“Becoming Quaker,” by Joyce Gibson

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, January 9, 2022

G’ morning Y’all,




  • That God is directly accessible to all persons without the need of an intermediary priest or ritual;
  • That there is in all persons an in-dwelling Seed or Christ or Light (he used all these metaphors) which is of God and which, if they will but heed it, will guide them and shape their lives in accordance with the will of God;
  • That true religion cannot be learned from books or set prayers, words or rituals, which Fox called “empty forms”, but comes only from direct experiences of God, known through the Seed or Christ or Light within;
  • That the Scriptures can be understood only as one enters into the Spirit which gave them forth;
  • That there is an ocean of darkness and death—of sin and misery—over the world but also an ocean of light and of love, which flows over the ocean of darkness, revealing the infinite love of God; and
  • That the power and love of God are over all, erasing the artificial division between the secular and religious so that all of life, when lived in the Spirit, becomes sacramental.  The traditional outward sacraments, again characterized as empty forms, are to be discarded in favor of the spiritual reality they symbolize. (Pages, 2, 3 from Introducing Quakers, 1990)

You can imagine that these ideas did not play well in the 17th century, though based Biblically, and Fox’s public ministry was not welcomed by the authorities in the churches.  Though he found thousands of seekers and influenced his ideas to be spread by others, (and eventually across the pond to Boston and Cape Cod in 1656, and 1657 respectively), he paid heavily personally and physically with imprisonments and beatings because of what he believed.



  • Quakers believe that formal creeds are unnecessary, because what matters to them is the truth and integrity of personal experience.
  • Quakers believe that religious doctrines and dogmas are unhelpful and should be set aside.
  • Quakers believe that regular attendance at Quaker meetings has the power to change people, help them find meaning and give them a purpose in life.
  • Quakers believe that they should be guided by love and what love requires of them.  (Pages 9, 10)








In NEYM’s 1985 Faith and Practice we learn about Waiting Upon the Lord, p.97:

           When you come to your meetings . . . what do you do? . . . Do you walk in the “Light of your own fire and the sparks which you have kindled?”  Or rather, do you sit down in True Silence, resting from your own Will and Workings, and waiting upon the Lord, fixed with your minds in that Light wherewith Christ has enlightened you, until the Lord breaths life in you, refresheth you, and prepares you . . . that you may offer unto him a pure and spiritual sacrifice? (William Penn:  Works, ed. Joseph Besse, 1726, vol 1, p.219.  “A tender visitation,” published 1677.

  • AN EXPERIENCE WITH GOD.  An experience of Divine Reality changes us from fearful, wounded, and lost people into a safe, healing, and compassionate people on a meaningful journey.  With this experience we come to be aware that we are at home in the world and at peace.  It isn’t good enough to think we’ve found the path, or to believe we have found the path, or to hope we have found the path.  We have to find the path and stay on it.  And, to have this experience, we have to stop and wait and be silent, inside as well as outside. (Page 8, Griswold, 2016)



  • Becoming a Quaker is ALWAYS A WORK IN PROGRESS. 

Report from Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, January 15, 2022

Falmouth Quarter met on January 15, 2022 virtually; 34 Friends attended from all five meetings in the quarter, with one guest from Farmington Meeting.

We shared news from our meetings:

Windham reported that they had held their annual Christmas Fair which was a great success.  They have some necessary building repairs and have applied for a grant from the Obadiah Brown Fund for support to help with these repairs.  The meeting has been actively involved in lobbying for the passage of LD 1626 for Wabanaki Sovereignty.   The meeting is small, but members have known each other for most of their lives and there is deep community at Windham.

Brunswick returned to meeting on zoom in December.  The zoom meetings are smaller than the in-person ones were.  There have been 2 – 3 new attenders joining Brunswick since the summer. The zoom link for Sunday worship will be shared with the list serve so that others from the quarter might join them.  Brunswick has appreciated visitors from Falmouth Quarter at worship.  

Durham is in the process of figuring out how to do hybrid meetings. There have been two trial runs with the owl camera.  There were two successful outdoor in-person events in December involving families. The Peace and Social Concern committee has a program in which they are giving social justice books to teachers in four communities and to refugee families in the community. Over 70 books have been given to refugee families. One of the books that has been given, What is Given from the Heart, was read to those gathered as a part of the program for this meeting.

Portland Meeting is intentionally forming Ministry Care Committees to support Friends who are engaged in ministries – there are at least six active committees supporting a range of ministries.  A small group formed by Ministry Care committee is naming these groups and supporting their work. Sunday worship at Portland is virtual again and is evaluating this decision on a week to week basis.  Briefly the meeting had had both an in-person worship in the meetinghouse and a zoom worship. The meeting is also beginning a discernment process for how the meeting stewards its resources.

We remembered Linda Lyman from Southern Maine who recently died. 

The program for this January’s meeting was focused on the gift economy.  After an icebreaker, we gathered with the song Love will Guide us sung by K J Williams (Durham); after worship, Jay O’Hara (Portland) provided an overview of the principals of the gift economy as outlined in Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift. This is a way to think concretely about how spiritual energy moves through material things.  Jay shared four principles – 1.) Gifts move – they are not received and held on to, 2.) Gifts are consumed or used, 3.) Nothing is owed in return, and 4.) Trust the gift. These principles move the focus from the value of the material resources to the relationships that frame our decisions about material resources.

Ingrid Chalufour (Durham) read the book What is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. Mckissack and illustrated by April Harrison. Friends reflected on where they saw themselves in this story.  This is one of the books Durham has given to teachers and families in their Social Justice Enrichment Program.

After a break to wiggle, Friends shared concrete examples of ways they have experienced Gift Economy. The group then broke into smaller groups and considered a specific decision a meeting might be faced with about the use of its funds, considering each choice from the perspective of the gift economy. The following queries were offered to guide the discussion: How have we responded to the multiple gifts that we have received? What is our responsibility to individuals who donated money for a specific project? How is our response informed by Friend’s testimonies of community, stewardship, integrity? Who is the recipient of the gift of each choice? How does each choice reflect an attitude of generosity and sufficiency?  How do they reflect an attitude of scarcity?

KJ led us in the song Thanksgiving Eve and we closed in worship.

“Are You Engaged in a Spiritual Adventure with Our Meeting?” by Joyce Gibson

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, January 16, 2022

Today, I want to follow-up on my message from last week on Becoming a Quaker.  In thinking through our testimonies, community is the one that strikes me as critically important, and was the topic that a few of you commented on last week, as well.  Are we a distinct community?  What distinguishes us from other Christian or Quaker communities?  Many people join us from other faith traditions that feel more restrictive than ours, and are attracted by our belief that Christ, the Light or Spirit resides in every human, and that no priest or intermediary is necessary.  For me, nurturing that Divine Relationship is a challenge, and perhaps one I need more collective education about.  Daphne Clement once told me that just showing up was the most important thing to do in learning to be a Quaker; finding meaning and purpose here together is where we learn about each other and Quakerism.

Or maybe people are attracted to our understanding that God is LOVE for everyone, as described in one of our principles according to George Fox:  That the power and love of God are over all, erasing the artificial division between the secular and religious so that all of life, when lived in the Spirit, becomes sacramental.  The traditional outward sacraments, (such as crucifixes, rosaries, statues, palm leaves) again characterized as empty forms, are to be discarded in favor of the spiritual reality they symbolize.

How is the Love of God manifested in our community?

Do we have a corporate responsibility as a community of Quakers to share and demonstrate God’s LOVE?  The ten commandments offer guidance for building community, many asking us to take care of each other.  In Exodus 20: 2-17,  Moses relays a message to the people from God, how God wants to be regarded, and how they are to deal with each other:  These come from the Bible in contemporary language, THE MESSAGE)

  1. No other gods, only me.
  2. No carved gods of any size, shape or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly, or walk or swim;  (no smart phones, TV shows, internet addictions?)
  3. No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter;
  4. Observe the sabbath, to keep it holy.  Work six days and do everything you need to do.  But the seventh is a Sabbath to God, your God.
  5. Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God is giving you;
  6. No murder;
  7. No adultery;
  8. No stealing;
  9. No lies about your neighbor;
  10.  No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey.  Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbors.  Can we use the commandments as one guide to sustain community?

Here is what Faith and Practice (1986) tells us about community:

a)…While Friends had great respect for the individual person, the real unit in the society of Friends has always been the Meeting (p. 54, chapter 1, Quaker Faith)

In another section, there is a quote about Meeting as a Caring Community:

b)…To share in the experience of the Presence in corporate worship, to strive to let Divine Will guide one’s life, to uphold others in prayer, to live in a sense of unfailing Love, is to participate in a spiritual adventure in which Friends come to know one another and to respect one another at a level where differences of age or sex, of wealth or position, of education or vocation, of race or nation are all irrelevant.  Within this sort of fellowship, as in a family, griefs and joys, fear and hopes, failures and accomplishments are naturally shared, even individuality and independence are scrupulously respected. (Pps. 120-121, The Meeting as a Caring Community).

I think the magic words herein are: to participate in a spiritual adventure in which Friends come to know one another and to respect one another.  Are you engaged in a spiritual adventure with our Meeting?  How can we provide or promote such an opportunity for each of us?

I find myself spending more time on Quaker projects than I imagined I would; and when I think back to my youth and early adulthood, I could not imagine using my time this way!  I am so impressed with our young people’s sense of God and their relationship with God.  Some (like me) have been living in a clue-free zone about God for a long time.

It could be that we need a re-charging of our batteries, of our adventurous selves since we have been trying our best to manage the pandemic– in our families, at work, in the larger community, and certainly here at Meeting.  One of our Friends from the Putney, Vermont Meeting, has been facilitating workshops called “Reflecting on Our Collective Well-Being:  Grieving, Healing, and Community, wherever he has been invited, and I think the title is an apt one to consider for ourselves:  A conversation about our collective well-being would be useful to me.

How do we discern how to be a more caring community during a pandemic?  How do we discern our own role in helping to reduce the tensions, and challenges brought on in our regular everyday lives?

I believe that there are a number of ways that we already participate in spiritual adventures with each other, and it is one of the reasons I have joined a few different groups here at Durham, and affiliated with some in the New England Yearly Meeting.  Thus, when you join a committee, volunteer with the youth, call one of us to check on us, serve on Trustees or Nominating Committee, or engage in continuous prayer for the Meeting, you are participating in spiritual adventures. 

