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:

https://forms.gle/rwTeAMYS3BXb1iJb9

“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

Extracts

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.

Advices

  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.

Queries

  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?

Social Justice Enrichment Project

Durham Friends Meeting, Peace & Social Concerns Committee

As members of the religious Society of Friends we have a deep and abiding concern for social justice and racial equity. Values such as community, equality, and harmony are central to our approach and advocating for social justice in the greater community is an important expression of our values. This project grew out of a series of discussions focused on becoming antiracist.

What is the Social Justice Enrichment Project?

Participating teachers will be given a set of children’s books and some teaching resources that focus on the development of social justice in children ages 5-8.  We will begin with a small group of teachers, recruiting pairs of teachers from four schools in the Durham Friends Meeting catchment area. Teachers will be able to use the books and resources to enhance their social studies and language arts curriculum as they chose. We will ask for feedback from the teachers mid-year and near the end of the school year. This important information will help us refine the project for the future. We will look for the easiest way for teachers to share their experiences with us, possibly Zoom meetings where they can hear the experiences of others.

Why a focus on young children?

Children in the early elementary grades are developing the values that will guide their behavior throughout their lives. They are focused on the fairness of things and learning to play games with winners and losers as well as working together collaboratively. They are participating in group settings which require rules to function smoothly and fairly. Some Maine children are participating in school communities that are increasingly diverse, but at the same time see mostly white people in positions of power. In preparing our children to be part of the global economy we what them to have a solid foundation in working with people from backgrounds different from themselves. When other cultures are not represented in the classroom, the importance of children’s literature increases.

What are the project goals?

We are selecting children’s books and teaching resources that will help the children:

  • Gain understanding and appreciation for diverse peoples and ways of life,
  • Build and empathic way of viewing life situations,
  • See the value of working collaboratively for the benefit of all,
  • Learn about people who work non-violently for justice and equity,
  • Learn the importance of caring for the natural world, and
  • Learn some history of the Wabanaki peoples of Maine and other Native people.
Title & AuthorAgesAboutNotes/Goals
Be Kind, Pat Zietlow Miller    3-6A multicultural picture book about kindness.1, 2
Say Something, Peter Reynolds4-7Powerful story about finding your voice and using it to make the world better. 1
I Am Enough, Grace Byers3-6      Love who you are, respect one another and be kind to others.1
I Believe I Can, Grace Byers3-7    Love and believe in yourself. Affirmation for boys and girls of every background.1
Same Same but Different, Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw4-7Two pen pals, one in the US and one in India, learn about the similarities in their lives along with the differences.1
The Word Collector, Peter Reynolds  4-7Named outstanding literary work by NAACP it is about a boy who collects words.1
Joseph’s Big Ride, Terry Farish    4-7African refugee comes to US, makes friend and learns to ride bike.1, 2
For You are a Kenyan Child, Kelly Cunnane  3-8Introduces life in a Kenyan village through the daily experiences of a little boy1
Last Stop on Market Street, Matt De La Pena  3-6Newbury and Coretta Scott King awards winner.1, 2
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, Rose A. Lewis3-6Story of a woman traveling to China to adopt a baby. 1
Harriet Gets Carried Away, Jessie Sima4-8Harriet loves to get dressed up. While her dads prepare her birthday party she dresses as a penguin and imagines being carried away by penguins.1
Julian is a Mermaid, Jessica Love4-8In this celebration of individuality Julian imagines himself as a mermaid.1
Julian at the Wedding, Jessica Love4-8Continuing with the theme of individuality Julian makes a friend, Marisol at a wedding. Marisol gets dirty and Julian wears her flower crown.1
Mommy, Mama, and Me, Leslea Newman  3-7A toddler spends the day with two mommies.1
When Aidan Became a Brother, Kyle Lukoff  4-7Story of a family’s adjustment to having a transgender child, and their preparation for a new baby. Stonewall Book Award winner.1
Ruby’s Wish, Shirin Yin Bridges6-10Introduces the Chinese tradition of favoring boys, but Ruby wants to go to the university instead of getting married.1
She Persisted, Chelsea Clinton    7-8Introduces 13 inspirational women who never took no for an answer.1
Dear Librarian, Lydia M. Sigwarth  4-8Homeless girl’s life is changed when she discovers the library.1, 2
The Runaway Rice Cake, Ying Chang Compestine  5-8An act of generosity and compassion is rewarded at the time of a Chinese New Year.1, 2
Lyla’s Happiness, Mariahdessa Tallie4-8Lyla exudes happiness, confidence, and comfort in her own skin.  1, 2
This is How We Do It, Matt La Lamonthe  6-8One day in the lives of 7 children from around the world.1
The Proudest Blue, Ibtihaj Muhammad  5-9The first day of school in a hijab and learning to deal with hurtful words.  1
My Name is Sangoel, Karen Williams & Khadra Mohammed6-8A refugee from Sudan finds the U.S. a strange place and has trouble teaching his classmates to pronounce his name.1, 2
Tar Beach, Faith Ringgold5-8Coretta Scott King & Caldecott winner. Magical story that begins on the roof top of a Harlem apartment building.1, 2
The Day You Begin, Jacqueline Woodson    5-8The difficulties of entering new places where everyone seems different from you.1, 2
Thank You, Omu! Oge Mora    4-8Generous Omu gives away all her stew and is then rewarded by her community.1, 2
Sugar in Milk, Thirty Umrigar  4-8 or 6-8Persian legend about embracing change, accepting others, and living in a diverse society.1, 2
A World of Kindness, Ann Featherstone4-6Asks children where they will show kindness to others. Shows impact of everyday social interactions.  2
What is Given from the Heart, Patricia McKissack  4-8Coretta Scott King award winner. African-American story about generosity even in difficult times.1, 2, 3
Let the Children March, Monica Clark-Robinson6-9The true story of children who marched against Jim Crow laws in Birmingham AL in 1963. Illustrator won Coretta Scott King Honor.1, 3, 4
I’m Sorry, Barry Timms3-6Best friends quarrel and find a way to say “I’m sorry” and mend their relationship.2, 3  
The Buddy Bench, Patty Brozo    4-6Children make plans to have buddies rather than have anyone be lonely.2, 3, 4
Strictly No Elephants, Lisa Mantchev2-5A story about inclusion told through a pet club.     2, 3, 4
Lessons from Mother Earth, Elain McCloud  3-6This Native American story teaches appreciation and care for the natural world.1, 2, 5, 6
We are Water Protectors, Carole Lindstrom  3-7Inspired by Indigenous led movements to protect the water. Won Caldecott Medal.1, 2, 3, 5, 6
Title & AuthorAgesAboutNotes
Wangari’s Trees of Peace, Jeanette Winter    4-7Based on a true story, Wangari won Nobel Peace Prize for her tree planting in Kenya.1, 4, 5
Most People, Michael Leannah2-7An antidote to scary images children see. Two children navigate the city noticing many acts of kindness.1, 2, 3
Title & AuthorAgesAboutNotes 
The Story of Ruby Bridges, Robert Coles6-9In 1960 a judge orders a black 6 year old, Ruby, to attend a white school. The story displays Ruby’s courage in the face of much adversity.1, 2, 4 
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, Deborah Hopkinson  3-7Clara, a slave, makes a map to the underground railroad in a quilt.1, 4 
America my Love, America my Heart, Daria Peoples-Riley6-8Asks questions children of color have about America  
So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom, Gary Schmidt  8-10Biography of giant in the civil rights struggle.2, 4
Desmond and the Very Mean Word, Desmond Tutu    6-9 2ndBased on true stories of Desmond Tutu’s childhood.1, 4
The First Blade of Sweetgrass, Suzanne Greenlaw  6-8About Wabanaki basket making. Available early Aug.1, 6    
The Canoe Maker, Jean Flahive & Donald Soctomah5-9Based on the life of David Moses Bridges, a Passamaquoddy Birch Bark Artist. This is the story of David teaching his son to make birch bark canoes.1, 5, 6
Thanks to the Animals, Alan Sockabasin6-8Passamaquoddy folk tale. Named to top 10 Native American books for elementary schools by American Indians in Children’s Literature.1, 5, 6
Circle of Thanks, Susi Gregg Fowler4 & upAlaskan Native boy and his mother have an adventure on the tundra. Provides an example of the interdependence of the. Natural world.1, 3, 5, 6
A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story, Sharon Langley & Amy Norton  6-9In 1963 a community collaborates to desegregate an amusement park in Maryland.2, 3, 4 
When We are Kind, Monique Gray Smith3-5Celebrates simple acts of kindness with Indigenous characters.  1, 2, 5, 6 
Title & AuthorOlderAboutNotes 
We are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, Traci Sorell  9 and upHistorical & contemporary laws, policies, struggles, & victories in Native life. 1, 2, 6 
Ten Amazing People and How They Changed the World, Maura Shaw  9-11Stories of ten famous people who worked to make the world a better place. 4 
Freedom Over Me, Ashley Bryan8-10Using original estate documents that list 11 slave names, sex, and prices; the author creates stories of each slaves lives and dreams. A Newberry Honor Book1, 2 

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.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, October 17, 2021

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually for the conduct of business on Sunday, October 17, 2021, with 20 people present.  After a period of silence, Clerk, Bob Eaton, opened the meeting.

1.The September minutes were approved as printed in the October Newsletter.

2.Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell, clerk of the committee, reported that they met on October 15 to discuss where to place the net proceeds from the September sale of the parsonage.  The sale price was $250,000 and after expenses we received a check for $238,045.95 which was deposited into the meeting’s checking account.  The Finance Committee recommends that $238.000 be placed into a New England Yearly Meeting pooled fund with any earnings and dividends to be reinvested in the account, while the meeting takes time to discern its ultimate use or uses.  We expressed gratitude for the work of this committee.

3. We approved the recommendation that $238,000 be placed into the NEYM pooled fund.

4. The Clerks of Meeting Group met by Zoom on 13 October 2021.  Those present were Ingrid Chalufour, Renee Coté, Bob Eaton, Tess Hartford, Wendy Schlotterbeck, Liana Thompson-Knight and Sarah Sprogell.  The Clerks Group is an informal meeting of the clerks of the various committees of the meeting.  It serves as an informal forum for mutual support, information sharing and discussion of meeting issues that may not fall within the mandate of a single meeting committee.

