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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The entire message can be found on Riverview Friend.

Durham Friends Storytime, Wednesdays at 6:45 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Gathering,” by Noah Merrill

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, April 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

Memorial in Solitude — Remembering Phyllis Wetherell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, April 19, 2020

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

1. The February and March minutes were approved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

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

[Velasco Friends Meeting is our Sister Meeting in Cuba]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Nancy Marstaller for forwarding this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Durham Friends Guidelines for Zoom Meeting for Worship

April 9, 2020

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

To join you will need the following information:

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

To Join by screen:

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

If you have trouble trying to join by screen

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

To Join by Phone:

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

Timing:

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

Your name as it appears to others:

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

To Unmute:

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

To Raise Your Hand:

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

By phone, press *9.

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

Chat:

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

Hymns:

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

Roles:

Meeting Leader (also know as Care of Worship)

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

Host (also known as Zoom Support):

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

Uneasy about Zoom?

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

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

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 22, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know? Earth is in trouble?

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

Think we should do something?

I don’t know, maybe?

Like what? What would we do?

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

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

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

Oh yeah, totally. We should do something.

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

That might work.

Well you do it this time.

No you do it.

No you.

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

Pass the toast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, March 15, 2020

DURHAM MONTHLY MEETING OF FRIENDS
March 15, 2020

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met, with 16 people present, on Sunday,
March 15, 2020, for a single item of business.

Monthly Meeting approved giving authority to Ministry and Counsel to make decisions for Monthly Meeting as the meeting finds its way through the current coronavirus crisis. As events are unfolding rapidly, and the meeting will need to adjust to weekly “new realities,” it was agreed to give the lead to Ministry and Counsel to guide us through these times.

What is Durham Friends Meeting Doing About Coronavirus? — a message from Ministry and Counsel

UPDATE 3/19/20: Sunday Worship will be conducted via ZOOM until further notice.

Meeting link:     https://zoom.us/j/2814426094      Click here to join by video and audio
Phone number:     +1 301 715 8592    Dial this to join by audio only
Meeting ID:    281 442 6094  

You will also need a password that has been sent via e-mail. If you don’t have it, ask another member of the Meeting.

Together with every other organization and community across the globe, Durham Friends Meeting is faced with questions about what to do with the threat of possible Coronavirus infection in our midst.  Some of the answers will have to be made together, and others are for each individual or family to answer on their own.

We are a worship community.  Gathering together is what we do.  We gather for worship, for prayer, for study, for support, for fellowship and for fun.  In normal times, we gather strength from gathering together.  But in the current situation, we may do each other harm. 

The situation is likely to change.  We’ll be learning more about the risks and best approaches.  We expect that the current situation will last at least until the end of May.  Members of Ministry and Counsel, together with the Clerk, will monitor the situation and make decisions.  We’ll send out information on e-mail, and we’ll try to see that those who do not receive e-mail receive phone calls. 

For the present, here is how we will proceed. 

  • We will have 1st Day Worship each Sunday as regularly scheduled.  Please attend via Zoom.  As always, someone from Ministry and Counsel will be responsible for Care of Worship.  There will be a prepared message most Sundays. And someone will provide tech support for our use of Zoom.

Various committees of the Meeting are gathering using Zoom, but all other events have been cancelled.

We need to care for one another.  Please stay in touch by phone, e-mail and other means.  By all means ask questions of M&C if you have them, and we will try to answer them or point you to someone who can. 

With God’s love and strength, and with support from one another, we will get through this.

Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, Co-Clerk of the Meeting

Sukie Rice, Co-Clerk of the Meeting

Doug Bennett              Tess Hartford

Renee Cote                 Joyce Gibson

Brown Lethem            Wendy Schlotterbeck

Ways That the Climate Crisis and Militarism Are Intertwined

From Peace and Social Concerns Committee:

War and militarism are destroying the planet. But if we de-fund the Pentagon, we can save it.
Excerpts taken from a piece written by Medea Benjamin for Foreign Policy in Focus. For the full text go here.