There is another way that many find much more powerful though—when we worship together and feel the Presence.  Michael Birkel, faculty at Earlham College, calls it the “The Collective Dimension of Worship”…Worship in community is more than prayer in solitude.  It is not simply common purpose but a felt sense of togetherness that joins worshipers.  We can experience one another at depths that challenge our experience to describe them (p. 44, Silence and Witness)

There is another, higher dimension of worship, that some have experienced that comes when we are together.  Thomas Kelly (one of my prayer mentors) wrote about it this wayIn the Quaker practice of group worship on the basis of silence come special times when an electric hush and solemnity and depth of power steals over the worshipers.  A blanket of divine covering comes over the room, a stillness that can be felt is over all, and the worshipers are gathered into a unity and synthesis of life which is amazing indeed.  A quickening Presence pervades  us, breaking down some part of the special privacy and isolation of our individual lives and blending our spirits within a superindividual Life and Power…(The Gathered Meeting, reprinted in the Eternal Promise, Richmond, Indiana:  Friends United Pres, 1977, p. 72)  THIS PRACTICE IN HIS PRESENCE IS UNIQUELY OURS!

Before leaving I must share a recent experience I had with a few women who identify as Quaker.  I was stunned at how one person introduced herself  because I had NEVER HEARD ANYONE COMBINE THEIR INTRODUCTION AS SHE DID.  We were asked to give our names, Meeting affiliation, pronouns, etc.   She used her tribal name and quaker as part of her identification, together, separate from identifying her Meeting; it sounded like her title—Wampanoag Quaker.  She went on to explain to us that her people view themselves as Community first, and that seeking a spiritual home, Quakers were the closest she and her people could find where community was valued as a priority.  This person embraces the DIVINE as part of her natural life; it was refreshing to behold. 

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, January 16, 2022

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually for the conduct of business on Sunday, January 9, 2022, with 30 people present. Bob Eaton, clerk, opened the specially called meeting for business with a reading from the Faith and Practice of New England Yearly Meeting section on meeting for business. “Order, unity and power”.  Followed by a few minutes of silent preparation.

The meeting was called because members of the Trustees and Finance Committee met with Bob to discuss the Meetinghouse heating system, which is on the brink of failure. Estimates received in December from Bright Heating and Cooling were for a commercial-sized furnace due to size of Meetinghouse. Including removal of the old system, ductwork, and installation of a new system, the cost estimates were:  $28K for a one-zone system, and $30K for a two-zone. Trustees presented this recommendation for approval of either system.

The recording clerk read, and the Meeting approved the following minute:

Durham Friends Meeting approves the recommendation of Trustees to proceed with a two-zone, hot air system from Bright Heating and Cooling for the entire Meetinghouse for a cost not to exceed $33,000. Finance Committee has assured the Meeting that the funds are available. The Meeting expects that the Trustees will have a more detailed contract and work order before a final contract is signed. The Meeting expresses its gratitude for the work of the Trustees in this matter. 

Respectfully submitted, 

Ellen Bennett, Recording Clerk

DFM Business Meeting Materials, January 16, 2022

Agenda: Monthly Meeting for Business, January 16, 2022

Materials in support of these agenda items are at this link..

  1. Review of Agenda – Bob Eaton

Items that require approval and/or seasoning

2. Peace and Social Concerns update is attached – Ingrid Chalufour

3. Approval of Minutes of December 2021 – Dorothy Hinshaw

4. Approval of Minutes of January 2022 Special Meeting – Ellen Bennett

5. Nominations Committee – Linda Muller

6. Finance Committee – Nancy Marstaller The 2022 draft budget was presented for seasoning at the December meeting. A slightly revised version is presented for approval.

7. Cemetery Fund Audit Report – Sarah Sprogell Sarah has performed a five-year audit of the cemetery funds. 

Reports for information and comment

8. Ministry and Counsel – Tess Hartford and Renee Coté

9. Velasco (Cuba) Friends Meeting – Nancy Marstaller Nancy will report on  our sister meeting opportunities: travelers going to Cuba end of Feb, and joint worship with Portland on Feb. 13.

10. Trustees Report is attached                                                                                                 

Falmouth Quarter will meet, via Zoom, January 15, 2022, 9:30am

Falmouth Quarter will meet, via zoom, at 9:30 on January 15, 2022. 

We know that God promises us that we experience an abundance of blessings and gifts AND we know that this knowledge of the generosity of the spirit can be challenged when we consider our funds, our budgets, our assets and our money.

Falmouth Quarter invites you to come and discover the gift economy. We will share stories of engaging with money as a gift, confident that there is enough for all; stories from our experience, from folklore, from children’s books and from scripture.

We invite you to this opportunity to begin to explore our spiritual relationship to our material assets.

PLEASE, come to Falmouth Quarter via zoom on the morning of January 15.   All are welcome and all have wisdom. The Zoom link is below


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Mimi Marstaller to Facilitate Discussion of The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolan, Saturday afternoons in February 2022

Book Discussion: The Lemon Tree

February 5, 2022 – February 26, 2022, Saturday afternoons, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

New England Yearly Meeting’s Israel-Palestine Working Group (under the care of the Permanent Board) invites you to join a group discussion of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/151740.The_Lemon_Tree).

Everyone in the Yearly Meeting and beyond is invited to attend one or more sessions, every Saturday afternoon in February.

The discussion will be facilitated by Mimi (Amelia) Marstaller, a member of Durham (ME) Friends Meeting and high-school English teacher. Mimi spent two years teaching at Ramallah Friends School and worked last summer at Friends Camp. More about Mimi here.

Young Friends are especially welcome.

For more details or to register, please contact us at israel-palestine@neym.org

Household Kits for Refugees in Lewiston/Auburn

Durham Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee is collecting and assembling household cleaning kits for refugee families from Afghanistan that are being resettled in Lewiston Auburn. A list of items being collected is below, and then follows a link to a spreadsheet on which Meeting folk can record their intention to provide the items

Please provide 10 of each item so we can make 10 complete kits. Drop items off at Durham Meetinghouse by Sunday Jan 23. Cindy Wood has offered to find and purchase needed items for the kits. If you would rather donate money for this purpose, please make checks out and send them to Cindy Wood. Thank you!

Questions? Contact Wendy at wendy.schlotterbeck@gmail.com

KITCHEN/LAUNDRY:  Trash can, Trash bags, Dish soap, Sponge/dish cloth, Kitchen towel, Laundry detergent

CLEANING: Toilet brush, White vinegar/all purpose cleaner, Cleanser/baking soda, Broom, Mop, Bucket


Woman’s Society Meeting Minutes, December 20, 2021

Durham Friends Woman’s Society Meeting by Zoom December 20, 2021 6:30 – 7:30

Present:  Dorothy Curtis/President, Nancy Marstaller/Treasurer, Kim Bolshaw, Dorothy Hinshaw, Kitsie Hildebrandt, Angie Reed, Qat Langelier, Margaret Wentworth, Charlotte Ann Curtis, Susan Gilbert

Cards and Prayers: Margaret Wentworth is passing on the card writing task in 2022, to Kim Bolshaw. Kim will pick up the box of cards from Margaret, and asks to be reminded to send them out. Concern was expressed for Tess and her husband having Covid, and daughter Ariana, who recently had her appendix out. Tess recovered quickly. Prayers were asked for Angie Reed’s family struggle with Covid. David Dexter is home and much better, but on oxygen after hospitalization with Covid. Margaret asked for prayers for Ramallah Friends School in Palestine, which is under tremendous pressure. Kitsie Hildebrandt would like prayers for the Harpswell Coastal Academy whose guidance counselor, Amanda Wogaman passed away.

We are sad that Martha, Jessica and Christopher Sheldon will not be visiting Maine for Christmas, due to  travel risks of Covid.

Angie Reed brought the Program and Devotions using Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift From the Sea”.  Angie noted the author’s imagery of a channeled whelk shell, borrowed by a hermit crab. In finding the empty shell, AML reflected that her vacation by the sea was a retreat from life’s distractions.  The beach inspired thoughts of living in creative contemplation and simplicity. She wanted to carry her everyday life tasks lightly. Angie said that going to her camp and to the Meeting House were her places of  simplicity. Qat mentioned the Buy Nothing Movement as an option, and also that the refugee communities need things. She said emotional attachment comes first to deal with a displacement. Kitsie commented that there is external and internal simplicity, and that the internal is harder to reach. As Angie is turning 60, she is thankful for good health, and seeks to reduce emotional and personal clutter. Dorothy Curtis thanked Angie.

Susan Gilbert read the minutes from November 15, 2021. A correction was made that Leslie Manning is the leader of Angie’s Tedford House meal team.

Treasurers Report by Nancy Marstaller: The Woman’s Society received donations in December, of $125 and one of $200, from Phylis Wetherell’s family,  in appreciation for her memorial service at the Meeting House. This brought our  balance to $368.  Checks for $100 were sent to USFWI Children and Youth and Warm Thy Neighbor heating assistance, leaving a balance of $168.

The Tedford House meal on December 6, prepared by Kitsie’s team, was roasted turkey with gravy, cooked vegetable salad, mashed potatoes, crackers and bread, almond cookies and banana bread for 13 people. The January 3  meal will be cooked by Team B, Nancy Marstaller and Qat Langelier.

Dorothy Hinshaw reported that she had looked over the book list for the library and recommended author Jane Marshall. Nancy will look over the list.

Next Woman’s Society meeting will be on January 17 and Kitsie Hildebrandt will bring the program.

Dorothy ended the meeting with words from Philippians 4 “ Rejoice in the Lord always, and rejoice.’’

Respectfully Submitted, Susan Gilbert

Called Meeting for Business, Sunday, January 9, 2022 at Noon

Last week the Trustees, Finance Committee and Clerk of Meeting met and decided to have a called Meeting for Business to receive a proposal by the Trustees to replace the current heating system in the large Meeting Room. 

The meeting will begin at 12 noon after Sunday worship on 9 January. == From Bob Eaton, Clerk.

Any advance materials will be posted here when available.