            They addressed the issue of the large cash infusion to the meeting resulting from the sale of the parsonage. The question of how these funds should be considered for the long-term requirements of the Meeting needs attention and falls outside of the limited mandate of the Finance Committee.  They recommend that an ad hoc group be established to give seasoned consideration to the disposition of the proceeds from the sale of the parsonage and to report its recommendations to Meeting for Business.  The group should not feel under pressure for a quick decision but rather meet with an expectation of careful discernment that will involve members of meeting as appropriate.  They recommend that the composition of the ad hoc group consist of the Clerks Group, and three other Friends nominated by the Nominating committee and approved by the meeting.  Margaret Wentworth was recommended as a member of the ad hoc group. 

            The meeting felt that we should have an open listening session to discuss the suggestions made by the ad hoc committee.

5. Trustees:  Kitsie Hildebrandt reported for Trustees who are providing basic information on our Green Burial Area. 

“Green Burial Lot Agreement:

            Single lots are available for purchase in Lunt Memorial Cemetery. Each lot measures 4’ X 8’, allowing room for a small marker and flowers.

            The charge for members of Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends is $200.00, the charge for non-members is $350.00.

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

            A green burial is an unencumbered burial. There is no embalming and no need for a commercial casket.

            The body may be wrapped in a cotton shroud or other decomposable fabric and placed directly in the ground or placed in a plain wooden box and placed in the ground. The required depth for the green burial is 3’.” 

            This information can be found in the Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends Handbook.

            Concern was raised about digging of the grave, winter storage of the body, and cremation details.  Cush Anthony suggested contacting the Funeral Alliance of Maine for information. 

            Trustees reported that the parsonage area which includes the building, well and septic on a surveyed lot of just over 2 acres was sold on September 24, 2021.

            We excepted their report with gratitude.

6. Ministry and Counsel:  Renee Cote reported for Ministry and Counsel.  The meeting has purchased the Meeting Owl and have developed a list of arrangements that will be needed for implementation regarding hybrid worship.

            Wendy Schlotterbeck and Leslie Manning are preparing a report written by Martha Hinshaw Sheldon summarizing the Meeting Care Coordinator position, to be presented in November.

            A support committee is in process for Leslie Manning’s emerging ministry with women at the Women’s Center of the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. 

            Ezra Smith has requested a clearness committee for marriage; Tess Hartford, Doug Bennett and Edwin Hinshaw have volunteered to serve. 

            Hybrid worship: Ministry and Counsel is making arrangements to provide hybrid worship which will allow most people to attend meeting in person while allowing others to participate remotely via Zoom.  Their plan and proposals include technical set up using the Meeting Owl, cleaning and safety preparations (install air purifiers), human support arrangements, and meeting participation protocols (vaccination requirement, masks, six feet distance, and no food/refreshments).  They will monitor scientific advice for possible modification or relaxation of these requirements.  Issues to consider: children without vaccination, information for visitors, and message givers in person only?

            A complete list of these suggested arrangements will be attached to the minutes and included in the Newsletter.

7. Falmouth Quarterly Meeting: Leslie Manning, Sarah Sprogell, and Bob Eaton volunteered to be representatives to Quarterly Meeting which meets Saturday, October 23rd 10:00 TO 12:00 via Zoom. 

            `The meeting ended in quiet waiting, and gratitude was expressed for the presence of those in attendance.

            Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, October 23, 2021, 10am to 12pm

Falmouth Quarterly Meeting will gather via zoom on Saturday October 23, 2021 from 10 – 12.

The zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84328194455?pwd=dHJNdTVhR3BXQ0Z3OU9qZ2ZzL1U1dz09

The October meeting is a business meeting focused on the essential work of the quarter and on sharing news from the constituent meetings.  The essential work of the quarter is caring for each meeting, nurturing the ministry rising among us and strengthening our beloved community.  All are welcome, and all enrich us.

  • We will hear from each meeting – the joys, concerns and life that each meeting is experiencing.  Please name a person to report and consider Where is spirit leading you /your meeting? Where is the energy in your meeting?
  • We will hear from the annual sessions of New England Yearly Meeting.  The presiding clerks letter is attached.  I specifically draw your attention to the minute and letter endorsed concerning the impact of the US policies on Cuba as we will consider whether we should send a similar letter to the Senators from Maine.
  • The Yearly Meeting has also approved a letter of apology to Native Americans. The letter with a word of caution is attached. This is a concern that Friends in Maine have carried for some time and there may be updates on our work towards right relationship.
  • Falmouth Quarter will be hosting the All Maine Gathering this year on May 7th.  The planning for this could begin now.  I’m personally expecting that by May we could gather in person and would be happy to reserve the Friends School Campus for this event.
  • If there is time, I hope we might consider how the quarter will hear from and support those Friends among us with recognized public ministries.
  • There is some more mundane business – a budget, archives etc. as well.

I look forward to seeing you again, even on zoom.  We did have a lovely gathering in person in early August and I treasure the promise that we will gather in person again.

Love, fritz weiss, co-coordinator of Falmouth Quarter

Discussion of Reparations, October 5 and October 20, 2021, 7pm


Peace and Social Concerns invites us all to talk about the great injustices done to Black Americans and how communities and organizations are responding. What have we been learning? How are we feeling?

