing capacity of the meeting to address those needs.  She or he works with the Christian Education Committee, Ministry and Counsel, and interested individuals to support the children of the Meeting in their spiritual growth and connection to the Meeting.  The youth minister works on a variety of activities for children including the Sunday School, a youth group, camp outs, participation in New England Yearly Meeting, etc.  She/He also helps others who are led to develop their ministry with children. 

The youth minister participates in Monthly Meeting and regional Meetings and workshops concerning Christian Education and youth ministry.  She/He reports to the Christian Education Committee and receives support from a Care and Oversight Committee made up of members from Christian Education, Ministry and Counsel, and the Meeting at large. 

Library Committee

In 1833 Durham Friends realized the value of reading Quaker histories and biographies if a firm foundation was to be laid for continuance of Friends’ ideals.  A librarian was appointed, and a library started.

The continued purpose of the library is to provide reading and teaching materials. The library has grown to be a well-rounded collection of Quaker-related materials as well as religious, socially concerned, children/youth and fiction books.   Books should be signed out and brought back in a timely manner.  All members and attenders should find the library a source of enrichment. All gift books and other materials should be given to the Library Committee.  The Library Committee is responsible for maintaining the library by purchasing, receiving, and processing new books, discarding worn copies as needed, keeping the bookshelves and card catalog in order and up to date, so that specific books can be easily found.

Finance Committee

The Finance Committee prepares a budget for the consideration and approval at the January Monthly Meeting, to be in effect for the calendar year.  The approved budget will be circulated to the members and attenders.   The committee keeps record of all financial transactions (except cemetery funds).  The treasurer, appointed by Monthly Meeting, takes direction from the Finance Committee.

Treasurer

The Treasurer receives and disburses funds as the Meeting directs, keeps the account books of the Meeting and reports regularly to it.  These accounts are to be audited annually.   The Treasurer may pay current bills under the budget without further approval of Monthly Meeting.  All other bills are to be presented and approved by Monthly Meeting.   With the approval of the Finance Committee, the Treasurer may open and close bank accounts.   The Monthly Meeting shall appoint an alternate signer of all bank accounts.

Communications Committee

The Meeting has a monthly newsletter called The Best of Friends and a web site.  Both carry news of the Meeting, Sunday Meeting for Worship, other schedules of events, outside events of interest, reports from committees, personal news about members and attenders, their families and friends, news of the financial state of the Meeting, any applicable artwork or photographs, and articles which the pastor and other members and attenders care to submit.  Committee members solicit and collect the news and articles, put together the newsletter for copying and distribution.  The Meeting has a non-profit mailing permit that is used along with email for newsletters.  Extra copies are available at the meetinghouse.  The newsletter is also edited for personal identifying information and forwarded to our website. 

Nominating Committee

The Nominating Committee makes nominations to the December Monthly Meeting for officers, committees, and others as directed by the Monthly Meeting and other nominations as necessary throughout the year.  Nominees should be named on a three-year rotating basis so that not all appointments must be renewed or filled each year.  An appointee may serve two consecutive terms on a committee.  After one year off the committee, that person may be re-appointed to that committee.   

The committee members confer with proposed nominees before names are presented to the Monthly Meeting for appointment.  Any member of the Meeting may suggest changes in the nominations.  Nominees are members or regular attenders of the Monthly Meeting.  Only members are appointed to Trustees and Ministry and counsel. 

The Nominating Committee should not remove any member with an unexpired term without approval of Monthly Meeting.

Members of the Nominating committee are chosen with regard to their discernment, seasonal judgment, and general knowledge of the membership of the Meeting.

The Nominating Committee is appointed directly by the Monthly Meeting.  There are three members, one of whom is appointed each year for a three-year term.  A member may serve for a second consecutive three-year term. 

Auditor

Books of the Treasurer and of the Trustees are audited.  The auditor checks all cash received and cash dispersed.  Vouchers should agree with accounts.  If vouchers and cancelled checks agree and the Treasurer’s statement and bank statement agree, then the auditor certifies to the Monthly Meeting for Business the correctness of the accounts. 

Peace and Social Concerns Committee

The task of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee is twofold: discernment and taking action. 

The process of discernment consists of:

-Determining what issues confronting our present social order pertain to Friends’ traditional testimonies of equality, peace and non-violence, stewardship, civic and community responsibility.

-Hearing the concerns of the Monthly Meeting or individual members of the Meeting and those brought by other religious, service and legislative bodies that address these issues. 