2021 Report of the Trustees

“The Presence of the Holy Spirit,” by Martha Hinshaw Sheldon

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, January 2, 2022

We come together to share, to lament, to share joys, to praise, to support, to be a community in a place in time, in a place in space, a building on land that sustains and reminds us of our history.   On the lands of the Wabanaki peoples. 

“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.” — Teresa of Ávila, a Catholic nun

This week.

Despair and hope. The essence of life, essence of faith, essence of the Holy Spirit.  The only story worth sharing along with a large dose of love. 

Anti-Apartheid Leader and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Funeral yesterday.  Image of Desmond Tutu dancing in pink robes, being carried in a plain pine box.  A life force of love and hope. 

Wildfires in Colorado – Sandra and Tom looking out their front door over the neighbours houses into the smoke and fire blowing across the land.  A force of nature.

Death of Corrymeela leader – Kate, a force to be reckoned with.  A light of joy and humour.   My friend Paul writing about my friend Kate.   ‘Insightful leader, wonderful sense of humour, not always my friend but always my friend.’

Anniversary of Wounded knee massacre in 1890.  The Lakota people refused to assimilate and did not allow westward expansion through their territories.   A force of evil destroying vision.

Despair and hope. 

One night long ago in a land far away. 

On the road to Bethlehem one Christmas eve while teaching in the Ramallah Friends Schools, I was reminded again of the Spirit eternal presence.  We meet every so often and the memory sustains me.  This time I was walking with a large assembly of people from around the world, people who had started 2 years before in Seattle and walked across the United States and Europe sharing the words of the Prince of Peace.  The original group grew, doubled and tripled, as people along the way left their families and homes to join the fellowship and the message.

I joined the group in Jerusalem at 4:00 in the afternoon.  At first we talked quietly in small groups getting to know one another, hearing and sharing experiences of the journey and the excitement of knowing that this was the last leg of a very long road.  As dusk darkened to night and we descended the hills to the fields around Bethlehem the talking stopped.  Except for occasional whispers, we walked in silence. 

I, as the shepherds long ago, felt very small out under the vast black sky.  My eyes and the eyes of those around me were wide with anticipation, wondering what might happen and eager to soak up all that the shepherds might have seen and anticipated. 

Both the Magi from the east and the modern pilgrims from around the world came far distances to seek the birthplace of the Son of God, to learn more about the Prince of Peace, to hear again of the Holy Spirit.  They left their homes and families to witness, to see, to understand, to praise and to share the message of peace with others.

I was reminded again of the eternal presence of the Holy Spirit that Christmas eve many years ago.  A hush had descended upon the group.   The night was inky black.  There were no streetlights or cars rushing by or the glow from city lights on the horizon.  Darkness was all around. 

Standing in the crowd I felt alone at first and then realized there was a great Spirit in and around me that filled me with the certainty that I was not and would never be alone.  That black cool night warmed, and the light of the stars brightened the sky.  The road had been long and arduous, my own as well as that of my fellow travellers.  But the awareness and certainty of the presence of the Holy Spirit was with us, in our hearts, our souls, our bones, again and we would continue our lives and remember this joy. 

May this new year be a time to know the presence of the Holy spirit even while remembering times of sorrow, to be quiet amidst the noise, to be alone with the Holy Spirit among the crowds, and to meet again as a reminder of love, joy and steadfast presence. 

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness” – Desmon Tutu

“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.” Teresa of Ávila, a Catholic nun

Letter Writing Event in Support of the Wabanaki – January 18, 7:00-8:30 via Zoom

Portland Friends Meeting is holding a letter writing event on January 18, 2022 from 7:00-8:30 via Zoom. Durham Friends Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee is encouraging our participation.

Many of us hold a concern for our Wabanaki neighbors, and hope that LD 1626 could bring a step towards justice for them. If you have been wanting to help, but not sure where to start, this meeting is for YOU!
There will be quiet time for writing letters, as well as talking time to encourage and support each other. Write to Governor Mills, your legislators, your newspapers – whatever you´re feeling pulled towards. We will have folks there who have already written some letters, so you can ask questions and see some excellent models. 

You can RSVP here. Please send this link onward to Friends and friends, and encourage RSVPs so I can plan for the appropriate size group. 

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, December 19, 2021

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually for the conduct of business on Sunday, December 19, 2021, with 18 people present.  Bob Eaton, clerk, opened the meeting by reading a poem by Kenneth Patchen.

1.The November minutes were approved as recorded in the Newsletter.  Appreciation was expressed for the current Recording Clerk who is “retiring.”

2. Nominating Committee: Linda Muller reported for the committee.  We approved with corrections the list of officers and committee members, adding the positions of Treasurer and Archivist, Katharine Hildebrandt, and Sarah Sprogell, Recorder.  it was suggested we add FWCC to the List of Representatives to Other Organizations.

3. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Ingrid Chalufour reported that the committee will be focusing our efforts on lobbying for passage of LD 1626 in the months ahead. They request the meeting’s approval to submit the following letter to the Sun Journal newspaper in Lewiston:

            Letter to the Editor for the Sun Journal:

            The members of Durham Friends Meeting (Quakers) have a deep concern for the sovereignty of the Wabanaki people of Maine. Our commitment to social justice and equality are central to our beliefs and to our support of the civil rights of Maine’s Native people. Sovereignty was taken from Maine’s tribes by the 1980 Land Claims Settlement Implementation Act, essentially reducing their rights to those of municipalities.  Passage of An Act Implementing Changes to the Maine Claims Settlement Implementation Act (LD 1626) will restore sovereignty to the four federally recognized tribes in Maine, allowing them to be treated by the United States government, and the State of Maine, the same way as the other 570 federally recognized tribes. Passage of this bill will benefit everyone in Maine because when the Maine tribes prosper, we will all benefit. We strongly urge Governor Mills and the legislature to support full passage of LD 1626.

            Bob Eaton, Clerk, Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends 

4.  We approved sending the above letter to the Lewiston Sun Journal.  Wendy Schlotterbeck will circulate the letter to legislators in our various areas.

5.  Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell reported that a new account has been set up with the NEYM Pooled Funds to hold the proceeds from the sale of the parsonage while the Meeting takes time to discern what to do with these funds.  $238,000 has been deposited into the Fund.

            The Finance Committee recommends that we make a donation to Friends Camp of $1000.  This amount was budgeted for Friends Camp tuition assistance this year, but was not used.  Friends Camp has experienced serious financial shortfalls during the last 2 years because of the pandemic, and the committee would like to support them by making this donation.

            The committee received a revised insurance proposal from Church Mutual following the sale of the parsonage.  They had expected a significant reduction, but because of new offerings and increased rates, the reduction has been negligible.  They will be investigating other companies to request additional quotes, but in the meantime have made an initial payment in order that we remain covered.

            The committee has developed a draft budget for 2022 (attached) to be brought to the meeting for approval in January. They project our income and expenses to be slightly under $50,000.  The current figures show a balanced budget.

            They would like committees to let them know of any changes in their budget lines, most of which are the same as last year.

            Contributions to other organizations are the same as last year.

            Meeting expense: Telephone and internet costs have been increased to pay for the improved internet access; they hope to reduce the insurance premium; they added a line for mowing.

            Meetinghouse physical plant costs are the same, with the exception of the Custodian, which they fully restored.

            The Meeting Care Coordinator and Youth Minister have been fully funded, leaving the meeting to make discernment as led. 

            The parsonage expenses have ben eliminated.

            We accepted this report with appreciation.  It was suggested that FWCC be added to the List of Contributions to Other Organizations.

6. The meeting approved donating the amount of $1000.00 to Friends Camp.

7. Communications Committee: Liana Thompson-Knight brought an extensive report clarifying their parameters and guidelines.  They try to see that meeting members and attenders are well informed about meeting affairs and events; that communications are accurate and trustworthy, are relevant to the meeting as a Quaker meeting, are communicated to everyone, and are sent in a timely fashion. 

            Current forms of communication they use are the Newsletter, Friends Notes, Website, This Week at DFM emails, and a Facebook page. The meeting recommends a guided tour of the website.  Various lists are used for communication. 

            The committee recommends that the meeting meet either before or after meeting for worship on Sunday to discuss questions the committee poses for our reflection regarding forms of communication, ground rules about what is appropriate to communicate, other committees’ concerns and individual concerns, committees communicating directly, and duplicating notices in various forms of communication.

            A full report will be attached to these minutes.   We expressed our gratitude for this committee’s work.

8. Ministry and Counsel:  Tess Hartford reported for Ministry and Counsel.  Pilot persons have been chosen for interviews through Zoom and/or in person for the Quaker Educational Media Project.  Joyce Gibson initiated this project to document the witness and faith journeys of members and attenders of Durham Meeting. 

            The support committee for Leslie Manning’s prison ministry continues in process.

            The Ezra Smith/Laura Donovan clearness committee for marriage had a fruitful meeting with the couple.

            Betsy Muench has requested that a care committee be formed for her needs.  Gene Boyington, Robb Spivey (Brunswick Meeting) and Joyce Gibson are serving on this committee for Betsy.   

9. Trustees:  Katharine Hildebrandt presented a report which follows:

            “Here is a progress report on items previously approved by Monthly Meeting:

With the successful sale of the Parsonage in September, Trustees have been able to focus on the care of our beloved Meetinghouse.  A small group volunteered to be part of the Window Dressers, to create window inserts for our wider community, including inserts for the windows in the Meeting room. They are now in place, thanks to Ingrid Chalufour, and all who participated in this inspiring community effort.

            In an effort to move forward with the move to hybrid worship, better internet has been installed in the Meetinghouse. We also continue to do maintenance inside the building.  We are addressing getting the inside deep cleaned, especially the Meeting room. Old buildings do not do well empty and unheated.

            The main heating system has been failing for some time, and the Trustees were charged with resolving the situation. We have spent a considerable amount of time researching and educating ourselves about the choices we have for this old building. The needs are unique.  We need to heat a large meeting space just once a week. The rest of the building is being heated with a heat pump, except on the coldest of days, when the current furnaces kick in as back up. The heat pump is mostly supplied by electricity produced by the solar panels.