Background materials for the two sessions are here.

Tuesday October 5, 7:00 PM at the Meeting Zoom site [connection information here]

On Tuesday, October 20 (also 7 pm) we will talk about how we as individuals and a community are led to respond. 

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, September 19, 2021

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually via Zoom for the conduct of business on

Sunday, September 19, 2021, with 14 people present.  Clerk, Bob Eaton, opened the meeting with quiet worship, and continuing in worship we proceeded to conduct business.

1.The June and July minutes were approved as printed in the September Newsletter.  It was noted that there were no Newsletters for July and August; therefore, the previous number 1 minute in the July minutes was in error.

2. Trustees:  Katharine Hildebrandt reported the following:

            The Parsonage: With the approved minute from Monthly Meeting for Business, dated July 18, 2021, which read, “Friends approved the recommendation of the Trustees to sell approximately 2 acres including the parsonage, well and septic field on the open market. The trustees and clerk of the meeting are authorized to accept a final offer on behalf of the meeting.” Trustees are now under contract with a buyer.  The survey has been completed, along with other details related to the sale of the property.  The clerk of Trustees will meet with the Treasurer and the Clerk of the Meeting to go over the details of the sale ahead of the closing on Friday, September 24, 2021.

            The Meetinghouse: The repointing of the brickwork on the Meetinghouse has been completed for now.  This work included replacing the three gable-end windows and scraping and painting the exterior trim. The interior has had significant improvements over this past period of time in terms of floor refinishing, plaster repair, and paint. Trustees are hoping to now turn our focus on the work we can do to address the “Greening” of our Meetinghouse.

            The Lunt Cemetery: The Green Burial section of the Lunt Cemetery has been partially enclosed with a split rail fence, to be completed soon.  Trustees will bring a report containing information on the Green Burial site to the next Monthly Meeting.

            We expressed appreciation for the work of the Trustees.

3. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Ingrid Chalufour reported.  They hope that everyone has been reading the reparations articles they are sharing on the website. They are planning a lively discussion on October 5 at 7:00 PM via Zoom. A second discussion, focusing on how we might respond to the call for reparations, will be on Wednesday Oct. 20 at 7:00.

            The Social Justice enrichment branch of the committee has had a busy summer distributing books to New Mainers and preparing to give books to 9 teachers of young children.  Fifty Brunswick New Mainer children have received their books and 17 Bath children will have theirs very soon. The first week in October each of the 9 teachers in the first year of the project will receive 7 books that will support children’s learning about and value for diversity, peaceful conflict resolution, Wabanaki and African American history, and caring for the environment. The committee will share more about this project in a message later this fall.

            From the Greening the Meetinghouse work group: Window Dressers, the volunteer organization that makes window inserts, has measured our worship room. The cost of 10 window inserts will be $609. These inserts will cut down on cold air leaking into the room and should reduce our use of oil. The workshop where the inserts will be made October 18-22 at the Episcopal church on Pleasant Street in Brunswick. We are expected to provide a few volunteers to help. There are morning and afternoon sessions, and an evening session on Wednesday the 20th. The work is organized in a way that a novice can easily contribute by learning one step in the process. Please contact Ingrid Chalufour by email if you want the link to sign up as a volunteer.

            We acccepted their report with appreciation.

4. We approved the requested amount of $609.00 for window inserts.

5. Ministry and Counsel: Renee Cote reported the following:  In June, Monthly Meeting approved the request from Ministry & Counsel to purchase the OWL to allow us to transition from ZOOM-alone to a hybrid form of worship in which people can either come to the Meetinghouse or participate via ZOOM.  Two M&C reports, one from June and one from July, about hybrid worship are available if any Friends would like to review them.  After an August pause and considering the emergence of the Delta Covid variant, “we will continue planning this transition in the coming months.  We aren’t ready to make regular use of the Meetinghouse yet, for reasons both of safety and of needed technical preparation, but we will be working on these and appreciate Friends’ patience with continued use of ZOOM as our primary mode of worshipping together.”

            Leslie Manning has requested a “care and accountability committee” for her chaplaincy, which will involve support for those involved in different phases of the carceral process and their loved ones. They approved this request and look forward to its development.

            It is with sadness that they report that Tom Frye died August 29, 2021.  Sarah Sprogell reported that Ezra Smith built a simple pine box for Tom, per Tom’s request for a green burial at the Lunt Cemetery. A small group of caring Friends from the Meeting were on hand Monday to prepare the earth, transport Tom’s remains to the cemetery, return his body to the earth, and close the grave.  “The Spirit was indeed moving among us in many ways; most notably, it happened that Peter Crysdale faithful and caring Friends who were present on Sunday and Monday also became “essential workers” in this process, either in transferring Tom’s body or in preparing the ground. Tom’s final passage was handled with a simple and very personal stewardship, a sacred and very physical task. Gene Boyington, Katharine (Kitsie) Hildebrandt, Donna Hutchins, Ezra Smith and Teresa Oleksiw helped prepare the ground for burial. Ezra, Jim McCarthy, Linda Muller, Kitsie, Sarah, and Denise (a friend of Jeri and Tom) moved the pine box into Ezra’s truck for transport; Peter Crysdale, Tess Hartford, and Ann Ruthsdottir joined us at the cemetery for a tender gathering of hearts to remember Tom and hold Jeri (caregiver) in our care. Many from this group remained to help close the grave, bringing Tom’s body to its final resting place in the embrace of Mother Earth’s soil. As the raindrops fell, we watched a rainbow appear before us.”  Gene Boyington, Sarah Sprogell and others will prepare a memorial minute.