As action is considered the Committee seeks to make recommendations to Monthly Meeting for supportive action in order to:

-Educate the Meeting regarding Friends’ traditional testimonies and their application in the world, especially addressing the issues of violence, discrimination, addictions and poverty,

-Enable the Monthly Meeting and individuals to take action regarding their concerns,

– Support those who are suffering because of actions they have taken in support of their concerns,

-Act in solidarity with those who are affected by our failure to achieve a society of non-violence, equality, economic justice and equal opportunity.

The committee seeks to work on cooperation with other committees of the Monthly Meeting, other Monthly Meetings and community groups that work constructively on these issues. 

Friends Committee on National Legislation Contact

The Friends Committee on National Legislation contact person is the liaison between the FCNL and the Meeting.  This person receives mailings from the FCNL, may use its telephone updates to keep informed regarding rapidly changing legislative issues, and passes this information on to the members of the Meeting in ways most appropriate; e.g., posted or spoken announcements, individual contact, newsletter articles.  The contact person keeps available pamphlets and newsletters from FCNL. 

Woman’s Society of Durham Friends

All resident women members of the Monthly Meeting are members of the Woman’s Society, plus other women who choose to participate.  The Society meets once a month for worship, program, business and fellowship.  The Society seeks to provide inspiration, education, and opportunity for women to share in the mission of the meeting.   The Society gives spiritual and financial support to a number of domestic and international programs and projects.  The Society is a part of United Society of Friends Women International.

Membership

Membership in the Society of Friends is in a Monthly Meeting.  Anyone who has faith in God and understands the precepts of the Bible, who wants to follow the life and teachings of Jesus under the guidance and authority of the Light Within, and who feels comfortable in the Meeting community is encouraged to apply for membership.  If already a member of another Friends Meeting, the person should write a letter of transfer to be sent to the Clerk of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends.  If an individual has been a member of another faith group, that connection, and an appropriate communication with that group will be discussed in the clearness process.  The Monthly Meeting acts on the recommendation of Ministry and Counsel after it has acquainted itself with the person and his/her religious /spiritual experience.

Committees for Special Purposes

The Monthly Meeting may appoint committees for special purposes.

A Clearness Committee is a unique and essential part of Quaker process, used to assist in the following of a leading or in a period of transition. Clearness Committees for membership or marriage are the responsibility of Ministry and Counsel. All other requests for a Clearness Committee can be made to Monthly Meeting or to Ministry and Counsel.

Trustees

Trustees have charge of the property of the Monthly Meeting.  They are responsible for the care of the buildings and grounds, cemeteries, and any special funds for the care of the cemeteries.  The trustees’ financial records are to be audited annually.  Periodically the trustees review the Meeting’s insurance coverage and make recommendations to the Monthly Meeting.   The trustees, in conjunction with the Finance Committee and auditor, will prepare a detailed report of all assets (including invested funds, property, and cemetery funds) and present to Monthly meeting and New England Yearly Meeting at least every ten years (start in 2011) 

The trustees plan for workdays to accomplish cleaning, outside clean up, and special projects.  They hire work done when that is necessary, asking in advance for any funds needed above budgeted amounts, except in emergencies.  They arrange to have the lawns at the Meetinghouse and parsonage mowed, as well as the cemeteries, and arrange for snow to be plowed.   The trustees contract for custodial service with continuing oversight, and perform other duties as assigned by the Monthly Meeting. 

Custodian

The janitor is responsible for keeping the meetinghouse neat and ready for regular and special events, turning up the heat when needed.  The janitor may also call, from the list approved by the trustees, for the service people to attend to emergencies. 

Guidelines for Use of Durham Friends Meetinghouse

The trustees of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends are delegated the responsibility for the use of the meetinghouse. All meetings should be recorded on the calendar on the bulletin board in the entry and in the Meeting Google calendar.  Regular meetings for worship and groups within the Meeting may use the meetinghouse as a meeting place without further authorization (e.g. Ministry and Counsel, Monthly Meeting, Women’s Society, youth fellowship, and other committees of the meeting.   A request for the use of the meetinghouse for a single occasion should be made to the trustee(s) delegated to receive this request.  The trustee(s) will consult the calendar and two other trustees before permission is granted.

A request by a group outside the Meeting for use of the meetinghouse on a fairly regular basis over a period of time should be made to the clerk of the Monthly Meeting, or the delegate trustee(s), who will bring the matter before the Monthly Meeting.  The Monthly Meeting will make the decision.  For use of the building and grounds, the Trustees ask that a donation be given to a trustee member or put in the committee depository (piano bench).   No smoking and no alcoholic beverages are permitted in buildings or on the property. 

