Co-convenors: Wendy Schlotterbeck, Fritz Weiss; Clerk: Fritz Weiss
Twenty five Friends from all five Meetings in Falmouth Quarter with one visitor from Lawrence Meeting gathered on April 16, 2022 for the Spring Quarterly Meeting. Two Friends sent regrets.
Martha Sheldon offered an opening prayer noting that we are gathered together to hear stories from our lives, our hearts and our souls.
FQ 2022-1. Land Acknowledgment: We are in the homeland of the Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn. We extend our respect and gratitude to the many Indigenous people and their ancestors whose rich histories and vibrant communities include the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations and all of the Native communities who have lived here for thousands of generations. We make this acknowledgement aware of continual violations of water, territorial rights, and sacred sites in the Wabanaki homeland.
FQ 2022-2. The agenda for this quarterly meeting was to receive reports from those in the quarter with recognized ministries, to receive and forward memorial minutes and to receive the state of society reports.
FQ 2022-3. Elizabeth Szatkowski (Portland) has been recognized for her ministry working with people from marginalized populations and advocating to change the inequities created by classism, racism and poverty. Much of her work has been with people facing homelessness, mental illness, addiction and trauma. She practices deeply seeing that of God in each person and reflecting that back to them in an active way to contribute to their empowerment and self-actualization. She was granted a denomination endorsement by Falmouth Quarter in 2018 to support her work supervising the chaplains, social workers, and bereavement department at Hospice of Southern Maine. In this role she works to create and hold space in a medical model organization for psycho social and spiritual experiences. Elizabeth reported that the way her ministry was used this year was not something she really welcomed. In her chaplaincy role at Southern Maine Hospice, she found herself supporting a beloved colleague through her hospice journey. This colleague had developed an aggressive cancer unexpectedly. Elizabeth found this both hard and rich, as she witnessed her colleague growing and helping others grow; helping her friends to be present and celebrating her mortality. Elizabeth stated that she felt able to receive Spirit, share with others and make space in a public workplace for this to happen. Elizabeth has a ministry support committee from Portland which has been important in her faithfulness. She closed with a quote from Anne Lamott: “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
FQ 2022-4. Leslie Manning reported for Maggie Fiori’s (Portland) Ministry Care Committee. Maggie will be sharing about her ministry on zoom on May 9th; we are all invited. Maggie’s ministry extends beyond her work with the Young Friends of New England Yearly Meeting to include an invitation to Friends to meet each other with love where we are and encourage us to move towards where we need to go. Friends shared how they have experienced Maggie’s ministry in both her work with Young Friends and in her broader engagement with Friends in the world.
FQ 2022-5. We received the State of Society from Windham Meeting read by Julieanne Moore – The report noted that the meeting has met the challenges of the past year with Faith Gratitude and Perseverance. The report is attached to these minutes.
FQ 2022-6. Report from Janice Beattie (Windham) on her ministry – Janice reported that she has been called to pastoral ministry at Windham Meeting for 25 years, noting that “God brought me to it, I did not plan it.” The ministry is expressed through the community as everyone contributes in their own way. Janice expressed gratitude for all the community gifts and talents and noted that “God is always in the lead.”
FQ 2022-7. In their reports, Windham noted that they had joined the other meetings in Falmouth Quarter in advocating for the Tribal Sovereignty legislation which is before the Maine legislature. We shared that the bill had been approved by both the house and the senate and has been forwarded to the Governor.
FQ 2022-8. In her report on her ministry, Leslie Manning (Durham) asked us to consider what Friends mean by “ministry”. She shared her call to service among Friends, to build up, nurture, and challenge faithfulness among friends and to help us realize our prophetic vocation. Leslie reported that after decades of supporting those who have experienced violence, she is finding herself accompanying incarcerated women who have been perpetrators of violence. She provides care, advocacy and support to the women, their families and the staff who work with them. Leslie expressed appreciation for Durham Meeting which is appointing a support committee for her.
FQ 2022-9. Southern Maine Meeting has not written a State of Society this year. Sarah Moore reported that the meeting feels God’s presence mostly through the connections and care for each other in their small meeting. Southern Maine is meeting together outside when the weather allows.
FQ 2022-10. We received and heard the Memorial Minute for Linda J Lyman read by Sarah Moore. The minute will be forwarded to the Yearly Meeting.
FQ 2022-11. Craig Freshley (Durham) shared that after more than 20 years of conceiving and writing, his book Together We Decide is being published. The book is grounded in a lifelong concern for bringing people of different opinions together in dialogue. When Craig first encountered Friends at Durham meeting, he realized that the Quaker process of listening and discernment was a powerful tool for this work. Durham meeting has provided concrete and spiritual support for the book project and for the “Make Shift Coffee House” project which brought people together for conversations among Republicans and Democrats across the polictical divide. In order to finish the book, Craig has had to let the coffee house languish. His hope with the book is to bring Quaker principles into the mainstream. Craig shared his fear of being too attached to the success of the book and a fear of seeing the work as an expression of his own ego. He also shared his awareness of and gratitude for the privileges he has of being white, relatively affluent and male which made it easier for him to do this work.