            As we have reported before, over this past year or so we have consulted several energy specialists to help us with the best plan, as well as several heating companies. We have selected a company, Bright Heating and Cooling. They have recommended replacing our two failing furnaces with one energy efficient furnace.  This will cut our oil usage significantly. It will provide us with three zones, to address the need to heat the Meeting room quickly, once a week, and keeping the other plumbed parts of the building from freezing.  When we told them that we jacked the heat up the night before Meeting for worship, they said, ‘It should only take an hour with the right furnace.’  We are encouraged to realize how much of a difference this will make in our energy consumption.

            We are going to get a quote from Bright Heating within a week, in order to get this situation addressed as soon as possible.  Hopefully the old furnaces will not fail in the meantime.” 

            The meeting was reminded of the Greening of the Meetinghouse committee members: Bob Eaton, Sarah Sprogell, Ingrid Chalufour, and Katharine (Kitsie) Hildebrandt who continue to look into ways to reduce our carbon footprint.  Ann Ruthsdottir has been added to this small ad hoc committee.  The Meeting thanks this group for its continued efforts. 

10.  Bob Eaton reported for the ad hoc committee on Parsonage Funds.  Friends agreed on three guidelines:

            Intention: The almost $240,000 realized by the sale of the parsonage should be isolated from normal Meeting operations in a special fund while meeting discerns the best designations for the fund.

            Timing: It is important for this discernment process to move forward without delay, but time is not of the essence and careful deliberation is more important than speed.

      Process: The role of the ad hoc committee should be as a sounding board for the whole meeting.  The ad hoc committee will define a process in the coming months to maximize Meeting participation in the discernment process.

The ad hoc committee agreed that the parsonage fund challenges this Meeting to give careful thought to its vision for the future of the Meeting. The ad hoc committee agreed to invite Craig Freshley to its next meeting, in January, to consider the possibility of a new visioning process by Meeting to help ground discussions on the proper designation of the parsonage fund.

            After centering down in quiet worship, we departed to meet January 16, 2022.

            Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“Annunciation,” by Denise Levertov

Read as call to worship, Durham Friends Meeting, December 26, 2021

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,

almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

“The Story of the Crowd at Christmas,” by Colin Saxton (FUM)

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 19, 2021

Luke 2:8-20 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Some of you may remember a time in history when a daily newspaper was delivered—in print—to your home. No, really! And it had actual news in it—of international, national and local interest. Really! Actual news?!? You can google it—and see I am telling the truth.

We had one of those newspaper when I was growing up that included a section devoted to feature stories—less the who, what, when, and where of the days events—and more articles focused around human interest. In my newspaper, this was called the Living Section.

About the time I was in middle-school, the Living Section began running a daily feature called People. It was always on page 2 and it chronicled the comings and goings of all of the cultural celebrities—the actresses, models, singers, athletes and politicians. Whenever possible, it also included any noteworthy local people—the self-proclaimed movers and shakers close to home. Thanks to the people section, the rest of us could keep up on the opinions, fashion choices, and activities of the famous, fabulous, wealthy and beautifulthose near to us and far away.

In all of the years I read the paper, not one person I actually knew was ever listed. Many of the same people would show up, over and over again, in this section—but the rest of us, actually the vast majority of us, never had our photos, our names, or anything else about us ever included here.

For whatever reason, our plain, ordinary, less significant or more hidden lives did not qualify as worthy to show-up within a section devoted to, at least by the standards of the newspaper, the people who mattered most. In a world just dying to know the latest gossip around the stars, there simply was no time or space to waste on the dimly-lit lives of a mere members of the crowd.

While the Bible certainly has its own share of big personalities, one of my favorite characters throughout the text—and especially in the NT—is the “crowd.” It is a group that gets mentioned, in one form or another, about 200 times in the NT alone. These are the ones who follow Jesus nearly everywhere he goes. They are curious, desperate for help, eager to hear him teach, astonished when he says the Kingdom belongs to people just like them. The crowd is comprised of potential followers, happy fence sitters, and rabid opponents—sometimes all in the same person. Most of these nameless and faceless people we know nothing about—not their political persuasions, their fashion tips, thoughts on the latest diet plan or social controversy. All we know is they are part of the mass of humanity who are open to…and maybe even eager for…God to show up and do something to heal their sickness, rekindle their hope, free them from their burdens, forgive their sins, and restore a broken world to something more just, more peaceable and more humane than they know in the moment.

I encourage you to read the NT from the perspective of the crowd—at some point—to place yourself squarely within that community. Listen from their perspective. See from the place of one who stands in the back of the room rather than the front. Consider the difference it might make to watch the drama of God unfold through the eyes of one who may just be grateful and surprised to be included at all…rather than focusing on whether life is happening the way I want, planned, or demand.

Crowd members come from all walks of life in NT—but most often they’re the lower class—the uneducated, the common, the ones so ordinary they fade into the backdrop. They were tax-collectors, prostitutes, sinners of all shapes and sizes. Among them, you will find fisherman, farmers, peasant women and more than a few shepherds.

 In this morning’s scripture reading, we heard the familiar story of angels lighting up the night sky and bringing glorious news to a group of unlikely recipients—shepherds. For whatever reason, news of this transforming moment in time—one on which history pivots—comes to commoners rather than the politically privileged, members of the religious hierarchy, the affluent or the well-known. These are just shepherds. No accounts. Ordinaries. Unexceptionals. Those who seemingly would be last to be in the loop on something this significant.

But there they were, living their ordinary lives—out in the field tending the sheep when the brilliant glory of an angel pierces the darkness. Terrified by this visitation, the angel tries to calm their appropriate fear with news of great joy, hope and peace.

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

            And just in case any of the shepherds missed the significance of what they were hearing & seeing, a whole host of angels show up, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”  This, Friends, is breaking news & shepherds have front row seats

Our foremothers and fathers in the Quaker faith sometimes wrote and spoke of a Day of Visitation” –a period of time or times in everyone’s life when they are open to hearing the invitational voice of God and responding to it. For the ones who are attentive and obedient to respond, a life and connection to God will grow and flourish in them and they will be nourished and nurtured into a greater and stronger faith. It is a day/time when God shows up in a way we can see/hear—and often we do.

But for those who close their eyes and ears and hearts and minds to God’s coming—if the Light is continually ignored or rebelled against, it is likely to grow increasingly dim over time and one day may disappear completely. For whatever reason, we can learn to ignore the voice of SP and even the blinding light of an angel army.

Maybe on this day of visitation, the shepherds had no choice but to see and respond. Maybe this experience was so compelling that they had to go immediately to Bethlehem to find the child. But I wonder… Many times, as it is recorded in the biblical text, God intervenes in some sort of amazing way and plenty people seem to miss it. My favorite example comes from John 12, where the very voice of God speaks in an audible way within the hearing of a large crowd. Some heard it for what it was and praised God. Others thought it was “just an angel;” others confused it for thunder… I wonder whether there were any shepherds among the bunch who missed the angel visitation altogether or confused it for a lightning storm?

What we know is a small band of shepherds heard and saw. Then they got up and went. They acted on what they heard from the angels and moved to experience the Holy One for themselves.

I wish—I wish—we knew more of what happens to them and through them from that point on…but remember these are just members of the crowd. Their stories never make the front page or even page 2 of the Living Section. All we know is they return to the field—they go home and back to work—praising and glorifying God for everything they were privileged to hear and see. They go back into their ordinary lives having encountered a gaggle (not sure that is the right term…) of angels and having seen the Messiah.

I want to believe, and in fact do believe, they did return to the anonymity of their lives but not unchanged. I have known too many people who have had their lives lit up by angels, who have heard the Voice of God rattle their windows, who felt the Spirit shake their souls to know something like this is not easily forgotten. Something happens in us—and in turn through us—because God comes close and meets us.

If you read church history and as we account for the rapid spread of the gospel after the birth of Christ, the reality is it is mostly attributable to the lives and witness of the crowds rather than the well-known people. Oh, the Pauls, the Peters, the Marys and Marthas, and assorted early church leaders had their place and role—but most good historians will say it was the nameless and faceless sisters and brothers who were mostly responsible for the sudden and dramatic rise of Christianity. It was their faithful witness, their radical obedience, their spirit empowered lives and God-infused love that drew so many, many more into the fellowship of faith. Having encountered Christ, they went back to their lives and work praising and glorifying God along the way—and others noticed the difference—and felt drawn to Christ and a the Beloved Community.

            I have wondered this week about the shepherds and what happened to each of them after that first Christmas. How did they recover from something like this? Was it hard to go back to working under a night sky that was only lit by stars? I wonder, most of all, how these nobody- shepherds dealt with the somebodies who questioned their experience or tried to silence their story. Would they give in to that very real pressure or would they “remember.”

            In Hebrew the word “remember” can mean to “make present.” To remember “the Lord your God”  in the Old Testament was more than sparking a memory, it was to re-experience the very real Presence of God in that moment in time. To “remember your forefathers and mothers” was more than to kindle a nice feeling about those who have come before, it was to welcome them into that very moment in time.

            I don’t understand all of the mechanics of how this work—but I believe it and have experienced it. And so, I wondered how the shepherds remembered the angelic visit. Did they re-mind one another…so that they could keep that experience alive and vivid…so that it would continue to strengthen and grow their faithfulness?

            We live, I believe, in a world that bends us toward forgetfulness. Though it is subtle and often unintentional, there is a quiet assault on our experiences of the holy. Too often we are encouraged to remain quiet about them. Others will work to explain away what we saw or heard. This is especially true, I think, if you are a crowd member—a nobody—whose story the world has neither time or interest to hear.

            More and more, I am convinced that most people have an angel story—or two—they can tell. But many—I fear—have stopped remembering them because no one asks or seems interested. Maybe, one of the best gifts we can give another person is the invitation to remember—and to share that story. In doing so, it just may make vivid and alive that very same presence that lit up their sky, or rattled their windows or shook their soul. And along the way, leave us and them praising and glorifying God once again.      

Green Burials at Durham Friends Meeting

Durham Friends Meeting has recently established a Green Burial Site, as part of the Lunt Cemetery.  We have mapped out small plots, and the plots are available for purchase by members and nonmembers.

Further arrangements, beyond the plot, are not provided by Durham Friends Meeting. These arrangements are generally arranged for by the Power of Attorney for the individual.  Resources are available for these arrangements, including the care of the body, storage of the body during the winter months, the casket or shroud, the digging of the grave, the transport of the body, etc.