Instructions Regarding How to Leave the Meetinghouse.

The meetinghouse must be left as found, replacing everything used and cleaning, taking down all but two  tables in the fellowship room.  When heat is on in cold weather, before leaving read and follow directions near the thermostats.   The children’s room thermostat should be set at 60 degrees.  Leave door open to children’s bathroom, kitchen and bathroom.  Leave both divider curtains in the fellowship room open.  Check stove to be sure all burners are off.  And be sure all faucets are turned off and that no toilet is running.  Turn off all lights.  Emergency lights will come on automatically.    Lock back and front doors.

LUNT MEMORIAL CEMETERY of DURHAM MONTHLY MEETING OF FRIENDS

Single, two, and four-grave lots are available in Lunt Memorial Cemetery. For members of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends, the charge is only the cost of perpetual care. For non-members who are residents of the community of the Friends Meeting and for certain other non-members under special circumstances allowed by the Trustees of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends, lots are available at prices shown below.

                                                Lot Price          Perpetual Care            Total

Single grave lot (4’x10’)          $  150.00         $  200.00                     $.   350.00

Double lot (10’x10’)                $  200.00.        $  400.00                     $    600.00

Large lot (10’x20’)                   $  350.00         $  650.00                     $ 1,000.00

Family lot (20’x20’)                  $  600.00         $  900.00                     $ 1,500.00

A lot may be transferred from the owner to another only with the approval of the Trustee in charge of the Cemetery.  If a lot is unused and a written request to return the lot is sent to the Trustees of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends within ten years of purchase, all of the Perpetual Care cost and half of the purchase price (General Fund) will be refunded.

Green Burial Lot Agreement

Single lots are available for purchase in Lunt Memorial Cemetery. Each lot measures 40’ X 8’, allowing room for a small marker and flowers. The charge for members of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends is $200.00, the charge for non-members is $350.00.

A lot may be transferred from one owner to another, only with the approval of the Trustee in charge of the cemetery. If a lot is unused and a written request to return the lot is sent to the Trustees of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends within 10 years of purchase, half of the purchase price will be refunded. 

A green burial is an unencumbered burial. There is no embalming and no need for a commercial casket. The body may be wrapped in a cotton shroud or other decomposable fabric and placed directly in the ground or placed in a plain wooden box and placed in the ground. The required depth for the green burial is 3’.

CARE OF LOTS

  • Simple stones and monuments will be in keeping with the Cemetery, and should be oriented parallel to Lunt Road
  • Simple decorations are permissible. Decorations should be in good taste and in keeping with the Cemetery. Decorations deemed not in keeping with the Cemetery will be removed.
  • Seasonal decorations and silk/plastic flowers will be removed periodically
  • Lot owners may bury multiple urns on a lot, with or without professional assistance
  • Lot owners may spread ashes as they choose
  • No woody plants may be planted on lots (existing woody plants will be handled on a case-by-case basis)
  • Plantings by owners should be in good taste and plantings of any kind that become overgrown will be removed
  • Perpetual Care provides for six mowings per year, trimming and edging as needed and grading and seeding when necessary   

AGREEMENT

Lot #  ________________      Member___________                        Non Member ______________

Date__________________                           

I have read the above and accept the provisions of this agreement:

Signed: ______________________________________________________________________

Print Name.     __________________________________________________

On the date of _­­­_________________,           Received $ __________________________

Contact Information: 

Address__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Phone_______________________________ email________________________________________________

Trustee Signature 

___________________________________________________________

Donna Hutchins, Trustee

Susan Bellows (Sukie) Rice, 1945-2020

Memorial Minute for Susan (Sukie) Bellows Rice, 1945-2020

            Susan (Sukie) Rice was born in New Rochelle, NY on November 1, 1945 to Charles D. and Winifred Rice. She grew up in an old farmhouse in the countryside, about an hour by train from Manhattan. There, her love of music, theater, cats, dogs, and the world of nature took root in the warmth of a loving home. In the 1960’s, after earning a BA in Psychology at Hiram College, she went to work for an advertising agency in New York City. Simultaneously, she immersed herself in the Morningside Heights Friends Meeting.

The Society of Friends became a lifelong source of strength and inspiration for Sukie. As the Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship grew in importance for her, her work in commercial advertising held less and less allure. In 1969 she left New York City and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she worked at two Boston area hospitals during the 1970s. Here, she threw herself into a host of nonviolent civil disobedience actions against the Vietnam War, some of which led to her arrest, and one to a couple of weeks in jail. As the Vietnam War was ending, she joined the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). There, she allied AFSC with the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance, and helped train protesters and organize successive nonviolent occupations of the construction site of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.