  1. The U.S. military protects Big Oil and other extractive industries. For example, the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq was a blatant example of war for oil. Today, U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia is connected to the fossil fuel industry’s determination to control access to the world’s oil.
  2. The Pentagon is the single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world. If the Pentagon were a country, its fuel use alone would make it the 47th largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, greater than entire nations such as Sweden, Norway, or Finland. U.S.
    military emissions come mainly from fueling weapons and equipment, as well as lighting, heating, and cooling more than 560,000 buildings around the world.
  3. The Pentagon monopolizes the funding we need to seriously address the climate crisis. We are now spending over half of the federal government’s annual discretionary budget on the military when the biggest threat to U.S. national security is not Iran or China, but the climate crisis. We could cut the Pentagon’s current budget in half and still be left with a bigger military budget than China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea combined.
  4. Military operations leave a toxic legacy in their wake. U.S. military bases despoil the landscape, pollute the soil, and contaminate the drinking water. According to a 2017 government report, the Pentagon has already spent $11.5 billion on environmental cleanup of
    closed bases and estimates $3.4 billion more will be needed.
  5. Wars ravage fragile ecosystems that are crucial to sustaining human health and climate resiliency. Direct warfare inherently involves the destruction of the environment, through bombings and boots-on-the-ground invasions that destroy the land and infrastructure.
  6. Climate change is a “threat multiplier” that makes already dangerous social and political situations even worse. In Syria, the worst drought in 500 years led to crop failures that pushed farmers into cities, exacerbating the unemployment and political unrest that contributed to the uprising in 2011. Similar climate crises have triggered conflicts in other countries across the Middle East, from Yemen to Libya.

Woman’s Society Report, February 17, 2020

On February 17, 2020 five women met in the home of Theresa Oleksiw. Cards of friendship and well wishes were signed and a prayer request for Getry Agigh was made. Getry works in the Alternative for Violence program in Kenya and braves many dangerous situations. Meals for the Tedford Shelter were organized.

Margaret Wentworth read from the 2019/2020 Blueprints, Finding the Way by Margaret Musalia, who lives in Kenya, is “retired but not tired,” and practices pastoral ministry. She offered a lot of sage advice, including “Don’t give up, God has plans for you,” “Be willing to do God’s will,” and “Never compare your blessings, you are unique.” We were reminded that comparison is the thief of joy.

Nancy Marstaller, treasurer, reported that we now have savings of $1,519.93, with $690 set aside for two of our members (Dorothy Curtis and Martha Hinshaw Sheldon) who will be going to the USFWI Triennial in Kenya this summer. It was noted that $1,470 has been donated to Woman’s Society in memory of Clarabel Marstaller. It was also agreed that we would ask Durham Monthly Meeting to give $600 for both Martha and Dorothy’s registration and related costs.

Refreshments were enjoyed by all, including Gene Boyington, who joined in the rollicking conversation. It was noted, with due seriousness, that duct tape is always useful — “if you can’t duct it, chuck it.”

Respectfully submitted by Theresa Oleksiw

“Should We Leave Politics at the Door of the Meeting Room?” by Doug Bennett

excerpt from a message given at Durham Friends Meeting, March 8, 2020

Should we keep politics out of Meeting?  Is it something we should leave outside, for another day and another place? 

I think we certainly have to acknowledge that Jesus was a political figure.  He was “born a king” in a land that already thought it had a different king.  And he was executed for treason, for claiming to be a king.  (Crucifixion was reserved for punishing treason.)  In between he advocated all manner of things that run against the policies of the current government.  How can I follow Jesus and exclude politics from this room?

So what to do?  I’m still thinking in terms of what do I lay down when I come into this room, and what do I pick up and carry away from it.

When I come into this room, I have to lay down everything, and that includes all my worldly allegiances and commitments.  As Paul says in Galatians (3:28), “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Nor is there Red Sox or Yankee.  When I come into this room, I’m not a Democrat.  I’m not for Bernie or Joe or Elizabeth.  I have to lay down my slogans. I have to even lay down my certainties about gun control, climate change and a woman’s right to choose.  They may still be there waiting for me to pick them up when Meeting is over, but for the moment I have to lay them down. 

I’m only with God.  No, that’s not right.  I’m also with all of you.  We’re all sharing in the work of helping each other settle deeply into worship.  We’re making each other welcome.  We’re looking at each other expectantly.  Perhaps you, or you, or you, will be who channels the voice of God today.  I’m not dismissing anyone because of their politics.

We’re making a place for God, and that means we need to be tender with each other. 

On the other hand, what do I take from this room? 

I have to expect that what I hear in this room, what I take in, will make a difference in every aspect of my life.  It will shape my politics.  It is here in worship that my most basic commitments are forged, and sometimes re-forged.  I have to expect that this is possible.

I have to carry the commitments formed in worship out of this room and let them influence everything I do.  My personal relationships.  My finances.  Everything.  Even my politics. 

Quakers sometimes say, “Let your life speak.”  That goes for politics as well as for everything else.  But it’s what we carry out of worship that lets our lives speak, it’s not what we smuggle into worship. 

The entire message can be found at Riverview Friend

Library News, February 2020

We have a large collection of Pendle Hill Pamphlets, which a
short and always relevant on a myriad of subjects. Please note that
we just received a very helpful index of the pamphlets, 1934-2018,
listed by number, author, title, and subject! The latest one is titled:
“On Vocal Ministry.”
Anonymous gifts include A Permeable Life, Poems and Essays, by Carrie Newcomer (Quaker songwriter); Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter; and a highly recommended book, A Dangerous New World, Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, February 16, 2020

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened for the conduct of business on Sunday, February 16, 2020, with 14 people present.  Co-Clerk, Susan (Sukie) Rice, opened the meeting with quiet waiting.