Although these resources will change over time, the following are some of the currently available resources:

*   Green Burial Council, allows people to download “Your Green Burial Planning Guide” The website also offers a Top 10 questions list, with answers, about green burials and another primer called “Going Out Green.”

*   Funeral Alternatives

*   Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine

Some funeral directors have training in green burials, such as David Floryan, a funeral director for Jones, Rich & Barnes in Portland and Lindquist Funeral Home in Yarmouth. Both funeral homes are certified by the Green Burial Council. These funeral homes can provide, for a fee, storage of the body during winter, the transport of the body and the digging of the grave.

December 2021

“Alice,” by Kitsie Hildebrandt

Part of a message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 12, 2021

Alice, by Kitsie Hildebrandt

Alice started joining our worship as an old lady.

She was a neighbor of Muriel Marston

And that was more that good enough for me, for us at Durham Meeting.

She always wore a well-worn acrylic cardigan, and was lovely.

She became a regular.

One Sunday she stood, and started to speak.

(She had not spoken out of the silent worship before.)

I didn’t know she could speak another language, when

Suddenly it struck me that she was speaking in tongues.

At a Quaker Meeting, imagine that.

And it was beautiful,

Heartfelt, sincere, fervent, pleading.

As she spoke

I felt my judgment fade away; I was able to give over

And my heart grew.

I experienced God speaking

To me, to everyone there.

I longed to hear her again, and I did.

I have shared this experience with others.

They usually frown, blink, and do that thing with their head.

As if to say, “How can that be, in a Quaker Meeting?”

I want to say, “Well. I guess you had to be there.”

“A Green Burial – Tom Frye,” by Peter Crysdale

Part of a message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 12, 2021

A Green Burial  – Tom Frye, by Peter Crysdale

Someone asked me,

How did you find your way to Durham Meeting?

I answered, “Ralph brought me!”

He brought Tom Frye too… 40 years ago – 

Both of us came and went and returned.

The other day Tommie Frye came back again,

In a simple pine box –

Laid in a hole at the Lunt –

Dug by his friends – next to Sukie, his friend 

For all those years. He decided to do 

What love does and give 

His body back to Mother Earth

In the simplest of ways. 

Back then – Tom came to the Parsonage with Ralph 

To find his way, after a long hardship. 

I came up on weekends –

Sitting at that table in the parsonage kitchen 

Tom told of his life – his profound suffering –

He was neither bitter nor vengeful – 

It was one foot after the other – hanging around

The Parsonage was an act of recovery, 

An act of Love.

One year Tom was Santa at the Meeting

Christmas party – Ruth Graham thought

He was too tall To be Santa. 

The next year she was Santa – 

Made up and clothed so no

One could tell it was her –

I knew – so did Tom. 

And that Halloween when Ralph got

Tom to lie down in an old sunken grave –

In the Cemetery behind the Parsonage.

Covered him with leaves – the kids 

Came by with their flashlights in the dark –

Tom rose – they were terrified.

God’s mischief is Love in motion.

Remember the Spring kite-flying 

Extravaganza in the Parsonage yard – 

Tom and Ralph again – 

Later every tree was festooned with a kite. 

There was Petunia the Parsonage Pig –  

Ralph brought her home – 

Because the elders complained that there 

Weren’t enough kids in the Meeting – 

Ralph said he could train pigs – 

Petunia would have none of it –

She lived in the Parsonage and got bigger

And bigger – first Day came and Ralph read 

A chapter from Charlotte’s Web in Meeting,

A row of attentive kids looked on in wonder. 

Worship is about being found by the love.  

One First Day after a huge snowfall – 

Three feet of snow – slid off

the roof of the Meetinghouse – 

Landed with a HARUMPH!!!  

The Worship Settled that day –

Someone told me 

On another First Day, Tom, 

Who rarely spoke in Meeting – 

Sang Amazing Grace – 

The Worship Settled.

We were slowly seasoned 

by a Quaker cast of Characters – 

Helen – Ruth and Lucy – Merton and Bea, 

Charlotte and Mary – John Curtis – Clarabel and

Louis – Lyda Wentworth – oh so many others –

Seasoned means absorbing the Love.

I went off to Pendle Hill and Tom moved to Freeport –

Got a job – found a love – 

Recovering takes a lifetime. Last week 

Tom moved back- was buried in the Lunt –

We stood around tossing rose petals as we covered 

His body with earth. Love welcomes us home.

Healing Begins with Truth: Understanding Colonization, December 13, 2021, 6-8pm

Wabanki REACH will be holding a program, Healing Begins with Truth: Understanding Colonization, December 13, 2021, 6-8pm. The program will be presented online, via ZOOM. Durham Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee encourages participation in this program.

In this two-hour educational experience, participants explore the differences between the worldview and culture of Indigenous peoples and settlers (and their descendants). Using historical and present day examples, participants will examine the deliberate strategies of colonization and resulting impacts on Indigenous people, land, and culture, including the domination culture that maintains systemic racism and oppression.  This program is intended to serve as a safe space for participants to join with peers and identify strategies to support healing in relation to each other and to the land. 

REGISTER via this link:


Losing and Finding Our Bearings, by Doug Bennett

Message given at at Durham Friends Meeting, December 5, 2021

Sometimes when we’re confused, we say “let me just get my bearings, here.”  I may have just woken up from a nap.  Or I may have stumbled on a walk.  Maybe I’ve hit my head on a rafter in the basement and that’s left me woozy.  Everything seems odd; I’m disoriented or muddled.  So I say, “Let me just get my bearings, here.” 

Once I woke up in the middle of the night in a strange hotel room.  I’d been traveling a good deal, changing time zones, and sleeping in unfamiliar hotels.  When I work in the dark that night I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing.  But even worse, I couldn’t quite think who I was.  That was confusing and more than a little frightening. 

In those moments when I’m confused, I search for something fixed and clear that tells us who we are or what we’re doing or where we’re going.  It might be a familiar landmark that helps me get my bearings.  It might be any number of things, but it’s something I can grasp hold of that helps us get our bearings.  It needs to be something fixed, something sturdy – hopefully so fixed its permanent. 

That awful night in a strange hotel room, it was only when I tripped over my briefcase that I’d left on the floor of the room that it all came back to me.  I got my bearings.  Suddenly it all came back to me.  Once again I knew who I was and what I was doing there.  The briefcase wasn’t particularly fixed.  I kicked it a few feet when I tripped over it, but there was a familiar object filled with familiar things that put me right again in the world and in my mind.  But often, familiar things aren’t where we should look to find our bearings. 

“Let me just get my bearings, here.”  It’s an unusual phrase.  It comes from navigation, especially from navigating at sea when there were no landmarks in view and before there was GPS or anything like it.  It comes from using the stars or a compass to find your way.  Hopefully you have a map (or something like a map) that shows where you’re going, and the map shows which way is north.  You use a compass to help you know which compass direction to steer to take you where you want to go.  That direction is your bearing.  It’s the number of degrees away from due north you want to head.  If a wave (or something) knocks you off course, you use the compass to get back on your bearings. 

This phrase, this idea, is on my mind because we’re living in crazy-making times.  Every morning there is a fresh load of things on the news that sound crazy to me.  They sound like people have lost their way. 

Most obviously, there’s a pandemic that’s killing millions.  We have a vaccine that protects against it and is almost sure to prevent serious illness.  But some people won’t take it.  That seems crazy to me.  I can only imagine those people have lost their bearings. 

Talk of conspiracies abound.  I’m not eager to wander into politics here today, but if you read the news at all, I think you know what I mean. 

It feels like a lot of people have lost their bearings.  They’re confused, or muddled – or afraid, and they’re looking for something that helps them get their bearings back.  They’re looking for something to grab hold of, something sturdy and solid, that helps them get their bearings. 

Where do they look for something to get their bearings?  That’s really what I want to talk about today. 

Some people try to find their bearings at work.  Their work has meaning for them and they try to do it well.  When they can’t find work, or when their work seems pointless or degrading, it can feel like they’ve lost their bearings.  Other people try to find their bearings in their family – in the relationships that connect people to one another.  When those relationships don’t work or break down, or when they take a shape they hadn’t expected – had never imagined – that, too can feel like they’ve lost their bearings.

And some people try to find their bearings in traditions.  They want things to be just like they were when they were growing up, or the way they were for their parents or their grandparents.  Change is hard.  And when comes, as it always does, people feel like they’ve lost their bearings. Maybe they are looking for their bearings in the wrong place. 

Jesus’s parents lived in crazy-making times.  The Romans had conquered Judea in 63 BC, not long before they were born.  Suddenly the Jews were no longer an independent people.  Their king was not really their king.  Jesus was born into a world at a time and in a place where many people had lost their bearings. 

Where should we look for our bearings?  That’s really what I want to talk about today. 

Think about the “three wise men” who have a starring role in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus.  Who were these “wise men?” Who were these men who felt compelled to follow a star – something that itself seems a little crazy.  But it felt right to them – and it was right.  Who were these guys?

We generally call them Kings, or the Magi. (“Magi” is from the same root as the word “magic.”)  It’s a word from the Persian language and that’s where we think these Magi came from. I’ve been reading a new translation of the Gospels, this one by Sarah Ruden, a Classics scholar who has been drawn to worship among Friends.  Here’s how she translates the verses in Matthew 2:

When Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in Judea in the days of Herod the king, look, diviners from where the sun rises appeared at Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the King of the Jews who has been born? We did see his star at its rising and have come to prostrate ourselves before him.”

“Diviners” is how she translates the word.  What makes these men “wise” is that they took their bearings from the stars.  They took them from something much more fixed and solid than work or family or tradition.  These three were skilled at reading the stars, and they saw in the stars the signs of divine things. 

“Diviners.”  They were not Jews and of course they were not Christians (Jesus was just about to be born).  They were probably Zoroastrian priests, but they took their bearings from the stars and that led them – compelled them – to come a long distance to worship a baby they’d never me – whose parents they’d never met.  They took their bearings from the stars – from divine things.  And the Ruden translation says:

 “When they saw the star there, their joy was heaped on joy, in great abundance.”

It wasn’t dizziness they felt.  It wasn’t confusion.   It’s because they took their bearings from divine things, not from earthly things, that this strange long journey they took filled them with joy. 

It’s easy to get caught up in earthly things.  It’s easy to try to find our bearings in those earthly things.  But those earthly things – work and family and tradition – are unlikely to give us a long-lasting and joy-filling sense of who we are and what’s right to do.