In 1971 Sukie met and fell in love with Lee Chisolm. Later, they would acknowledge to each other that it was indeed love at first sight. Through Lee she was introduced to Anthroposophy, the spiritual philosophy and teachings of Rudolph Steiner. From that seed, planted early in her consciousness and cultivated through study motivated by her deep love and admiration for Lee, together they formed a shared spiritual path. Steiner’s teachings came to be the cord that strengthened and infused their lives as a couple and produced meaning and purpose in their work together in the world. Anthroposophy, along with Quaker faith and practice, became the foundation from which Sukie grew in spirit and presence. And in Lee’s own words, “she drew ideas from the ozone. She was a natural conduit for spiritual inspiration.” 

In the late 1970s Sukie and Lee moved to Maine, where Sukie joined the Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends in 1979. In the 1980s Sukie and Lee moved to Freeport, where they started a family. When their first child, Adam, was not quite three, Sukie and Lee resolved to start a Waldorf School. For the next several years, Sukie worked indefatigably. She held informational and fundraising events, pulling together a nucleus of founding parents, a teacher, and eventually a class. What began as a little kindergarten of a dozen students continues today as a mature K-12 school known as the Maine Coast Waldorf School.

As her children grew older, Sukie enrolled in the University of Southern Maine in the 1990s for a degree in music education, and for the next twenty years she was a full time K-5 music teacher in the Portland Public Schools. She also acted with the Freeport Community Players, later becoming their musical director. In this role, she worked on a handful of plays and annual performances of Amahl and the Night Visitors for seven years. Stepping away from the Freeport Community Players, Sukie next founded the Greater Freeport Community Chorus, which she directed for six years.

Sukie was an active member of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends for four decades. She served the meeting in a variety of roles over the years, sometimes wearing multiple hats. For many years she was the music director for the meeting’s annual Christmas and Easter choirs. She also served on Ministry and Counsel, Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Finance Committee, and as both Recording Clerk and Presiding Clerk. 

In 2001 Sukie was inspired by a small group of Quaker women from Kenya who were providing a feeding program to AIDS orphans in their community of Kakamega. Sukie volunteered her time extensively to support this program, ultimately founding Friends of Kakamega, a New England based program that partners with its Kenyan counterparts to support their grassroots mission. Through her work with Friends of Kakamega, Sukie spent the last two decades of her life helping to support the well-being and education of vulnerable children in western Kenya, giving hope to hundreds of young Africans. True to her character, she grew to know, love, and individually connect with both the children served by the project, and the Americans who embraced the opportunity that Sukie gave them to help. Her son John has continued that work at the Kakamega Care Center.

Trailblazer that she was, later in life Sukie also devoted time to exploring the topic of death and dying and the spiritual journey of the soul during this final passage. This in turn led her to the next frontier of green burial for herself as well as others. With the assistance of family, close friends and members of the Durham Friends Meeting, she realized her desire to be buried in this manner and so opened the way for others to follow in the newly dedicated lot for green burials in the Lunt Cemetery.

Sukie’s great energy, compassion, and integrity guided her life in remarkable ways. As one Friend described her so well, “Sukie has been the spark and flame of a better life for so many.” While her work and life were always filled with purpose and encouragement, particularly memorable was her joy. Sukie asked us to remember her joy. We do, Sukie. We surely do.

Sukie passed from this life on July 17, 2020.  She is survived by her husband, Lee Chisholm, and sons Adam, Ian, and John Chisholm.

Mildred Alexander, 1930-2020

Mildred Alexander, long time member of Durham Friends Meeting, passed from this life on September 18, 2020.    She was a resident of Pinkham Brook Rd. Durham and was born in Lisbon Falls, daughter of the late Louis and Annette (Boultbee) Dumas. She was educated in local schools.  Mildred married Andrew Alexander in January of 1949, and they spent many happy years together until he passed in 2009.  Mildred enjoyed jigsaw puzzles, her cats and most of all time spent with her great grandchildren.  Mildred was an active member of the Meeting Trustees.  While a trustee she was the Meeting janitor and went the extra mile to keep the building in good shape.  One friends fond memory of Mildred was that she was good-natured with a great sense of humor.  ‘Once when there was a jug of Babcock’s apple cider in the meeting frig Mildred drank a cup.  I love cider, she said.   The friend said, especially when it is about to turn.  Mildred replied.  ‘Me too!  Look at us! Drinking hard cider in the Meetinghouse!’  Mildred was one of many from the Meeting who worked at the Maine Idyll for many years. 