FQ 2022-12. Martha Sheldon, reported that she continued to feel that her recording in the ministry has life. She feels a deep conviction and purpose for supporting, nurturing and leading worship, and for supporting, sustaining and challenging communities. Martha emphasized the importance of the clearness process in recognizing ministry, and the importance of recognizing the breaks we receive due to our privilege. She also noted that she was recorded in the ministry at a time when many churches did not generally recognize or support women in ministry. The carrying of ministry involves both being open to opportunities and every so often taking breaks. Martha has moved to Northern Ireland, she reports: “Clarity of purpose and ministry callings are, as yet, not manifest in Northern Ireland. I continue to be present for ministry opportunities at Durham via zoom. Before the move my ministry included my work with autistic children and their teachers. All are welcome to visit [Ireland]! [To share} conversation, healing walks, cobweb removing windy days, reflection…..” She is looking forward to the next stage of her ministry with exhilaration and with uncertainty.
FQ 2022 -13. Brunswick Meeting did not write a state of society report this year. The meeting is coming together in person again at 10:00 on Sundays at the Curtis Public Library in Brunswick and welcomes visitors. It is a joy to be together again. Brunswick expressed gratitude for the support they receive from the wider Quaker fellowship.
FQ 2022-14. We received three memorial minutes from Portland Meeting and will forward them to the Yearly Meeting.
FQ 2022-15. Diana White has been recognized by Portland Meeting in 2021 as carrying a ministry of healing. Diana was diagnosed with cancer in early 2020. When her cancer had been treated and her scans were clear, she asked what she was to do with the life she had been given. Diana’s profession was nursing and nursing instruction, with an interest in supporting families and working in the community. She has continued to deepen her spiritual focus in her healing work as she is developing her gifts, and working regularly with a group of Nashviille Quakers who are Reiki practitioners. Diana shared that part of living with serious illness is learning to live each day fully. She shared that she has recently developed slow growing metastatic cancer in her lungs, while feeling healthier than she has for years.
FQ 2022-16 Jay O’Hara began his report reading an excerpt from Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail where Dr. King expressed his grave disappointment with the white moderates who are more devoted to order than to justice. Jay has been recognized for a prophetic outward ministry confronting the climate crises. He is feeling strongly that he is also called to the uplift and rejuvenation of our Religious Society of Friends. He feels that there is a role that Quakers have in the transformation of the world which is so necessary now. This year Jay has felt at a crossroads. His confidence was shattered and he has been reeling from this experience. He has had two concrete expressions of his ministry over the past year – offering the Bible half-hours at the 2021 annual sessions of New England Yearly Meeting and a public trial with four colleagues for their action blocking a coal train bringing coal to the Bow power plant in New Hampshire. Jay described his current condition as lonely, confused, distanced and unsettled, but trusting in God’s presence and praying for the rejuvenation of ministry in ways that are clear, humble and perhaps powerful and different from the past.
FQ 2022-17. Theresa Oleksiw shared the story of how she recognized and accepted her calling to ministry and a brief summary of how God is working through her. Theresa described her experience of being called using the phrase from Rufus Jones as “the warm intimate Touch of a guiding hand.” This Touch began with a clarity that she was to take a break from her career as a city planner and go to Music School. However, once she had earned her degree in music, she was unable to find another job in city planning in spite of her training, experience, connections and credentials. Instead, there were opportunities to work in youth ministry and to begin writing. The intimate touch seemed to be consistently guiding her to the writing. In accepting the call, Theresa’s spent her savings and found herself with her child living in poverty. At times she was lonely, frustrated and angry with God. However, once she finally accepted that this was the path she was to travel, she was able to get funding from a number of sources. Theresa shared how she felt most clearly seen by the impoverished women she met and shared stories and dinner with at community dinners. She had to learn to trust the inner voice and the inner guide in the face of people who judged her for her poverty. She is continuing to write and share the stories of those she has met in her journey, to share with food banks handbooks she has written and to advocate for the disposed in Maine.
FQ 2022-18. The State of Society report from Portland Meeting is attached to these minutes.
FQ 2022-19. We closed with Prayer grateful for the remarkable and varied ministries alive in the quarter.
Attachments: State of Society reports from Windham, and Portland. (Durham’s State of Society is not yet finalized and will be shared with the quarter when it is ready.
Windham Monthly Meeting of Friends, State of Society Report 2021
In considering the content of this report, three words came to the forefront: FAITH, GRATITUDE and PERSEVERANCE. Faith is the trusting in our Creator and His abilities and His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which mankind is justified or saved. We stand by Him as faithful believers and loyal members of His house of worship, ready to serve our calling by way of our gifts and talents as His children, ready to meet the challenges and to endure. Gratitude is feeling or being thankful, which comes from the benefits received by way of our Creator, Redeemer and friend, through life experiences and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Perseverance is a steady course of action or purpose or state of circumstances, to hold on, to continue on course and to maintain in spite of difficulties … tenacity.