6.  Finance Committee:  Sarah Sprogell brought the six-month financial report which is attached.  We are thankful to have spent only 37% of our budget.  We thank this committee for carefully overseeing our finances.

            We closed in quiet worship, thankful for the careful reports from committees, Trustees and Ministry and Counsel. 

            Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk

“War and Foolishness,” by Doug Bennett

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, September 19, 2021

War is what’s on my mind and in my heart today – and foolishness, too.  War and foolishness because war, I believe, is one of the most profound forms of human foolishness, and tragic, too.  War and foolishness have been on my mind because of the recent end of the war in Afghanistan and also because of the recent 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the subsequent launch of the ‘war on terror.’  Hundreds of thousands of lives lost – who knows how many? – and trillions of dollars spent badly. 

In October of 2012 –I jotted down the following list of things that are likely to happen in a war – things that are likely to happen beyond soldiers being killed or wounded.  I don’t remember what led me to write down this list.  This was nine years ago, and eleven years after 9/11.  Most U.S. troops had left Iraq a year earlier, and U.S. troops would still be in Afghanistan for almost a decade longer.  So I don’t remember why I jotted down this list.  We were very much in the middle of a never-ending war, as we always seem to be. 

  • Young lives will be ruined.  The survivors will wake with terrible memories. 
  • Civilians will be killed.
  • The costs will be much, much higher than anticipated.
  • Unspeakable acts will be committed, some by us.
  • Civil liberties at home will be trampled.
  • There will be secrecy and lies that undermine democracy.
  • We will worsen our relations with some otherwise uninvolved friends and serve the purposes of some opportunistic bad actors.
  • We will create massive, distant wreckage that we will not want to repair.
  • We will entangle ourselves in ways that will make it hard for us to disengage.
  • We will set in motion an unfolding humanitarian crisis that will last for years: refugees, divided families, deprivation and the like. 
  • We will sow the seeds of future conflict. 
  • We will fail to learn lessons of peacebuilding because we won’t have tried it, again. 

All these things happened in Afghanistan.  All these things happened in Iraq.  And they happened in Syria and Lebanon and Libya, too – and not only in those places.  It would be foolish to go to war and not expect that most of the bad things will happen.  Those who support wars should have their eyes wide open and their hearts hardened in anticipation of these tragedies. 

I’ve opposed this sequence of wars.  When I’ve written my Senators or written a letter to the editor, I’ve talked about these terrible things that are likely to happen and urged them to oppose these wars.  I’ve mostly written about things on this list. 

Let’s call the items on this list the prudential arguments against war.  War won’t get us where we want to get to.  It won’t bring peace; it will bring further war.  It will not bring understanding; it will bring mistrust and hatred.  War today will bring war tomorrow.  You’d have to be foolish to expect anything else.  We have abundant recent evidence. 

But these prudential reasons for being against war aren’t really why I’m against war.  These prudential reasons are important – very important – but deep down I know I am against war because I am a foolish person – foolish in a very different way. 

I’m a different kind of foolish person because I’m a pacifist. 

I became a pacifist in the late 1960s during another war, the one in Vietnam.  (All those bad things on the list happened then, too; they always do.)  I became a pacifist before I became a Quaker.  It was in understanding why pacifism made sense, even though it was foolishness, that I found my way to Quakerism.

Why is pacifism a kind of foolishness?  Do you even need to ask?  Tell someone you are a pacifist and they look at you with utter dismay and incredulity.  Voiced or unvoiced you hear a torrent of questions.  Would you have let the Nazis win?  If someone attacked your mother, wouldn’t you try to stop the attacker?  If they attacked your wife? Your children?  Would you really not raise a hand to stop an aggressor? 

It’s unfathomable; people can’t believe you’re serious; as soon as you say you’re a pacifist they know you are a fool. 

You certainly put yourself beyond the boundaries of reasoned argument.  You can no longer have any standing whatsoever in discussions of foreign policy.  There is no point in writing your Senator and telling her she should oppose a war because you’re a pacifist.  That letter will carry no weight.  When you say you’re a pacifist you put yourself out of bounds – beyond the pale.  Only ‘serious people’ get to participate in the decisions about going to war – and no ‘serious person’ is a pacifist.

I understand being a pacifist is foolishness.  It’s a very, very different kind of foolishness from the foolishness of thinking that war won’t bring those twelve terrible things I listed before.  You have to choose which kind of foolishness is yours:  believing that war will work, or believing that one door to a different, better world (the “beloved community”) is marked “I will not go to war.”  Let’s call the pacifist argument against war the transformational argument against war.  It’s an argument deeply grounded in Jesus’s argument to love your neighbor as yourself. 