She is survived by her sister Laurette Chapman of Lewiston, four grandchildren: Thomas St.Germain of Durham, Carrie St.Germain of Lewiston, Angela Loucka of Tampa, FL and Johnell Ramos of Costa Rica, four great grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. She was predeceased by a daughter Pauline (Alexander) Harvey in 2006 and three sisters, Annette Tibbets, Beverly Craig and Bernice Curtis.

Woman’s Society Report, November 16, 2020

Durham Friends Woman’s Society is a subgroup of United Society of Friends Women International (USFWI). USFWI is a Quaker organization that, for generations, has done extensive work to support communities in need throughout the world, and students in college and university, through card ministry and financial donations. All are welcome. Our next meeting is Monday, December 21 at 6:30 p.m. via the Meeting Zoom account.

Six women met Monday night, November 16, for fellowship and sharing a program, prayer requests and resources. The program wove together wisdom from Simone Weil’s book Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us, and a Quaker Kenyan woman’s story of being called to ministry. We were left with the query: “Do we have a willingness to start with love in discerning how to respond to God’s calls?”

For years the Durham Friends Woman’s Society has organized a mitten tree at the meetinghouse. This year we invite all who are led to help in this effort to donate individually to the charity of your choice. A list of possible places will be posted in the near future for anyone needing ideas. Blessings to you this Christmas season!  

~Martha Hinshaw Sheldon

“Advent Message,” by Beth Bussiere Nichols

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 6, 2020

Opening Advent Hymn: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Words: Charles Wesley, 1744. Music: Rowland Hugh Pritchard, 1844

Come, thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us

Let us find our rest in thee

Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Born thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a king
Born to reign in us forever
Now thy gracious kingdom bring

By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By thine own sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne

Today begins the second week of Advent so I was encouraged to look in the Advent section of the hymnal. In a Friends hymnal, who knew? There I met the Advent carol Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. Though it is a couple of hundred years old it was new to me. As I went through my day, I sang it to myself trying to learn it. Later I checked the words and discovered that I had changed Long-expected to Unexpected. How very Advent! We are waiting and expecting but what actually arrives is always in some important way, every year, Unexpected. Sometimes it is what we know but have forgotten.

One important part of my spiritual journey was examining the spiritual seasons of the year when my children were young. How could I take my inward Quaker experience and bring it to life to invite my children to connect?

Early Friends distained separating spiritual truths and giving them specific days. But Early Friends also lived in an ecclesiastical age when the holy days and language of the church were everywhere. Those days in turn were built on the older fabric of our knowing and celebrating that creator and creation were one. How to invite my children into the mystery?

One thing I did was to look at many traditions then trust my Inner Quaker Guide. My mother’s Presbyterian tradition of daily lighting of Advent candles was a joy in my childhood, an invitation to a special season. As I researched, I learned of an Advent practice in far northern Scandinavia to take a wheel off the wagon and use it as the Advent candle holder. The message was: It is time to stop going into town and running errands. It is time to be still, to be centered. This really spoke to my condition. I have always been someone with to do lists for work, family, meeting, neighborhood, etc. In fact, I even have Post-Its with sub to do lists on top of my long written to do list. If we aren’t careful the season before Christmas adds a layer of more to do lists.

The other thing, which I heard in so many traditions was that the spiritual calendar, indeed the turning of the world, requires our human prayers and participation. The pivoting of the season from the longest, darkest night to lengthening days requires our stopping, our centering. This year is a special challenge. How do we wait when we feel stuck? What does it mean to take the wheel off the wagon when we never got a chance to use it? The wagon has been sitting in the yard. The vines have been growing over it — since March.

I learned something about waiting when I was pregnant with my first son Colin. I went four weeks past my due date. Something they wouldn’t allow anymore. I remember standing in the supermarket a week past my long-expected delivery date and listening to people complain about the slowness of the line, the checkout clerk… I thought these people are amateurs— they know nothing about real waiting. This year, I am waiting: to hug my grown children and my dear friends, to gather once again with our beloved community in our beloved meetinghouse. I long to visit with our friend who lost her husband to COVID and did not get to be with him for what turned out to be the last 3 weeks of his life. We are living in exile— forcibly separated from what we have felt was our rightful place. We are given advice on how to live in exile in Jeremiah 29:4-7,11-13.

 Thus, says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  6 Marry and have sons and daughters; … 7 Also seek the shalom of the city where I took you as captives in exile, and pray to Adonai for it—for in its shalom will you have shalom.”….11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.