1.The January minutes were approved.

2. Sarah Sprogell reported that the balance in the Charity Account is $16.321.63; this report was requested due to projects which might use this account.

3. Katherine Hildebrandt reported that the Woman’s Society requests funds from the Charity Account to support Durham Meeting representatives to the United Society of Friends Women International triennial conference which meets in Kenya in July.  The amount requested is $600 each to cover registration, food and lodging.

4. We approved the amount of $1200 from the Charity Account ($600 each) for Martha Sheldon and Dorothy Curtis who are attending the USFWI conference.  The clerk will prepare traveling minutes for Martha and Dorothy and will plan a “prayer sendoff” late in June.

5. Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell handed out the 4th quarter finance report which includes income and operating expenses for 2019. She also circulated a list of Designated Accounts,

Saving Accounts, and investments and CD figures. These reports will be attached to the minutes.

            Sarah gave a 2019 yearend report: We received a bequest of $32,352 in the early part of 2019, and approved tithing 10% ($3,235) for our Charity Account, and put the balance into our Capital Account ($29,117), based on the long-standing history of the giver’s family having encouraged and supported good stewardship and care of our buildings and property.

  In addition to tithing $3,235 to the Charity Account, the meeting also approved moving the balance of the Bailey and Cox Funds, totally about $11,000 to this account, increasing its balance to $19,000.  This increased our ability to support worthy causes brought before the meeting through committees.  Through this process we made contributions of close to $3000 in 2019.

 After the above actions were taken, we ended the year with a surplus of $20,590.15

The primary reasons for this surplus are described below:

  1. An unexpected increase of approximately $3000 in our interest income from the NEYM invested funds, due to a new formula in the distribution policy.
  2. A savings of about $2000 in committee expenses.
  3. A savings of about $700 in meeting expenses for advertising, copier expenses, and similar costs.
  4. A savings of about $1300 in youth ministry expensesfor conferences and youth activities.
  5. A savings of $10,000 in expenses which had been set aside for the possibility of hiring someone into a new ministerial type position.
  6. An insurance reimbursement of approximately $3000 for our expenses to repair damages to the parsonage from the freeze in December 2018.

 Some actions have already been taken in response to this surplus. 

  1. Most significantly, we have committed to hiring a Meeting Care Coordinator for an annual stipend of $10,000, and a search committee is already working on this. 
  2. We also committed to increasing our giving to several national Quaker organizations by about $1000 annually.
  3. With the addition of a Meeting Care Coordinator, we may find that committees and our youth minister are able to find ways to spend more of their budgets.  I think we can agree that this would be a happy occurrence!
  4. It should also be noted that some of these savings may not be repeated in coming years, in particular the $3000 insurance reimbursement. 

It is with a deep sense of gratitude for the many people who give of themselves so generously to the care of the meeting, that we find ourselves in a strong position to steward our meeting community spiritually, to provide responsible care for our buildings and property, and to engage with the broader community as advocates for “an earth restored.”

 We received these reports with gratitude.

6. Peace and Social Concerns:  Ingrid Chalufour reported that the committee held a forum on January 26th to discuss the U.S. Military carbon footprint and to write letters to our legislators.  The meeting was well attended and they were encouraged to continue to conduct activities that address our outsized military and their contribution to the climate crisis, and to voice our thoughts widely.  There were several suggestions which will guide the committee’s planning for the future.

 The ad-hoc Carbon Footprint Committee brought two contractors into the meetinghouse to assess our insulation needs and gave estimates for work they recommend to lower our fuel use.  We have vermiculite insulation in the attic to be tested for asbestos; one contractor recommend its removal; the other to keep it in place.  The committee will bring a proposal to monthly meeting for the best way forward regarding our carbon footprint.

7. Margaret Wentworth reported that an ad-hoc support committee (Margaret Wentworth, Margaret Leitch Copeland, and Sukie Rice) has been formed to support Theresa Oleksiw who has felt drawn to work on issues of poverty and food insecurity in Maine and to raise the realities of this issue to law-makers with hopes of increasing the funding for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).    Theresa met with a clearness committee from Portland Friends Meeting to develop a clear picture of how to proceed, and they developed plans for the SNAP ReBoot Project that personalizes and addresses food insecurity.  She has received grants from Portland Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting, and the Lyman Foundation to fund the project through April.  She is applying for further grants to complete this project.  Because of a two-month funding gap between grants, the support committee recommends that Durham Meeting grant her $3000 for these two months, May and June.  A full report of this project is attached. 

8. The meeting approved the grant of $3000 from the Charity Fund for the SNAP ReBoot Project.  We look forward to a report from Theresa regarding this project, and a financial report of expenses.