Those Diviners followed a star.  They followed it to Jesus at the point of his birth.  And his birth can point us towards a way of finding our bearings. 

That’s why we celebrate Christmas.  That’s why we find an abundance of joy in Christmas. 

How do we find our bearings in divine things?  That’s why Christmas is only the beginning of the story.   There’s a long road to travel to find our bearings, but we have to look to divine things to travel that road. 

Also posted on River View Friend

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, November 21, 2021

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually for the conduct of business on Sunday, November 21, 2021, with 18 people present. Clerk, Bob Eaton read a Pawnee song-poem, and after a short period of silence, opened the business meeting.

1.The October minutes were approved as recorded in the Newsletter.

2.Nominating Committee:  Kristna Evans reported for the committee. They brought forward three names of persons to serve with the Clerks Group on an Ad Hoc Committee on Parsonage Funds to consider the long-term use of the funds realized by the sale of the parsonage. They recommend Margaret Wentworth, Dorothy Curtis and Edwin Hinshaw to serve on this committee.

3. Meeting approved their recommendations for members to serve on the Ad Hoc Committee on Parsonage Funds.

4. Clerks Group: Sarah Sprogell reported that they are discussing hybrid worship and that a hybrid meeting will require faster internet speed for the meeting. They recommend shifting internet services to Comcast. An analysis of costs involved is attached.  They feel this change is worth the extra expense. Sarah Sprogell and Bob Eaton will pursue further issues that need to be addressed and consult experts to allow us to proceed with meeting for worship in our meetinghouse. The document, “Arrangements for Hybrid Worship for Durham Friends Meeting” (attached) will serve as a “road map” for this process. This document was published in the November Newsletter.

            The Clerks Group also discussed air filtration for the meetinghouse.  A preliminary research report by Wendy Schlotterbeck is attached to these minutes. Jo-an Jacobus volunteered to help with research on this need; we await further study of this issue.

            There has been an increase in the number of refugees in Maine.  The immediate needs are housing, clothes, blankets and food.  Wendy Schlotterbeck has done extensive research on the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.  Wendy, Bob Eaton, Clerk, and Ingrid Chalufour, Clerk of Peace and Social Concerns Committee, met to discuss this crisis and report that they recommend donating $350 to the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition from the Charity Account.  The Clerks Group is in close consultation with the Peace and Social Concerns Committee to consider providing winter necessities.  It was recommended that a Friends Note be sent to members requesting individual donations to the Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

5. Meeting approved the change to the internet service, Comcast.

6. Meeting approved the donation of $350 from the Charity Account to the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

7. Meeting reaffirmed that the Clerks Group is not part of the regular meeting governance structure and exists as a meeting place for general support and discussion among clerks of committees.

8.Ministry and Counsel: Renee Cote reported that they have received a request from Michael Rivera, husband of Karen Marston, to hold a celebration of Karen’s life at the meetinghouse sometime in the spring. They will contact Karen’s niece and Michael to tell them that a meeting for worship for celebration of life can be held but will be subject to Covid guidelines in place at the time.

            M and C would like clear guidelines on use of the meetinghouse for memorials. Faith and Practice states that memorials will be held under care of Meeting through appointment of one or two overseers to plan the event with the bereaved.

            They are in the process of reviewing the report on the Meeting Care Coordinator position and plan to present it to Monthly Meeting in December.

            They reviewed and endorsed the “Internet and Phone Services for the Meetinghouse” proposal created by Sarah Sprogell, Wendy Schlotterbeck, and Craig Freshley with help from David Coletta, and recommend it for presentation to monthly meeting.

             The clearness committee (Ed Hinshaw, Doug Bennett, and Tess Hartford) for marriage for Ezra Smith and Laura is meeting in person this week.

            David Dexter has contracted Covid and is receiving assistance from people within and outside Meeting. Please hold him in the light.

            Meeting accepted this report with gratitude.

9.Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell brought the January – September finance report. Our expenses to date are $27,871.74 and income: $39,647.75. This report is attached.  We accept this report with gratitude.

10. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Ingrid Chalufour reported that they have been processing rich discussions and ideas from the reparations meetings this fall.  They plan to write a letter-to-the-editor in support of LD 1626, to be presented to meeting in December for approval.  In consultation with the Communication Committee, they plan to send emails to members and attenders announcing events, legislative updates, and articles that are relevant to social justice issues. They are sending a $200 donation to the Wabanaki Alliance.  They encourage us to sign up for the Sacred Ground series sponsored by the Episcopal Church in Brunswick; you can find the link to learn more and sigh up on the meeting website.

            We accepted their report with gratitude.

11. Meeting suggests that committees of meeting might have authority to use the meeting mailing list directly in furtherance of committee concerns. Meeting asks the Communication Committee to season this idea and bring to meeting a recommendation on the use of the mailing list.

12.  Kitsie Hildebrandt reported for the Trustees:  They have updated their guidelines for the Green Burial Site with additional information, which is attached.

            The meeting closed after a short period of silence.

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

November 21, 2021 Business Meeting Agenda and Materials

The reports and other materials for Durham Friends Meeting (NEYM) meeting for worship for business on November 21, 2021 are at this link.

Here is the agenbda for the Meeting:

  1. Review of Agenda — Bob Eaton

Items that require approval and/or seasoning

  • Approval of Minutes of October Meeting — Dorothy Hinshaw

Minutes of 16 October 2021 are attached.

  • Nominating Committee Report — Kristna Evans

Nominating Committee was asked at the October Meeting for Business to bring forward three names of persons to serve with the Clerks’ Group on an Ad Hoc Committee on Parsonage Funds to consider the long-term use of the funds realized by the sale of the parsonage.  Nominating Committee recommends Margaret Wentworth, Dorothy Curtis and Ed Hinshaw for Meeting approval to serve on this committee.

  • Clerks’ Group — Bob Eaton

A report on the recent meeting of the Clerk’s Group is attached.  There are recommendations concerning making progress on getting our worship back in the Meeting House and the needs of recently arrived refugees in our area.

Reports for information and comment

  • Ministry and Counsel — Tess Hartford and Renee Coté

A report on the November meeting is attached

  • Finance Committee — Sarah Sprogell

The finance report for the third quarter is attached.

Remembering Karen Marston

Long-time attender of this Meeting Karen Marston passed away on October 29, 2021.

An obituary is here and another here.

With Bowdoin Baking Company, Karen had a booth at the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Farmer’s Market. BTLT’s Executive Director, Angela Twitchell, has written a lovely reminiscence of Karen Marston on the BTLT website.

Karen, on the left, at the Farmer’s Market

From the Botton Up: A Proposal for Lowering the Carbon Footprint of the Meetinghouse

From the Bottom Up: A proposal for lowering the carbon footprint of the Meetinghouse

Approved at Monthly Meeting November 15, 2020

The following suggestions are based on John Reuthe’s visit to the Meetinghouse. They emphasize working from the basement up, reducing the entrance of cold air. We propose a few immediate actions and then a series of phases for future actions.

Immediate actions:

  1. Clean out debris on basement floor (Who will help Sarah and Ingrid?)
  2. Have the heat pump professionally cleaned, soon and annually (Trustees take on)
  3. Clean filters in heat pump every 2 to 4 weeks, or as needed (need is obvious when examines) – becomes part of regular cleaning tasks
  4. Post signs to assure internal doors are kept open

Phase 1: Find contractor for the following:

  1. Put in a trap door in the meeting room floor for access to the crawl space beneath (Is there any history of considering this?)
  2. Seal door leading to bulkhead
  3. Seal front door
  4. Seal interior doors in the entryway, making this an unheated space
  5. Seal ceiling vent

Phase 2: Find contractor to do the following: (possibly Bo Jesperson of thebreathablehome.com)

  1. Spray foam under the meeting room floor
  2. Lay 10m poly on the basement floor
  3. Remove fiberglass insulation in disrepair in basement replace with spray foam, with a major focus on the rim joists

Other important actions:

  1. Install a commercial dehumidifier (Sante Fe brand suggested) for Meeting room and basement
  2. Put insulation wrap on the hot air ducting in basement
  3. Work with Window Dressers to make window inserts for Meeting room windows (Ingrid will contact Window Dressers in the spring.)

Approved at Monthly Meeting November 15, 2020

Personal Spiritual Practices

This text received preliminary approval at Yearly Meeting Sessions in August 2021 for inclusion in Faith and Practice, the book that provides guidance for Friends in New England Yearly Meeting. Read as a message at Durham Friends Meeting by members of its Committee on Ministry and Counsel, November 14, 2021.

Personal Spiritual Practices (from NEYM Interim Faith and Practice)

“Give over thine own willing, give over thy own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee and be in thee and breathe in thee and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion.”Isaac Penington, 1661

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… . If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.Galatians 5: 22-23, 25

The basic spiritual discipline of Friends is regular worship, both communal and individual. This discipline is supported by a variety of practices. Just as one supports a busy life with healthy personal habits, which vary from person to person, Friends choose spiritual practices that help ground them in the life and guidance of the Spirit.  Although most of these are shared with other faiths, a few are especially valued by Friends, such as intentionally taking time to “stand still in the Light” (George Fox) and to “sink down to the Seed”. Friends believe that the Light can illuminate the whole of one’s spiritual being.  It may fill one with joy and comfort, or it may show what is distressing and difficult, shedding light on places one may not wish to acknowledge or face. By embracing this guidance of the Spirit, Friends open themselves to the possibility of transformation.

Friends seek to live in continual awareness of the Spirit. It is the underlying intention of awakening to the Presence that makes something a spiritual practice. Many people commit themselves to a daily spiritual practice to settle their hearts and minds and to refresh their awareness of God’s presence and guidance. Early Friends recommended daily times of “retirement”: time spent in worship, prayer and Bible reading, in silent waiting upon the Spirit, and in journal writing. Contemporary Friends continue to use these practices and have augmented them with readings from Quaker writers past and present, meditation, gratitude practices, engagement with nature, wisdom from other traditions, movement, artistic endeavors, and service, among others. Friends may also look for those moments in their lives when they feel particularly centered or open to the movement of Divine love and find ways to use these times of awareness as a spiritual practice. When Friends embrace these times as a priority, they make space for them, integrating these practices into their lives. Regardless of how peaceful or busy a Friend’s life may feel in any particular moment, taking time to attend to one’s own spiritual condition can offer refreshment and renewal.