The wisdom in exile is to live into the small acts of our daily life, plant gardens, care for our families. Seek shalom where we are. Ask for the Divine blessing of shalom for our place of exile. If you seek me with all your heart you will see, I am with you. Emmanuel!

Starting when the kids were young, each year we put up the old family creche. We placed Mary and Joseph and the animals under the roof. The Advent tradition that we created with our children was to light the advent candles each night and sing a carol. Beneath the Advent candleholder we placed the empty manager. We had spools of thread and scissors and invited all to name good deeds which they had noticed. For each good deed we added a thread to the manger. Thus, we made the invisible visible.

Advent begins
Each good deed remembered adds a thread
Christmas morning!

On Christmas the Christ child is placed on the thread softened manger.

Christ shall have the rude stable no longer but shall be born into his rightful place in the human heart.

The small acts of our lives became the bed of the holy child, the long-expected, unexpected child. The invitation of advent is to make sacred the everyday and that is really the difference between being stuck and waiting. Not what we do but the spirit that infuses it. Shalom. The Word becomes flesh and dwells with us. This doesn’t make creation sacred. It has been from the beginning. As humans, we need moments, perhaps even seasons and celebrations, to remind us that that sense of separation from God and all creation is illusionary. Emmanuel, we sing! Emmanuel! God with us!

Closing Advent Hymn: O Come O Come Emmanuel

Words from 12 cent. Latin, trans John M Neal, 1851 and Henry Sloan Coffin in 1916; Music: Ancient plain Song, from a French Missal, arr. By Thomas Helmore, 1854.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, November 15, 2020

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened virtually via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, November 15, 2020 with 15 people present. Martha Hinshaw Sheldon opened the meeting with a quote by Cai Quirk, who brought the message today in meeting: “How do we recognize that of God in all? When it shows up uniquely, how can we create a place of wholeness for all?”

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

2. Martha Sheldon presented a revised edition of the Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends Handbook, which will be sent out via e-mail to members and attenders for discernment, seeking approval in December.

3. Peace and Social Concerns: Ingrid Chalufour reported that over three evenings the committee met to discuss Becoming Antiracist, and leadings to take action. A number of action ideas were generated and the committee asks for your approval to move forward on these in the name of the meeting. Below they describe three sets of actions. Each has a subcommittee interested in doing the work involved.

Supporting sovereignty of the Indigenous people of Maine: This will involve several sets of activities, including conducting research to learn more about the meeting land and its use by Wabanaki and the land currently called the 250 Anniversary Park in Brunswick. We will propose new wording for our acknowledgement of our Wabanaki land. We also seek to build stronger relationship with the Native youth group that uses the meetinghouse. Finally, we want to lobby for state and federal legislation that supports the sovereignty of Indigenous populations. To do this, we will build relationships with Friends Committee on Maine Public Policy and FCNL.

Getting social justice books to children: The committee will research where there is need, create a list of books focused on the 5- to 8-year-old age, and ask for donations to purchase the books. We are also going to donate books as holiday gifts to the 50 children in New Mainer families in Brunswick. We are asking for donations to help pay for this project.

Building stronger relationship with FCNL: We have invited Alicia McBride (FCNL staff) to attend Meeting on Jan. 24 and talk to us about their paper titled, The Theological Perspective in Quaker Lobbying. She will also share the current work of FCNL and be asked to bring a message in meeting.”

We expressed our support and approval for these actions and expressed appreciation for the committee’s work. 

4. Christian Education Committee: Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that the Halloween party on October 30 was greatly enjoyed by 20 people! Ten kids and ten adults pressed cider, tried their turn at donuts on a string, maneuvered a fun obstacle course and cooked hot dogs over our fire pit. A very special thanks goes to KJ Williams for serving the condiments, and to Kathy Williamson, who managed the cider pressing and baked some amazing homemade cookies and donuts!

There will be a wreath making party on November 28, 1-3 p.m. in the horse shed. Dress warmly! Bring greens and pruners if you have some. Other materials will be provided. 

5. Youth Minister: Wendy continues to staff NEYM Young Friends activities, and the bi-weekly Art Group. She will be a Resource Person (RP) for the December Young Friends Virtual Retreat.  She ends her reports with this statement: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  —Martin Luther King Jr.

6. Ministry and Counsel: Renee Cote reported for the committee. They noted the need to be tender and inclusive with all members and attenders with different political views.

They reported that the fifth Sunday of this month (November 29), usually unprogrammed, will have a speaker who could only speak on that date. Some would prefer more unprogrammed time; others find extended silence difficult if they are Zooming on the phone. With the thought that unprogrammed meetings may encourage more vocal ministry, they will try, for three months, December through February, possibly into March, to have unprogrammed worship on the last Sunday of the month, with the Care of Meeting person offering a query on that day.