“What if everyone acted like you did?”  That’s one of the torrent of questions you provoke if you declare for pacifism.  And that one question is easy to answer:  You can say, that would be wonderful.  You have to believe – you should believe – that everyone can and should make the same choice, the choice to say no to war.  Not just your family and friends, not just your fellow citizens, but everyone would make the same choice. 

Pacifism is a kind of foolishness that begins by saying I am not going to accept that what has happened over and over again is the only possibility. 

“I told them I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars.”  That’s from George Fox, of course.  He’s saying, I took myself out of this world and put myself in a different world.  And, he might well have added, I’m not coming back. 

Join me in the that new world, Fox is saying.  Sign up for the foolishness that says there are new possibilities.  We can do this together.  We can choose to love one another.  We can put ourselves into an understanding that each and every one of us is a child of God, capable of giving and receiving love.  But each of us has to begin by making the individual choice to say no to war.  Each of us needs to make a solid commitment to the way of love, not a tentative or half-hearted, ‘but you go first’ one. 

Yes, that’s foolishness.  It is a rare and wonderful kind of foolishness.  Here’s a statement from British Friends in 1920 – that is, just after the end of another horrible war – in which all those terrible things happened. 

“When the early Friends said that the ‘Spirit of Christ would never move them to fight and war against any man with outward weapons!’ they not only testified that war was wrong, but they also indicated that there was a new and right way of dealing with men consonant with Love, and certain to be attended by a success far greater than had ever been attained by war. Instead of destroying or suppressing the evil-doers, the new method would transform them into children of light. These early Friends were come ‘into the Covenant of Peace which was before wars and strifes were’ and by their lives lived in the power of the light they were helping others to enter that same covenant.”

Or as A. J. Muste once put it, “there is no way to peace; peace is the way.”

Yes, pacifism is foolishness by the world’s lights, but it is, I believe, a far, far better foolishness than the endless alternative of war. 

So here is the choice, a choice between two kinds of foolishness.  Do you choose the foolishness of war and its terrible train of tragedies, or the foolishness of a new life lived in love?

Also posted on Riverview Friend.

“Praying for Zoom Support,” by David Coletta

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, September 12, 2021, by David Coletta, Three Rivers Meeting

Good morning, Friends.

I want to thank you for inviting me to bring the message this morning. Just to say a little about where I’m bringing it from… I live in Boston, but I happen to be in Hanover, New Hampshire this weekend, so that’s where I’m physically Zooming in from. Back when you invited me a couple of months ago, it seemed like maybe by now it would be safe to come visit you in person to give the message, but it didn’t turn out that way. And this is only the second time I have ever brought a prepared message to a Quaker meeting. The first time was a couple of months ago, as one of the hosts of Three Rivers, where we bring a prepared message each time. As you heard in the introduction, Three Rivers is a worship experiment that has been meeting online under the care of Fresh Pond Monthly Meeting since the beginning of the pandemic. Before it was Three Rivers, it was a project called “Quaker Dinner Church” started by Kristina Keefe-Perry. As a worship experiment, we are not even formally a worship group, although we are hoping to gain formal status as a preparative meeting under the care of Fresh Pond some time in the next year or so. Anyway, I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring a message a second time.

There’s someone here at this meeting today who is responsible for the “Zoom” aspect of worship, and sometimes that person is called the “tech host”. I think maybe you call it “Zoom support” here? I’d like to take a moment now and invite us all to hold that person or people in prayer as they work to support us.

Thank you, Friends. A little later on I’ll say more about why that bit of prayer is important to me.

But first I want to share about my personal journey of the last 18 months or so – how I came to this work. At the beginning of 2020 I finished a career in software engineering. For quite some time before that, I had been aiming at February 2020 as the time to wrap up my software career and start something new. My work had been focused for a long time on technology, and I wanted to transition into doing work that was more about connecting with people. I really didn’t know what the work was going to be, but only a few weeks after I quit my job, I found out. There was this Sunday in March 2020 when we went to our local meetings in person, not realizing that it was going to be the last time for a while. And then the very next Sunday many of our meetings held worship online via Zoom for the first time. It wasn’t yet obvious to me what my work was going to look like, but what struck me then was how many folks were going to need tech help in order to do the basic things that were necessary in order to join Zoom worship: besides getting Zoom to work, it suddenly became important to manage all these Zoom links somehow! So I made a website where people could sign up for free one-on-one tech help, and I spent some time every day helping people figure this stuff out. This turned out to be excellent preparation: it was obvious, it was sorely needed, and it was challenging for me. I was used to having complete command and facility with technology, and this work required me to develop compassion and understanding for what it felt like not to be in command.

Back to Friends Meetings. It quickly became clear that it was one thing to hold meeting for worship over Zoom, and quite another to hold meeting for business. I studied how Beacon Hill Friends Meeting and Friends Meeting at Cambridge were experimenting with the features in Zoom like “raise hand”, and noticed how some of our business practices were being modified in small ways to accommodate the needs of the clerks’ table and of the body in an online setting. I found opportunities to try being the “tech host” for worship and business, and helped write some of the guidelines we were using. I joined these new things called “tech teams” at Beacon Hill and Cambridge, who met every week or two to identify tech hosts for events, teach each other how to use the tech, and generally huddle for warmth and mutual support. It was and is challenging work. 