A daily spiritual practice helps bring one into a realm of spiritual stillness that opens one to the Inward Light. The Light illuminates the inner landscape, allowing one to see oneself more clearly.  Early Friends spoke of being “searched” by the light while at the same time feeling the calling and the support to transform themselves. Friends understand that in opening themselves to the enlivening influences of the Spirit, their experience allows them to become more open channels of God’s love. Spiritual practices also help one to stay in balance, bringing one back to center and so more available to the motions of divine love. Sometimes the fruits of a practice are what one hopes for and expects. At other times those fruits may be surprising, challenging, and life-changing. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize them at all. While a spiritual practice is the journey of an individual with the Inward Light, it bears fruit in the world.

Over time it is not uncommon to find that a particular spiritual practice no longer opens the space of refreshment and inspiration that it has in the past. An ebb and flow of motivation to continue in a daily practice is also a common experience. Spiritually dry periods or plateaus can be discouraging, yet worship, patience, and trust may reveal important lessons. By remaining alert to the changing dynamics of living in the Spirit, one may come to discern whether it is right to continue a particular practice, despite the dryness, or whether it is time to move on. The counsel of a spiritual companion can be a great aid in this discernment.  Seemingly independent of one’s effort or awareness, experiences of breakthrough may arrive.

Children also experience spiritual insights. They understand, at an early age, the impulse toward moments of quiet joy or spontaneous expressions of gratitude and may instinctively adopt spiritual practices that center, calm, and sustain them in difficult times. A child’s awareness of the Presence often reveals itself in unselfconscious expressions of awe and wonder at life. The freshness of a child’s trust and exuberance of discovery are gifts. Young people learn to nurture spiritual awareness by observing the practices of adults in their lives. Many families use mealtimes to pause together for silent grace or a spoken prayer of gratitude. Times of shared reverence can be a source of joy for all ages.

Friends who practice a discipline of worship throughout the week come to meeting prepared for corporate worship. They are able to center more quickly and help to anchor the meeting in prayer. Their practice is a gift to the community, enhancing its life in the Spirit and aiding in the faithful conduct of business.

Spiritual discipline, at its heart, involves a decision to listen for, and be obedient to, the Inward Guide in every situation, holding the commitment to do whatever love requires.

“Begin where you are.  Obey now.  Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed.  Begin where you are.  Live this present moment, this present hour as you now sit in your seats in utter, utter submission and openness toward Him.” Thomas Kelly, 1939


1. Retirement may be the practice most accessible to contemporary Friends. Our meetings for worship are times of retirement. Walks in the woods or sitting by the ocean can be times of retirement, as can retreats extended over several days. Thomas Kelly wrote that we can be in contact with “an amazing sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a divine center.” Times of retirement are the times when we pull back from the chatter and busyness of our outward lives, enter that amazing sanctuary, and allow our inner wisdom, the Inward Teacher, to rise up in us.

For early Friends retirement was a prerequisite for a life of faithfulness. Retirement was a daily discipline, sometimes many times in a day. We may think that at the pace of 21st-century life, there isn’t time for daily retirement, yet retirement is a basic building block for all other spiritual disciplines. We have to pause, let the static quiet, so that we can hear. Thomas Kelly reassures us that if we establish mental habits of inward orientation, the processes of inward prayer do not grow more complex, but more simple. (Patricia McBee, 2003)

2. Stand still in that which is pure, after ye see yourselves; and then mercy comes in. After thou seest thy thoughts… do not think, but submit; and then power comes. Stand still in that which shows and discovers; and there doth strength immediately come. And stand still in the light, and submit to it, and the other will be hushed and gone; and then content[ment] comes. (George Fox, 1652)

3. The purpose of meditation is to enable us to hear God more clearly. Meditation is listening, sensing, heeding the life and light of Christ. This comes right to the heart of our faith. The life that pleases God is not a set of religious duties; it is to hear His voice and obey His word. Meditation opens the door to this way of living. (Richard Foster, 1978)

4. Just before the farm dam, I pause, totally by myself. I look up the valley. The sky is an incredible blue, touched by the rock faces of the mountains. I rest on my stick, and I am filled with peace. God is near. (Neil Brathwaite, 2007)

5. Written shortly after the death of his father with whom he shared a passion for photography.

The real beauty is the magic that happens while the product is being made. For myself that journey consists of silence, listening to the world around me and waiting for it to speak. … Most of the time I find that peace in nature, but that’s only a particular setting.

I find my inner light has a clearer voice when the waves of the ocean lap on the rocks with the sun dipping below the horizon and lighting the sky with deep golds and reds to darker magentas and deep purple blues. I can feel my father next to me, sitting in silence as we wait for the magic hour to pass while capturing images that center my mind and bring me to calm….The journey of art is my religious space, the end product is the voice that has sparked me to speak. Whether someone likes it or not is not what is important to me, it is the journey. (Will Reilly, unpublished, 2020)

6. Consider now the prayer-life of Jesus… Incident after incident is introduced by the statement that Jesus was praying. Are we so much nearer God that we can afford to dispense with that which to Him was of such vital moment? But apart from this, it seems to me that this prayer-habit of Jesus throws light upon the purpose of prayer. … We pray, not to change God’s will, but to bring our wills into correspondence with His. (William Littleboy, 1937)

7. I have always greeted God in the morning. It makes a difference. There is no way that I would have faced my teaching day without morning devotional time. One year I had a girl in my class whose behavior often devastated the other children, leaving them in tears. Having used many methods of responding to her behavior and its impact on the other children, I knew that more help was needed. Each morning I held her in prayer with me, in a circle of light, putting Jesus in the mix as well. I could not do this alone and needed a strong visual to remind me of that. Her behavior gradually changed for the better. One day she surprised me by giving me a hug. I do not know if the prayers helped her, or more probably, changed me, and my relationship to her, and she responded positively. (Sue Reilly, 2021)

8. I love to knit. I love creating lovely things, learning new stitches, designing my own patterns. But really, how many shawls, sweaters, socks can one person use? I have discovered over time that knitting for charity is a useful way to engage in a craft I love without being overwhelmed by things I don’t really need. As I was browsing through charity knitting websites I came across the story of a mother whose infant died at birth. She recounted the pain of going to the children’s section of a department store to find a gown in which to bury her child. The store was filled with mothers and healthy babies and adorable clothing her child would never grow to wear. She fled, overwhelmed with grief. I found patterns for burial gowns on the site and thought maybe I should try one. Small, no big commitment, not too complicated. As I began to knit, however, I found myself thinking about that mother. I was grateful that I never had to experience that pain. I grew more and more quiet in my mind, simply letting my hands be guided by compassion. The completed gown and cap were given to a friend who is a chaplain in a hospital that specializes in high risk births. She asked me to knit more. Since then, I have knit many burial gowns, the smallest only six inches from neck to hem. I don’t knit them all the time. I wait until I find myself unsettled in my own life, feeling unbalanced, or small minded, or ungrateful. Then it is time. As love and compassion flow through my needles, they also flow through me. As I offer a gift of love and healing, I am also healed, returned to balance, held in loving arms. (Marion Athearn, 2017)

9. Music. The language of all humankind. For some, it is the vibration of the sound that flows up from the ground and flows through their body becoming the drum of their heartbeat. For some it is a friend, holding them. For some it is what knows exactly the right thing to say.  For some it is what inspires movement, drawing their arms to sky, palms open. For me, it is sanctuary. Music is the air that I breathe, the food that I hunger for. In a wide ocean with no boat, it is my life jacket. Music is what flows through my veins and pours out of my soul, it fills my belly in the evening…There is a sense of such awe that I experience when singing or otherwise creating song with a group of other people. It becomes evident that we each are all merely a colored piece of thread, woven together into a larger tapestry. Together we sing through the dissonances and burst into colorful harmonies, we mourn together, and we sing of splendor and joy together. I don’t know what God is. I don’t know who, why, or how God is. I don’t even know IF God is. What I do know, though, is that whatever this light is, whatever this energy shared amongst all of humanity is, this feeling, this togetherness, this LOVE, is what will bring me to walk hand in hand with the unexpected, and lead me through the melody of life. (Joli Reynolds, age 18, 2020)

10. For many of us, it’s in meeting for worship (typically in a Quaker meetinghouse) that we most readily connect deeply with Spirit, seek guidance, offer thanks for the abundance of our lives, and honestly feel the pain and confusion that sometimes dominate life’s moments.

But in artistic creation, and in the contemplation of the artistic, we can also be present with Spirit, and open to important leadings.  For me, being in the dance studio, typically with my camera, I’ve found that as I experience the creation of new choreography I witness a living, moving rendition of God’s grandeur.  The dance studio has become my other meetinghouse, where miracles happen every day and where both the dancers’ and my own creativity come alive and find new expression.  A spirit of grace enters my life each time I set forth in these sacred spaces, and God does speak to me. Just as we center into worship, I center into my presence in that space where dance is created. I use the word “worship” to describe this experience – there is no other word that captures the reverence and excitement. Early Friends were afraid of the arts, concerned that artistic work would be a distraction from the spiritual work that is so important. Friends were cautioned to avoid the arts, to not have pianos or other instruments in their homes, and to shun any possible distractions. My testimony is exactly the opposite: creating and experiencing any artistic work is a way to encounter our spiritual center, to be led by it, and to express it. When we stop measuring our artistic attempts and just look for the purity and passion of our intent and our source, we will find that our lives are filled with even more spiritual nourishment. (Arthur Fink, 2018)

11. I read that I was supposed to make “a place for inward retirement and waiting upon God” in my daily life, as the Queries in those days expressed it… . At last I began to realise … that these apparently stuffy old Friends were really talking sense. If I studied what they were trying to tell me, I might possibly find that the “place of inward retirement” was not a place I had to go to, it was there all the time. I could know the “place of inward retirement” wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, and find the spiritual refreshment for which, knowingly or unknowingly, I was longing, and hear the voice of God in my heart. Thus I began to realise that prayer was not a formality, or an obligation, it was a place which was there all the time and always available. (Elfrida Vipont Foulds,1983)

Also, see Chapter 1, Extracts 1.18, 1.20 and 1.36.