We were informed that people can now access the meeting calendar on Google. We were reminded that approval of the monthly meeting is needed for regular, weekly or monthly use of the meetinghouse as a place of gathering by outside groups, and CDC guidelines are followed. One group (Reiki) has already scheduled a meeting in November which we approved today. Research will be sought regarding outside groups using the meetinghouse.

It was noted with sadness that Jane Walters died on October 27, 2020. A Friends Note was sent regarding Bob Walters’ ongoing health issues and the need for a non-toxic environment.

7. Finance Committee: Katharine Hildebrandt requested that $25,000 be transferred from the Checking Account to the Capital Account to cover repairs and improvements to the meetinghouse. 

8. We approved the transfer of funds ($25,000) from the Checking Account to the Capital Account.

9. Treasurer: We approved splitting the $1,500 contribution in memory of Clarabel Marstaller and Susan Rice, as reported last month, in half, $750.00 donated to the Charity Account for Susan Rice, and $750.00 to the Capital Account for Clarabel Marstaller.

10. Trustees: Donna Hutchins sent a report and stated that brick pointing is finished on the east side of the meetinghouse, and a new window has been installed in the meetinghouse gable. The front drainage has been addressed. They have received recertification for tree growth until January 2030. There is ongoing work in the two entry halls.

11. Meeting Care Coordinator: Mey Hasbrook is seeking more interviews with members and attenders via Zoom. She is looking for future Sunday worship message bringers. 

12. The Carbon Footprint ad hoc committee reported that John Reuthe of Vassalboro Meeting, who is a volunteer with the Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition environmental action group, presented a proposal for lowering the carbon footprint of the meetinghouse. They emphasize working from the basement up, reducing the entrance of cold air, and propose immediate actions and a series of future actions in three phases. These details will be shared with Trustees, and attached to these minutes. Ezra Smith volunteered to help with these projects. We expressed appreciation for the work of this committee.

13. A concern was raised regarding banners and posters displayed outside the meetinghouse and the need for monthly meeting approval. Ministry and Counsel and committees will discuss this issue, and the proper way of proceeding will be discussed in December. 

14. The Nominating Committee does not currently have a full committee, and some of the committees need new members.

            Martha Sheldon closed the meeting with the same quote she read at the beginning of these minutes, and said, “Go in peace; blessings to you.”

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“Decolonizing in Everyday Life,” December 10, 7:30 to 8:45 pm

“Decolonizing in Everyday Life” is a worship-focused discussion hosted by Durham Friends Meeting on Thursday, December 10th, from 7:30pm to 8:45pm (Eastern Time). The event will use the Zoom link from Sunday worship. We especially invite local and area Friends to join us for a time of deep listening and self-examination.

The evening is a springboard from a recent series on anti-racism. A common point of reference will be Sacred Instructions: Indigneous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchell, Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset.  A land acknowledgement and introduction will be made by Ingrid Chalufuour, clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee. An extended time in small groups will be offered.

Contributors are Mimi Marstaller, member of Durham Friends currently residing in Salt Lake City; and Mey Hasbrook, a Durham attender and member of Kalamazoo Friends Meeting (Michigan). Mimi will share experiences as a teacher about the “throes of labor pains” within the education community around de-centered collective action, racism, and equity. Mey will offer reflections as a person of mixed lineage (Cherokee-Irish Descent) and a traveling minister among the Religious Society of Friends.

“What Can We Name That Is Ours?” By Fritz Weiss

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, November 29, 2020, by Fritz Weiss, a member of Portland Friends Meeting (NEYM)

One of the ways I understand the world is through stories.  I am beginning today’s message with two stories.

God’s truck: For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Bob owned a small Toyota pick-up truck. It was mostly for bringing in his winter wood, but even after he started having his wood delivered, he kept a truck.  For the twenty years I lived nearby, anytime I needed a truck, I could use Bob’s.  He would buy it, insure it and register it, and I would maintain it, inspect it and keep it fueled.  Bob also gave the church next door a key and they used it whenever they had need, and he gave a key to the family shelter who used it to move families into the shelter or into housing. I think for the last five years of his life, Bob never drove his truck.  He referred to it as “God’s truck”.  It was ours, and it was the church’s and it was the shelter’s truck.