By now it was early June and I could see we were going to need this same work to happen at Yearly Meeting sessions, which were going to have to be online if they were to happen at all. I approached the Yearly Meeting staff and offered to recruit and lead a team of volunteers who would do the tech hosting work for the business meetings and plenary events of Yearly Meeting sessions. We only had about eight weeks to prepare, and these were eight of the scariest weeks of my life. I had seen business meeting work over Zoom at the monthly meeting level, but I had never seen it work with hundreds of people present. A great blessing for us was that New York Yearly Meeting was a couple of weeks ahead of us all summer long in their preparations, so I reached out to my friend Jennifer Swann who was helping New York Yearly Meeting figure out their sessions tech, and the two of us worked together to bring those learnings to New England. At the same time, amidst all that fear, there was a still small voice at the center of it all telling me that I was in the right place, doing the right work at the right time, that I had been preparing for that work my whole life, and that everything would be okay. That everything already was okay.

This is probably a good point to explain why praying for the tech host is important to me. When the tech for a Zoom meeting is going well, it’s invisible. Everything just works. And this is like so much of the infrastructure in our world that we take for granted: we mostly only think about electricity when the power goes out, right? But the tech team is doing all sorts of little things, quietly, invisibly, to make sure that everything just works. Being on the tech team can feel a lot like being on the backstage crew of a theater production! But that’s not what we’re doing in our meetings for worship and business: it’s not a show, it’s a living, breathing witness to the promptings of the Spirit. So we don’t judge our meetings by how well the clerk hits their cues, or whether the finance committee report starts and ends on time. When we pray for the tech team, it’s a chance to let go of our expectations that the show follow the script.

After 2020 sessions I was hungry for more of this work. So in the fall, I went on to recruit and lead the tech team for FCNL’s Annual Meeting, and in the spring of 2021 for the FWCC Section of the Americas meeting, and then this summer for our recently concluded 2021 Yearly Meeting sessions. I learned more and more at each of these conferences about the work and how to lead it. My first priority was not to put on a glitch-free show, but to create a fulfilling opportunity for service for the people on the tech teams. That meant providing training and practice sessions, it meant not asking any one person to do more than they were capable of, and it meant putting structures in place by which we could support each other. The work can be really scary! Press the wrong button and end the meeting by mistake? That happens! And it feels terrible! And yet it somehow has to be possible to move past these mistakes with the understanding that God is inviting us to be faithful — not perfect! What makes that moving-past possible is being present to each other, over the physical distance, praying for and supporting each other, literally whispering messages of support — and reminders of upcoming cues — in each others’ ears. So another thing that is mostly invisible to you when you go to a big Zoom event is that we members of the tech team are connected to each other in additional ways beyond Zoom, via invisible threads of technology. And these connections somehow manage to restore a great deal of the intimacy of being together in person, for us on the tech team to be sure, and maybe for everyone else too.

So with all that in mind, now I want to talk about a stark contrast that I have been experiencing this year. It’s a contrast between the richness and sense of great abundance that I feel on these tech teams at big Quaker events, versus the burnout and sense of scarcity that I hear about when I meet with Friends’ meetings who are trying to discern the way forward with online and hybrid worship. And it’s different for different sized meetings. Some of our smaller meetings never went on Zoom at all: they kept meeting on each others’ porches, or they met each by themselves in their own homes at the appointed time. Some of our bigger meetings formed tech teams and created that same sense of mutual support that I described. And our medium-sized meetings struggled. I heard stories of meetings where there were just one or two people doing all the tech hosting, and they were tired and burned out. And this was just from holding online-only worship. When they heard that holding hybrid worship was even more work, it was as if I was describing a trip to another planet.

Friends, we are tired. The work of holding our communities together when we can’t be together in person is hard work. We are tired from not being able to come together for our Yearly Meeting sessions, tired from being afraid for our health and safety when we perform the basic functions of daily life, and so, so tired of the uncertainty. It can feel like we are wandering in the desert sometimes. And you know we have lost folks along the way. Friends for whom online worship just doesn’t work. Friends whose passing cannot be commemorated in person. And our young Friends, for whom Zoom church and Zoom retreats on top of Zoom school is just more Zoom than anyone should be asked to endure, let alone kids. When we are this tired, we yearn for things to go back to normal. That’s legit, right? Please just let us all come back to our meeting houses together and sit next to each other and sing together and shake each others’ hands and feel safe and connected. Let’s take a moment now and hold that yearning in our hearts, breathe into it, and acknowledge that it’s a totally valid thing to want.

One of the things I had to learn the hard way during the pandemic is that there are at least a couple of different ways that Friends respond under these circumstances, in the ways that we care for our meetings for worship. One is what I’ll call “holding”. It’s about calming, being careful and predictable, about protecting meeting for worship, and resisting change. The other way some folks respond is what I’ll call “experimenting”. It’s about changing, learning, about embracing chaos, about making lots of mistakes, and figuring out new things that work. Both of these kinds of care are needed! As you might guess, my response was mostly about experimenting, and I came up against a lot of resistance to that in the week-in, week-out meetings for worship of a local meeting. I had to accept that I was going to have to create my own opportunities to experiment, and as it turned out, the large events with big tech teams were the perfect place, because that abundance of energy and creativity and connection that came with such a big tech team created the safety within which to experiment. That experimentation was and is a big part of what sustains me through this time. But I want to caution you: every meeting needs both kinds of care, holding and experimenting. If your meeting tends to lean in the direction of holding, don’t forget to embrace and support those among you who want to experiment and learn. And if, like Three Rivers, your meeting is all about experimenting, remember those folks who come each time looking for something that feels familiar.