9. Christian Education and Youth Minister:  Wendy Schlotterbeck is staffing the Young Friends Retreat at Woolman Hill this weekend and thus sent a report.  Sunday School classes are going well. The preschool

Elementary age class taught by Tess Hartford averages 3-5 children and is continuing to use Faith and Play and Godly Play stories.  Feedback from parents indicate that this curriculum is much appreciated.  The middle/high school class taught by Wendy Schlottebeck averages 2-3 youth, and uses the Quaker Affirmations curriculum from the religious Education Collaborative.  The Adult class continues to meet every Sunday at 9:30.  It is facilitated by Martha Hinshaw Sheldon and they are currently reading “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.  Martha reported having incredible, intense, and lively discussions.  “Waking Up White” by Debby Irving was the previous book the class read and discussed.  This class averages 3-5 participants.

            Upcoming events: family game night March 14; Easter breakfast April 12; and Faith and Play/

Godly Play training on May 8-10.

10: Nancy Marstaller brought a concern regarding the organ in the meeting room which unfortunately has not been used for some time; it was approved that it be sold or given away to another church. 

We closed in gratitude for the present and the past. 

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Durham Meeting Donations to LACO Food Pantry

In December, the Durham Meeting Woman’s Society organized an Advent “food drive” for the Lisbon Area Food Pantry. During this month we asked people to bring in foods that LACO has on its “wish list” for their families, after which Kim Bolshaw drove a truckload of goods to the food pantry.
Dorothy Curtis once again worked her cooking magic this past autumn, making about 80 jars of raspberry, grape, and peach jams from fruits grown in the Meeting garden. These absolutely delicious jams were then happily purchased by members and attenders, raising a little over $400, which was donated to LACO. Thanks to all who brought in food for the pantry. Thanks to Dorothy for making all that jam! Thanks to those who helped in the garden to grow and harvest the fruits. And thanks to everyone who purchased the jams (and some garlics), making this a very successful Meeting outreach.
There are nine Durham area churches that make up Lisbon Area Christian Outreach. Questions about LACO can be brought to Margaret Wentworth, Margaret Copeland, and David Dexter, who have been our representatives on the LACO board.

“Finding Harmony with the Natural World,” by Ingrid Chalufour

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, February 26, 2020

I have been reading a book of Greta Thunberg’s speeches. As you probably know, Greta is the Swedish student who is striking for action on the climate “emergency”.  She has had the opportunity to speak to political and business leaders throughout the world using the extensive work of scientists as her message, Greta is attempting to reach the most powerful, those with the ability to address the climate crisis in a way that brings necessary and lasting change. Why are her impressive words not eliciting more action at the top? What is it that motivates us to respond to the climate crisis or not. I think we know what motivates inaction – money and probably fear of having to give up the comforts of an unsustainable lifestyle.

Greta is motivated by the science and the desire for a livable planet for her’s and future generations. This should be enough. The science is clearly telling us a livable future is not possible at our current rate of consumption. It is obvious that our children and grandchildren will face many challenges as a result of our inaction. That is enough for me, although there are other motivators. For many, a spiritual connection to the natural world drives their response. In a December message we were reminded of the Bible’s call for caring for the natural world and offered up Christian moral convictions as a reason to respond to the climate crisis. “We are called to be stewards of God’s creation. When we keep the Earth, then we do God’s will.”

For the indigenous people of this country a belief in the interconnection of all living things is central to their spiritual beliefs, and it guides their daily way of life and an activist agenda. I read a poem attributed to a Taos elder:

Now this is what we believe.

The mother of us all is earth.

The father is the sun.

The grandfather is the Creator

Who bathed us with his mind

And gave life to all things.

The Brother is the beasts and trees.

The Sister is that with wings.

We are the Children of Earth

And do it no harm in any way.

Nor do we offend the sun

By not greeting it at dawn.

We praise our Grandfather for his creation.

We share the same breath together-

The Beasts, the trees, the birds, the man.

Sherri Mitchel, a member of Maine’s Penobscot Tribe, expresses similar thoughts. I quote:

Our “way of life is about living close to the Earth, close to our kin, and remaining ever mindful of our responsibilities to the sacred agreements that we have with every living being. It is about the sustainability of the Earth, our relationships, and our spiritual connections.

“Everything is interconnected and interdependent; the well-being of the whole is determined by the well-being of any individual part…. This belief forms the foundational understanding weaving through all of our other values. It’s the thread that ties them all together.”