Scripture gives us plenty of examples of this: i.e., Abraham’s consistent faith was rewarded (Genesis 12:10) and Daniel gives an example of being faithful regardless of circumstance (Daniel 3:16-18). Faith!
When the giving of thanks is an integral part of life, we find that our attitude toward life will change, i.e., being more positive, loving, gracious and humble. (Ps 92:1,2). Gratitude!
Because Christ lives in us, as believers we can remain courageous and hopeful and endure the hard times. It’s our faith revealed: True Christians vs. fair-weather believers. Perseverance!
Our meeting has been confronted with many challenges in recent years, among which are a shrinking congregation (due to losses by way of deaths, relocations, illnesses) and the upkeep of a historic Meetinghouse. The Pandemic and other situations have affected everything from participation to finances which affect us personally and as a group.
We are meeting all this with faith, gratitude and perseverance, remaining faithful to God’s provision, to a desire to continue as a Meeting for worship, and to being open to ways to continue on. We seek opportunities to introduce the community to our past history and ways, keeping in touch with the greater Quaker community as much as possible via Falmouth Quarterly Meeting ZOOM meetings, annual contact with our Quaker Ridge brethren, and continued support of the Girl Scout Troop that gathers in our Meetinghouse weekly. We remain prayerful with sharing Bible Study times and being grateful for opportunities to work together to increase our finances by replacing the semiannual bean suppers with a Christmas Fair in the fall. We recently received a grant from the Obadiah Brown Benevolent Fund for needed repairs to the building addition which are scheduled to begin the end of May. We welcome guests to our times of worship throughout the year and are thankful for God’s ever present help through the work of the Holy Spirit. One of our new attendees was responsible for drafting a letter to the Maine Legislature and Governor Mills voicing our support of LD1626, the Maine Indian Tribes request for more autonomy. We accept all this as God’s presence among us.
To quote Charles R. Swindoll: “God designed us to live in friendship and fellowship and community with others. That’s why the church – the body of Christ, is so very important, for it is there that we are drawn together in love and mutual encouragement. We’re meant to be a part of one another’s lives .”
This concludes the review of our thoughts and outlook as for the State of our Society here in Windham, Maine, for the year of our Lord 2021,
Respectfully submitted, Janice L. Beattie, Pastor,
Portland Friends Meeting, State of Society Report 2021
A Rough Draft Year
Last year as the pandemic continued, we gathered to listen to God in new ways. Spirit is alive and singing amongst us, sometimes by its joyful presence, or too often by the sensation of its absence. We know that to be a community of faith is to piece together glimpses of God that each of us receives until together we see the whole, and this is hard to do right now. It’s hard to see God’s whole vision for us when we can’t find a way that we can gather all together that works for every person. Sometimes, finding ways to be together as one and feel Spirit’s presence takes so much creativity and energy and hope that we get tired or lonely, and we forget our unconditional belovedness.
Sometimes Spirit’s presence (or our awareness of it) flows with ease and grace, even while the pandemic continues to surprise and disappoint us. Hope rose through the spring that vaccination would open the door to join together again in our Meetinghouse as a gathering of Faith. Our opportunities for whole meeting worship on zoom made us grateful to be able to hold worship during the pandemic for those able to be there, and sometimes Spirit would burst forth through the computer screen. We experimented with hybrid worship, but found that there was not life in it for us. This fall we had the gift of outdoor intergenerational worship and fellowship gatherings at Friends School of Portland. We were grateful for the chance to be with so many families that we have missed for the last few challenging years. The trees swayed and the clouds sashayed with joy. Some of us found just what our hearts needed in the sanctuary of a small group, often in person, like faithfulness groups or a weekday worship or a spontaneous opportunity for fellowship, where we could nurture fresh connections with each other and the Divine. Too many of us have not been able to find a way to be present with our community and this pains us.
As the cold weather arrived, we moved to zoom for first Sundays with the whole community invited to worship together to do business and to be in waiting worship. We are experimenting with nurturing new fluid small gatherings, hoping to build new connections even as we are separated.
Spirit nudges us to continue to engage in big questions even in these times when it can feel hard to hold the center. We’re not yet sure what these questions are but we’re working on finding them. We feel invited to explore: What is our purpose as a community? What is our role in the wider community? What is our responsibility to our neighbors? Two examples are our work with Family Promise helping to provide support for our neighbors in need of housing, and another is advocating for sovereignty for our Wabanaki neighbors.
We’re doing hard work on an empty belly. We are hungry for connection. We’re praying to receive the nourishment we need each day to put one foot in front of the other, together.
Portland Friends Meeting is being shaped and reshaped by the Ever-changing and the Eternal.