I want to share with you the vision that has been breaking through for me, just here and there a little, of what’s around the corner for us. One of the things we have been learning about online and hybrid worship is that it’s an opportunity to create accessible space for those Friends we were leaving out in the “before times.” People who couldn’t come to the meetinghouse because of health or distance or ability now can join online. People who could come, but couldn’t hear, now can read closed captions. And these are just a couple of the many ways that our meetings have become, and have the potential to become, more accessible. 

When I think about and speak about hybrid worship, I try to resist the idea that it’s centered in the physical meetinghouse, with a few remote participants. Instead I talk about it as an online meeting in which some of the “Zoom squares” have groups instead of individuals in them. One of those groups might be the folks at the meetinghouse. Some of those groups might be families at home. By my definition this meeting today is a hybrid meeting for worship. Maybe that was already your picture of hybrid worship! If it wasn’t, try it on for size. 

I feel like one of the effects of the pandemic has been to atomize us into soap bubbles! Early on during the pandemic we tried to stay in the smallest bubble we could. Later on some of the bubbles popped as things got safer. Maybe now we are trying to find smaller bubbles again. It’s like some of the bubbles are popping and joining together, and other new ones are forming. But imagine that we start to actually get good at this. Good at holding meeting for worship with bubbles of all sizes, and at adapting the sizes of our bubbles as the needs of the pandemic dictate. Who’s to say where it stops? If we can hold hybrid worship in one meeting with lots of different sized bubbles, could we join two meetings together in hybrid worship? How about a whole quarter? or a yearly meeting? What does this mean for the idea of your “local Friends Meeting”? What does it even mean to be a “Friend at a distance” any more? And what does it mean for the burnout and exhaustion that many meetings are experiencing? Maybe it’s okay to let the meeting down the road do the online hosting, and just show up? Maybe each meeting doesn’t have to do it all on their own? Maybe it’s okay to let down some of the boundaries that separate us?

By the way, if you find hope and inspiration in this vision, I recommend reading Emily Provance’s piece called “Fruit Basket Upset and the Eighth Continent”, published in March 2021. I’m indebted to her for some of these ideas, and I share her sense of hope.

I want to close with a poem that I first heard at Three Rivers. It’s called “The Way It Is,” by William Stafford, and best as I can tell it was first published in 1998 in his collection of the same name. For me this poem touches on what it feels like to be doing this particular work in this moment.

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.

Malaga Island, by Surya Milner

Peace and Social Concerns Committee encourages members and attenders of Durham Friends Meeting to read “Inhabited: The Story of Malaga Island,” by Surya Milner (Bowdoin College ’19).

Here’s how it begins: Less than ten miles from Bowdoin as the crow flies, just a short distance from the Phippsburg shore, Malaga Island was once home to a small fishing community established by descendants of a freed slave, all of them forced from their homes by greed and state-sanctioned intolerance. Nature is Malaga’s only resident now, but the presence of those who lived on the island lingers.

To read the rest, follow this link.

Malaga Island is now owned and conserved for public use by Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT). MCHT’s website on Malaga Island is here.

“Faith Without Works Is Dead:” an exhortation from Leslie Manning

In Meeting this morning (September 5, 2021), Leslie Manning encouraged and exhorted us all to do more to make this troubled world a better place. She drew upon the Epistle of James, and a poem attributed to Rumi.

From the Epistle of James, 2:14-20 Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish mortal, that faith without works is dead?

Unfold Your Own Myth by Rumi

Who gets up early
to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his lost son
and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down and brings up
a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?

Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens a door to the other world.
Soloman cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop.
Now there’s a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins.
Suddenly he’s wealthy.

But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Start walking toward Shams*. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you’ve grown,
lifting.

*also Sharms, City of Peace

“A Prayer for Reconciliation,” by Pádraig Ó Tuama

by Pádraig Ó Tuama, leader of the Corrymeela Community, read by Martha Hinshaw Sheldon this morning (21.9.5) opening worship

Where there is separation
there is pain.
And where there is pain
there is story.

And where there is story
there is understanding
and misunderstanding
listening
and not listening.

May we — separated peoples, estranged strangers,
unfriended families, divided communities —
turn toward each other,
and turn toward our stories,
with understanding
and listening,
with argument and acceptance,
with challenge, change
and consolation.

Because if God is to be found,
God will be found
in the space
between.

Amen.

Passing of Tommie Frye

August 29, 2021, revised August 30, 2021

Our member Tommie Frye passed away this morning after a long period of ill health. A green burial will be carried out at Lunt Cemetery on Monday, August 30, at 5pm. All welcome to attend.

At worship this morning, thanks were expressed for Jeri Kemple and for the members of this meeting who cared for Tommie as his health declined. This meeting was his home.