I will briefly review three of the values Sherri discusses in her book Sacred Instructions:

  • We all have enough, meaning that everyone should be ensured they have enough to live with dignity and a sense of security and that community has enough to thrive.
  • Harmony is an inner state of equilibrium, in spite of life’s challenges we are asked to understand the dual nature of the universe and recognize the beauty in everything. When we are connected to the source of life we develop greater compassion and patience.
  • Harmony with the natural world teaches taking active steps to live in harmony with the rest of creation. Quoting Sherri, “We cannot even see ourselves as being stewards of the Earth. We are only keepers of a way of life that is in harmony with the Earth…. This understanding is very different than the belief that human beings are chosen above all others.’

These beliefs and values are shared across Native tribes and communicated through ceremonial dances, chants, and folk tales/stories passed down from generation to generation.

I repeat: We all have enough, Harmony is an inner state of equilibrium, and Harmony with the natural world.

This reverence for the natural world was central to the Native way of life long before the colonists came to this country and it did not take long for the colonists to impact the New England environment. In 1855 Thoreau wrote in his journal about the ecological changes to New England that resulted from the colonists way of life. He was comparing his observations with those of William Wood, who recounted his observations in a 1633 book, New England’s Prospect. Some of these changes resulted from clearing forests to send timber to England, others from their farming practices. Colonists had a very different relationship with the natural resources of New England than the original Americans.

Today, motivated by these beliefs, Natives take civil action to protect the environment. Nick Estes, of the Sioux Tribe, writes about the belief that “water is a nonhuman relative who is alive and that nothing can own her (referring specifically to the Missouri River) and she cannot be sold or treated as a piece of property.” It is this belief that motivates the native camps of protesters attempting to block building of the Keystone XL Pipeline. In the February Friends Journal find an article by Shelley Tananebaum, a Quaker Earthcare Witness, who spent time in a camp in Standing Rock.

These are all strong motivators for caring for the natural world. I too believe in the interconnection of all living things and the importance in maintaining the health of the many ecosystems that sustain the natural world. I wish I were as sure about a path forward as I am about why we need one. I don’t know how to motivate those who have not bought into any of the values I have shared here.

I sometimes play a game imaging a world that resulted from the Colonists learning care of the land from the first residents of this country. This is fantasy I know, but maybe it has some value.  At least it puts my mind in a happier place. Imagine for a minute what kind of economic system we might have if its health was not based on how much we are consuming? What kind of trade deals would we have with other countries? Would they be designed to increase production and sales? Or think about the Industrial Revolution. There would have been one, of course, but how might it have been different if there was more concern for preservation of natural resources? Or how would farming be different if we cared about the health of the soil and the ecosystems that large farms disturb? Or think about the value “we all have enough” and how public policies would differ if that was a commonly held value.  

What else might have evolved differently and how might we mine these ideas for use in creating a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. How can we move backwards to a time of less consumption, more preservation of our natural resources? Isn’t that what reducing our carbon footprint is all about? We are not going to reverse climate change by composting and recycling. But we are working to find a life style that provides a sustainable future for humanity.

I leave you with a quote from the Harvard entomologist, E.O. Wilson,

“Natural philosophy has brought into clear relief the following paradox of human existence. The drive towards perpetual expansion – or personal freedom – is basic to the human spirit. But to sustain it we need the most delicate, knowing stewardship of the living world that can be devised.”

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, January 19, 2020

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened for the conduct of business on Sunday, January 19, 2020 with 11 people in attendance.

1. Nominating Committee: Margaret Wentworth reported for Nominating Committee. They recommend that appointments remain the same as 2019, with the following changes:
Presiding Clerk: Add Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, so she and Susan (Sukie) Rice will be Co-Clerks.
Trustees: Remains the same, keeping Paul Wood on the committee.
Ministry and Counsel: Add Renee Cote.
Finance: No changes.
Christian Education: Katherine (Qat) Langelier is going off the committee.
Communications: Change Newsletter Editor from Qat Langelier to Sukie Rice.
P & SC: Linda Muller is going off. New members are very much needed.
Next month the full list will be attached to the Newsletter.

2. The Nominating Committee report was approved. Martha Sheldon continued to preside over the Meeting for Business as a duly approved co-clerk.

3. The minutes of December 15, 2019 were approved as printed in the Newsletter.

4. Ministry and Counsel: Martha Sheldon reported that Doug Bennett will draft the State of
Society Report. Upcoming speakers will be Ingrid Chalufour, Joyce Gibson, Tess Hartford, Heather Augustine, Peter Crysdale, Fritz Weiss, Doug Bennett, and Leslie Manning.

5. Christian Education: Wendy Schlotterbeck submitted the report.

Dorothy Curtis will be the CE representative for the search committee for the Meeting Care Coordinator position.
(b) The committee decided to nurture relationships and connections with the Maine Native American community as their theme for the year, including learning more about Native American history. They hope to collaborate with Heather Augustine’s youth group and will encourage Durham Friends to attend Healing Turtle Island in July.
(c) They will continue family game nights and aim for the next one to be on March 14.
(d) Faith and Play/Godly Play training has been confirmed for May 8-10 at Durham Friends. Portland Friends and possibly several other NEYM Friends will join us. Melinda Wenner Bradley from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting will bring the training.
(e) They discussed naming a clerk for the committee, but decided at this time to rotate the role among members. Wendy has agreed to bring the CE/youth minister report to Monthly Meeting.