We don’t do that in Sharon: In Vermont, the first Saturday in May is Green-up Day.  Communities organize to clean the roads of any litter exposed by the melting snow.  In Sharon, my town, I was on the conservation commission and we organized a community wide day of picking up litter, sorting the trash, cleaning the riverbanks, collecting scrap metal, used tires, motor oil and electronics.  At the end of the day we had a community pizza party hosted by the local high school.  It could be discouraging as year after year there was so much litter to clean up.  One November morning as I walked into the local store before work, Dustin drove up in his truck and jumped out.  He was excited, and told us how, as he drove to work, he had seen someone throwing garbage over the guard rail.  He had stopped his truck and jumped out and told the driver “We don’t do that in Sharon!” and had made the man climb over the guard rail, pick up all the trash and put it back in the truck.  And then he thanked me for organizing Green-up every year. In our community effort and celebration, we had created a community value that we shared, that was ours.

This summer the FUM mission project was supporting Friends in Turkana, Kenya.  There was no travel, so the support was virtual.  In an FUM newsletter a query for the children was posed. “In Turkana, land is held in common for the use of the whole community, and there are no title deeds for privately owned land in Turkana County. Can you think of some things that are ours, rather than mine or yours?”  This query stayed with me and eventually led me to remember the two stories I just told.  This morning I am sharing some of the thoughts that were prompted by this query.

In the same newsletter there have been excerpts from Howard Thurman’s essays. In one of these he wrote about how Jesus taught at a moment in history when the Roman Empire had taken all that the people of Israel thought of as theirs – their kingdom, their city, their temple – and in that moment Jesus taught a new story  that ours is the kingdom of god, that we all are welcome, we all belong and that there is enough.

What can we name that is Ours?  … the kingdom of god, this meeting, our relationships, shared experiences, God’s truck, shared community values  ..

And then if all this is ours, then how do we forget and begin thinking of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ instead.

What contributes to thinking of “mine” “yours” “theirs”.  What separates us from each other, and in so doing, separates us from the divine;

In our moment in history there is a powerful story being told, that there is not enough and the other is going to take my safety away, it is a story of fear and anger and greed and pride which divides us from each other. It is a story of ‘othering’.  A story that tells us that some of us do not belong, are not welcome that there is not enough.

The query for the children left me with the query, “Are we able to tell the powerful stories of a kingdom that is ours, where we are with and of each other, profoundly connected? Can we tell these stories with power and salience such that minds are changed? Can we respond to the story of fear and anger with stories that connect us?  Stories which convince that there is enough for all, and that each in our own particularity is welcome.  Stories of thanksgiving.  It is one of the challenges of this time for people of faith. To tell the new story again.  As I say this, I realize that this is a call to evangelism! To share the good news.

Last week I joined the program offered by the BTS center (the successor organization to the Bangor Theological Seminary) on “Imagining a new Church”. Each of the two guests cited Wendell Berry’s poem “What we Need is Here” and the program closed with the entire poem read as a closing blessing.  I am closing today’s message with the last few lines of that poem.

“… what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.”

We Gather on Land That Is a Homeland for the Wabanaki

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

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

At its 2020 Annual Session, New England Yearly Meeting brought forward a draft Apology to Native Americans, to be considered at the 2021 Annual Session. More resources from New England Yearly Meeting for considering the draft Apology are here.

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

The Wabanakis of Maine and the Maritimes: A Resource Book by and About Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac and Abenaki Indians, Prepared and Published by the Wabanaki Program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC, 1989).

Resources at the Abbe Museum Educator Hub

Holding Up the Sky – Maine Historical Society Exhibit via Maine Memory Network

Wabanaki CollectionUniversity of New Brunswick’s Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre

Native Americans and the Amascongan and European Exploration and Native American Contact, Bethel Historical Society

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

Films:

Books:

Approximate territorial range of Eastern Abenaki groups

Woman’s Society Report, October 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

Meetings for Healing, Thursday Evenings at 7pm

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

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

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

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, November 8, 2020

And so we pass from one season to another. 

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

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

And so we pass from one season to another. 

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

And so we pass from one season to another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m grateful for the gift of life,

I’m grateful for the gift of time,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we pass from one season to another.

Also posted on Riverview Friend

Queries for the 2020 Election

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

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

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

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

Psalm 126

A song of ascents.

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

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

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

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, October 18, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman’s Society Report, September 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, September 27, 2020

Good morning Friends,

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

So my message today will have those three parts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the blacks moved out of town overnight.

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

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

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

Passing of Mildred Alexander

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

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

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

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

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, September 20, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“Reparation and the Reconciliation Process,” By Linda Muller

Message at Durham Friends Meeting, September 20, 2020

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

So, there is my defensiveness!

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

NEVER THE LESS, there is work to be done!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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