  1. Preserve places of silence in your life to “sink down to the Seed”.
  2. Yield your life to the Inward Guide, remembering to turn to that guidance throughout your day.
  3. Make time for the Bible and spiritual writings in your devotional reading. Become familiar with the experiences of Friends through time.
  4. Be aware of times and activities which help ground you and open you to the Presence, and make space for them in your life. 
  5. Recognize and uphold the spiritual life of children and youth. Invite them into times of quiet reflection and prayer. 
  6. Know that you are held in love when your practice takes you to a place of illumination that is painful or unsettling. Open yourself to God and the possibility of transformation. 
  7. Experiment.  Be adventurous.


  1. Do you make time in your daily life for reading, silence and waiting for God in prayer that you may know more of the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Do your spiritual practices lead you to a greater sense of the Presence?
  3. What practices help open you to be a channel for Divine love?
  4. Do you take time to attend to your spiritual condition? Do you turn to Faith and Practice for inspiration as a part of your spiritual practice?
  5. Are there times you resist a spiritual practice, and why?
  6. During times of dryness or difficulty what helps you to persevere? Can you trust that God’s work is continuing when you cannot feel it?

Following My Thread, By Shirley Hager (Winthrop Center Friends)

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, October 31, 2021

Before I begin, I’d like to offer an acknowledgement that I’m living on land that was once the home of Abenaki peoples, part of the great Wabanaki confederacy. I realize, with both sadness and gratitude, that I benefit from this land that was cared for here in Western Maine for thousands of years before the settlers arrived. I’ve learned that one-half mile from my house was, for a time, the village of Amesokanti that formed in the late 1600s as Abenaki and other tribes, aided by the French, fled the English incursion into the interior of what is now Maine. That village too was ultimately deserted as the English encroached further.

Let’s take a moment to honor those peoples…

And now, as I’m going to be talking about leadings this morning, I’d like to begin with this poem by William Stafford:

The Way It Is, by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change.  But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

When I was invited to give a message this morning, I decided to speak about my leading to work alongside Indigenous people, and why I focus so much of my life on their concerns, which I’ve discovered are, and should be, all our concerns as well, but I certainly didn’t know that when my journey began.

As I’ve thought about my leading to do this work, I’d like first to offer my own reflection on the difference between a calling and a leading. I’ve not read anywhere that, in the generally accepted use of these words, there is a difference.  I think we typically use these words interchangeably. But to me these two words have slightly different connotations.  I think of a calling as something known to you. As in, I have a calling to be a doctor, or a teacher, etc.  It’s as if you see something calling to you and you begin to work your way toward it.  A leading, on the other hand, implies to me that something is leading you on, but you may have no idea what that something is.  Following that leading is an act of faith because you sure don’t have much else to go on.  It’s an inkling, a nudge, a little voice that won’t be quiet. It’s something that feels right when you follow it and doesn’t feel right when you don’t.

I’d like to read you a bit from my story that gives you a sense of some of those first inklings of a leading that I’ve had most of my life—this is from the book, The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations that I believe many of you are familiar with, co-authored by myself and 13 others-both Wabanaki and non-Native and just published this year. The book tells the story of an experience between Wabanaki people, the Indigenous peoples of Maine, and a group of non-Natives that began 35 years ago, in 1986. In the book, we each tell our story of what led us, Wabanaki and non-Native, to meet together during long weekend gatherings over several years and many seasons in the 1980s and ‘90s.  We met to understand one another and to learn what it takes to have respectful and mutually beneficial relationships across our cultures and our horrific shared history. Bringing this message to you has given me an opportunity to look back at what led me to devote so much of my time, my energy, my whole heart to this endeavor and to the writing of the book that describes it. It also gives me an opportunity to share a few passages with you from the book itself.

As a child, I had a lot of romantic ideas about Native people. Of course, everyone watched Westerns back then, but when I watched Westerns I always sided with the Indians. I remember being fascinated by the tipis and the Indian “villages.” That’s how I wanted to live – the way they lived. I grew up in North Carolina during segregation. My mother was from the South and had stayed close to home most of her life. My father, however, grew up in Missouri, then joined the Navy and was stationed in Colorado; and when he got out of the Navy he went to college on the GI Bill. So, he had seen a lot more of the world, as well as being a very compassionate man. Once, when I was about eight years old, I saw a Black person being mistreated and, although I don’t recall the details, it must have bothered me. I remember being home that evening and looking up at my dad and asking, “Why? Why was this person treated this way?” I’ll never forget his response. He said, “I think it must be that some people put others down to make themselves feel big.” And then he said, “When I was out West they treated the Indians just the way we treat – he would have said “colored people” back then – colored people here.” A light came on for me. Since I had such romantic notions about Indians, if they were treated badly too then all of a sudden the whole system didn’t make sense. Suddenly it all seemed wrong.

I left North Carolina as an adult, and spent six years in Utah, attending graduate school and working. The whole time I lived there, I was aware that there were Native peoples living in Utah, and I hoped that I might meet some Native students at the university, but I never had the opportunity.

Fast forward to 1986. I was by then living in Maine and, at the time, was active with a Quaker peace program based in southern Maine. I heard about a new peace and justice organization that was devoted primarily to promoting sustainability in the Gulf of Maine bioregion, namely Maine and the Maritimes. This organization was called the Center for Vision and Policy (CVP), and I thought that the two organizations should be introduced. I contacted the founder of CVP, Elly Haney, and we met one morning at a local Portland diner. She filled me in on CVP, their activities, and plans for the future. Their plans included a particularly notable decision for a primarily “White” organization: a commitment that any vision of sustainability should include the perspective of the Indigenous people who had lived for thousands of years, and continued to live, in the bioregion. I was completely hooked:

[From the book] Currently the CVP board was mulling over the question of how to reach out and find Native individuals who would be interested in participating in this endeavor, and Elly [the founder of CVP] admitted they were pretty much clueless about how to start. She planned to contact existing Native organizations as well as a few people whose names she had been given, but was feeling less than confident of a positive response….[I said]“Well, I’m going to a New England Quaker gathering in Amherst next week,  producing the brochure from my purse. “There’s a Wampanoag man named gkisedtanamoogk” – whose name I couldn’t yet pronounce – “speaking there. Maybe I could talk to him.”

How the resulting Gatherings between Wabanaki and non-Native individuals that we speak about in the book came to be is a story much too long to tell in the time I have here but suffice it to say that my connection with gkisedtanamoogk proved to be the catalyst for everything that happened after that. The Gatherings developed over time, with much deliberation and planning, primarily between gkisedtanamoogk and myself. But once we began to meet in the Gatherings, it was the feeling that what we were doing was, as Quakers say, a “rightly ordered” thing to do, that kept me committed.

I’d like to share a pivotal moment for me that arose in the Gatherings.

The first Gathering that we held was a typical educational event, where we invited Wabanaki speakers to talk to us, the non-Natives, and educate us about their history, our shared history, and current issues in their lives. It went well enough that we decided to hold a second Gathering the following year.

[From the book] During the year after our first Gathering, when we were planning the second one, gkisedtanamoogk offered to build a Fire and to have a First Light ceremony there. This was before our decision to hold all of our meetings around the Fire, and so his suggestion caught me by surprise. I was tremendously excited because I had wanted to experience something like that my whole life.

Native women had already told me that when women were menstruating they didn’t participate in these ceremonies. Sure enough, that’s what happened to me and, after all the anticipation, I was crushed. While the ceremony was going on, I left the group and climbed one of the little hills overlooking the retreat center. I lay down between a couple of big boulders on the hillside and dissolved into tears. I had worked all year to put this event together and I wasn’t going to experience the very thing I had looked forward to the most. I remember praying up there among the rocks and asking for answers, or at least a way to cope with my disappointment, and what came to me was … this was a test of my commitment. We didn’t create this event so I could take part in a ceremony. This was about something much bigger, and I needed to accept things as they were, even though I didn’t fully understand them or necessarily agree with them. I think I grew up a little that day. I came to a realization of the seriousness of what we were doing, and that it was important to stay with it, no matter what.

[Important note: this practice of excluding women during the “Moon Time” as it was referred to, I understand from Wabanaki individuals has been challenged by women and men alike and I believe that it is rare now to see women sitting outside the Circle.]

I did, of course, get to experience the ceremonies and the Circles in which we met many times over the years.

And, as time went on, I say in the book:

I remember a distinct feeling of “filling up” as the Talking Stick would go around and the stories would be shared. Another way I describe it is, it felt like a wound healing that, until then, I didn’t know was there. I think that we White people carry around the wounds of the separations that we’ve created, whether it’s our separation from Native Americans or African-Americans, or from the land itself. Oppressed peoples feel the brunt of the system we’ve created, but we feel it too. We suffer from the separation without being aware of it most of the time. Being in those Circles was a spiritual experience, I don’t know any other name for it; as if we were doing something so right with Creation that you could feel it…

What kept many of us coming back to these Gatherings, kept a number of us in touch all those years since the Gatherings ended, and led the 14 of us to create this book about our experiences can only be attributed to the feelings that we had in being together. 

My experience in those Circles was perhaps the strongest sense I’ve ever had of being supported, even carried, by the Spirit. What we were doing felt so right—the sense of healing something that had been tragically broken, the feeling of being held together around the Fire that was lit for us every time—these are feelings that I have had in a few other situations, even occasionally in Quaker meeting, but never so consistently and so long-lasting as the sense of rightness that carried over from one Gathering to the next and was still present after nearly twenty-five years when we first came back together around the making of this book.

There are so many aspects of this experience that I could share with you—it was hard to choose. But I wanted to focus this morning on this experience of rightness, of participating in what God, Creator, the Universe wants to happen. I feel entirely blessed to have known this feeling. And only in reflecting back over my life can I identify those nudges, and recognize the still, small voice urging me onto the path that eventually led me to participate in the Gatherings, and to co-create this book.

I want to leave you with some queries for your own life: can you identify times when there were inklings, nudges, tiny voices, urging you in a certain direction?  Did you listen? Or not? Can you remember occasions when you felt a certain “rightness” in what you were doing? What was that like? Have those occasions informed the rest of your life in any way?

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change.  But it doesn’t change…

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Has there been a thread that you’ve followed in your life?

Thank you.