Youth Minister Report:
(a) Wendy Schlotterbeck has begun visiting Durham Friends families with children to get a sense of their needs.
(b) Wendy is participating in “Noticing Patterns of Oppression and Faithfulness,” an online training sponsored by NEYM and facilitated by Lisa Graustein, on January 16 and March 12. This training focuses on informing our work with youth.
(c) Wendy attended an all-day reflection and planning session for the Young Friends program of NEYM on January 18 and will continue to help staff with upcoming Young Friends and Junior High Young Friends retreats. The report was accepted gratefully.

6. Communications Committee: It was reported that Sukie Rice will be the CC representative for the search committee for the Meeting Care Coordinator position.

7. Martha Sheldon reported that the first meeting of the search committee for the Meeting Care Coordinator will occur this coming week. The search committee will now be under the care of Monthly Meeting rather than Ministry and Counsel. It was suggested that there be a deadline for applications. Dorothy Curtis, Ingrid Chalufour, Sukie Rice, and Martha Sheldon will be on that committee. Notice of the job advertisement will be sent out as a Friends Note and include the deadline.

8. Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell brought the report, which included the 2020 budget. There was discussion about our giving to Quaker organizations, specifically to increase the amounts we give to them in 2020. From this discussion, we raised the original $100 budgeted for each of them to the following: AFSC: $250; Velasco Friends: $250; FCNL: $300; QUNO: $200.

9. The Budget 2020 was approved to include the aforementioned changes, with appreciation to the Finance Committee. Our projected income for 2020 is $60,826 and expenses are $60,690. 

10. Meeting Auditor: Sarah Sprogell, the Meeting Auditor, brought her report for the years 2014 and 2015. The Auditor states that the books for both years are in very good order, and noted that we have a gem in our Treasurer, Kitsie Hildebrandt, in her navigation of the funds of the Meeting. These reports are attached.

11. Monthly Meeting accepted the Auditor’s reports with appreciation for the work Sarah has done. It was noted how Sarah and Kitsie’s work on these reports has assisted the Finance Committee in a number of ways to better oversee the finances of the Meeting.

12. Brunswick Friends Meeting continues their process of finding a future place for Meeting for Worship. Martha Sheldon will reach out to them regarding the possible use of the Meeting house.

The meeting ended with a moment of quiet reflection in gratitude for the Spirit being present with us.

Sukie Rice, temporary Recording Clerk

Woman’s Society Report, January 20, 2020


The business portion of the gathering began with our monthly card ministry to those who are home bound, ill, or in need of encouragement, and to those engaged in world ministries who are celebrating their birthday. We then discussed our support of two members who will be attending the Friends United Meeting and United Society of Friends Women Triennial this summer in Kenya. Then we reviewed the Meeting refreshments volunteer list and the Tedford meals.
Jo-an Jacobus presented a program and discussion generated by USFW’s Blueprints on “Finding a Way to Peace” by Jan Dough. As she shared stories and reflections, we were encouraged to listen, pray, and act: listen for what is behind an act, pray without ceasing, act where we can. We reflected on the following queries: What are your tools to find peace and solve conflicts? Do you listen to and rely on God’s will to find answers? Do you complain about the injustices of the world, or do you act to make the world better for those around you? As Quakers, what are our peacemaking responsibilities?
Nancy Marstaller gave the annual treasurer’s report. The final total for the silent auction was $329. Memorial donations in honor of Clarabel Marstaller came to $1,375. Donations have been made to United Society of Friends Women International Children and Youth Projects, Warm Thy Neighbor, Wayfinder Schools, and Sexual Assault Support Services of Mid Coast Maine. Appreciation was expressed for Nancy’s work on this annual report.
We ended our meeting with the sharing of prayer requests and learning of updates from past requests.
In peace, Martha Hinshaw Sheldon, recorder.

“Driving the Difficult Driveway of Life,” by Gene Boyington

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, January 19, 2020

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Good Morning, Friends.

There are lots of ideas about guidelines for the speaking part of worship and our oral ministry to ourselves and others. Here is a specific one and a general one:

Specifically, Never give Gene the microphone.

Generally, here is a four-part one with a title like those quartets that were ubiquitous back in 1940s and 1950s popular music:

This is an old Quaker guideline for being heard and appreciated in Meeting. I call it the 4 “S”s, or Three Sues and a Syd😊 (Su, Su, Su, Sd):

  1. Stand up (to be recognized);
  2. Speak up (to be heard);
  3. Shut up (to be appreciated);
  4. Sit down (to be invited to speak again).

**This could be enough of a main message this morning, but try and stop me from telling you my:

  Backing-out-of-the-driveway story.

In this story, there will be no names mentioned to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the pretty good relationship of the two!

My driveway (pause), with which some of you are familiar, slopes slightly upward into the yard. It also bends slightly to the right as one proceeds up the incline. It’s not long enough to drive in, then turn around somewhere, then later drive out. We have to drive in and back out. Or we have to _back_ in to be able to _drive_ out. But that requires forethought and determination.  Harried from our time away, we are in a hurry to get resettled into the comfort and calm of domesticity. So, we drive in.

Later, when a new errand calls, we usually are (again) in a hurry, now to do what must be done in the bigger world, we must back out. It is easy, when backing out, to forget the slope and the bend, then wind up slightly to the north side of the driveway, or to have a midcourse correction and oversteer into a slightly southerly position toward the road end of the driveway. Straying off the northerly side of the driveway is problematic for the rock border of the flower garden – the rocks are taller than the clear space under most moving vehicles☹. [It has happened.] The southerly side usually is not much trouble, as straying off the driveway would take one only into the lilac bush. [It, too, has happened.]

The aforementioned innocent, and guilty, have survived (so far) all the trials of navigation of the driveway. They _are_ still enjoying that pretty good relationship😊.

But recently, there was a snowstorm with a lot of pretty wet snow, after which the newish snowblower broke most of its shear pins, and the replacements would take a week to arrive. So, the innocent (or the guilty, we don’t recall which) shoveled a vehicle width path in the driveway to permit traveling – in the bigger world.

Later in the day, it was time for one of those travels. The innocent (or the guilty, depending on one’s current frame of mind) cranked up the car and began to back out of the driveway in the appropriate fashion. OOPS, quite completely stuck in the un-shoveled portion on the southerly side of the driveway, not quite into the lilac bush. [innocent and guilty worked together (with help of four-wheel drive truck) to extricate the car and get the innocent (or guilty) abroad in the bigger world.

How did this happen? Whichever (guilty or innocent) had this occur under their respective drivership, the other has had hardly ever such an occurrence. How does each of them negotiate backing up – in this driveway, in other driveways, out of (or into) parking spaces? Could there be a difference that is significant?

After much introspection by innocent (or guilty), there was this thoughtful conversation by both:

When you back out of the driveway, where is your right foot?

[Long pause] On the gas.

[Long pause] Problem?

Yup. Brake, poised at the top of the brake pedal’s travel. Let the car back down by itself?

Uh-huh. Then, there is more time to watch where the vehicle is going, being ready to apply the brakes, if needed.

OK, that’s good😊

Remember the slope? If we are backing uphill, we need to apply gas; downhill, be ready to brake. The car’s automatic transmission will power it backward ever so slowly, if we are on a downslope, or it might just roll.

Reflecting on this tale of woe and resolution, one might ask oneself:

“Am I a foot-on-the-gas person?

“Or am I a foot-on-the-brake person?”

“Do I know when to steer … with my foot on the gas, when to steer … with my foot on the brake?”

“Is there more I could know, and can learn, about making conscious choices?” 

Somewhere in the Bible, there is a statement about freedom of choice. Elsewhere in the Bible is commentary and implication about what God gives us along with this life opportunity, how we use what we are given, and the responsibility we have to make good, useful, and effective choices.

Forum: The U.S. Military’s Carbon Footprint

On January 26, Peace and Social Concerns will be hosting an event after Meeting, the first in a series examining current events of concern to Friends. These discussions are designed to inform letter writing.

On the 26th we will discuss the U.S. military’s carbon footprint. Please plan to stay after meeting to join us.

Tell Congress No War With Iran!

By Hassan El-Tayyab, FCNL, January 3, 2020

From the Friends Committee on National Legislation

Last night, the Trump administration assassinated Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the military commander of Iran’s Quds Force. This is a dangerous escalation of the confrontation with Iran, one that will lead to more bloodshed, and expand conflict and instability throughout the Middle East.Stop the March to War with Iran

As a Quaker organization we hold firm to the faith that war is not the answer. Our lawmakers have repeatedly failed to stop the march to war with Iran and return our nation to the path of diplomacy. This moment calls for political courage.

The House and Senate have introduced bills, H.R. 2354 and S. 1039, that would ensure the president cannot take military action against Iran without congressional authorization – except in response to an attack on America or its armed forces.

Congress has the power to prevent war with Iran. It must exercise its constitutional authority now. Urge them to act.

Statement from FCNL: FCNL Condemns Assassination; Urges Congress to Oppose Escalation of Deadly Conflict with Iran

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, December 15, 2019

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends convened for the conduct of business on Sunday, December 15, 2019 with 13 people present.  In the absence of Clerk Susan Rice, we approved the appointment of Sarah Sprogell to serve as clerk.  Sarah opened the meeting by reading a quote from Caroline Stephen from Light Arising, published in 1908.

1. The November minutes were approved.

2. Ministry and Counsel:  it was sadly reported that, after a brief illness, Clarabel Marstaller died peacefully on December 2nd, 2019.  Dorothy and Edwin Hinshaw who had served with the Marstallers in New England Yearly Meeting many years were approved to work with Ministry and Counsel regarding a memorial minute for Clarabel Marstaller.

             Martha Hinshaw Sheldon shared a list of speakers in meeting for worship for the next few weeks.

            An updated proposal for a Meeting Care Coordinator was presented.  It was suggested that a search committee be made up of representatives from four committees: Peace and Social Concerns, Christian Education, Ministry and Counsel, and Communications, plus the Clerk, Susan Rice.  Ministry and Counsel will ensure the formation of the committee.

3.  The meeting approved hiring a Meeting Care Coordinator as well as the formation of the search committee, which will limit its search to the New England area. 

4.  Finance committee: Sarah Sprogell presented the budget for 2020 and it is attached to these minutes. 

5. Peace and Social Concerns Committee:   Ingrid Chalufour reported that a new temporary group (Footprint Subcommittee) has formed to propose ways the carbon footprint of the meetinghouse can be lowered.  The group is made up of representatives from three committees: Sarah Sprogell (Finance), Robert Eaton (Trustees), Ingrid Chalufour (Peace and Social Concerns), and Kim Bolshaw, custodian.  They are researching a variety of ideas and proposals.

6.  Christian Education and Youth Minister:  Wendy Schlotterbeck reported that about 7 people from Durham and Portland meetings are interested in Godly Play training, tentatively planned for the weekend of April 3-5 at Durham Meeting.  Others from New England Yearly Meeting are invited at the cost of $150 per person.  Melinda Wenner Bradley, Director of Communications and Training (Faith and Play Stories, Inc., Godly Play Trainer) can offer the training.  The Quaker version of Godly Play is Faith and Play. 

            Wendy Schlotterbeck staffed the Junior High retreat at Woolman Hill the weekend of December 6-8.  A Young Friends retreat was also held the same weekend in Providence, RI.  Three young friends from Durham meeting attended retreats that weekend.

            The Christmas event on December 20th will include a labyrinth in the parking lot, soup, cider, cookies, carols and campfire, 4:30-7pm.  Parking will be across the street. 

7.  Betsy Munch announced that Brunswick Friends Meeting is losing their meeting place, and wonders if we might share our space with them.

8.  We approved the suggestion that Brunswick Friends Meeting consider using our facility for their meeting for worship on Sunday morning, suggesting a time of 9:00 to 10:15, specifics and shared financial arrangement to be further explored.

We closed in quiet reflection.

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Three Ways of Looking at the Christmas Story, by Doug Bennett

Excerpt from a message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 15, 2019

Here’s one way of looking at it.

Take the four gospels.  Each tells a story of a life.  For the moment, put the Christmas story, the birth, to one side.   And also put to one side the stuff at the end about the end of Jesus’s life: about Jesus coming to Jerusalem where he’s arrested, crucified and resurrected.  Now without that beginning and that end, we have the story of a preacher and healer who wanders the countryside doing and saying attention-getting things.  Fresh things.  World turned upside down things.  Be humble. Be so generous as to give away your only coat.  Love your enemy no matter what.  In that big middle story, Jesus gets crosswise with the religious leaders of his time.  He heals on the sabbath, for example.  But Jesus really doesn’t encounter a soldier or a policeman.  He’s never really in danger.  He never gets a ticket or a fine.  He never spends a day in jail. 

In the middle of the story there’s no mention of the Emperor or the Romans. And they’re in control, we need to remember.  The Romans have conquered Israel and Judah and subjugated them.  Their Empire is the greatest, the mightiest ever known.  At the end of story, when Jesus comes to Jerusalem, Jesus does get in trouble with the authorities.  Crucifixion is a Roman penalty for the most serious crimes – for challenging the authority of the Emperor. 

If we remember how it ends, that puts the Christmas story in a new light.  The Christmas story announces the birth of a king: not just a mighty king, but the mightiest of all.  It announces the birth of a king who will sweep away all worldly kings, even the Roman emperor.  Born in a stable, laid in a manger.  But here is a baby to whom the wisest of kings bow down.  Here is a baby attended by angels.  Here is baby who is hunted by a wicked king, but a baby who escapes and triumphs.  And here triumphant is a new kind of king who triumphs through love not through the sword. 

“This is the Anti-Empire,” we might call this story.  This is the empire out-empired.  The story at the end is the same story told at the beginning.  Christmas and Resurrection are versions of the same story. 

[The full message can be found at River View Friend.]