Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, February 21, 2021

            Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met virtually via Zoom for the conduct of business on Sunday, February 21, 2021 with 16 people present. Clerk Martha Sheldon opened the meeting with a quote from Stories That Heal by Rachel Naomi Remen: “We are all here for a single purpose: to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better.” 

1 .The January minutes were approved as printed in the Newsletter.

2. Ministry and Counsel: Renee Cote reported that Doug Bennett has developed three options for moving into hybrid worship, considering how we might meet again in the meetinghouse with the possibility of continuing to offer a digital option. Much discussion ensued, and the topic was referred back to Ministry and Counsel for further study.  These options are attached, and will be discussed in an up-coming “threshing meeting” to be scheduled by Ministry and Counsel.

            A sub- committee continues to develop the Educational Media Project, consulting with Andy Burt (Midcoast Meeting), and are working on a pilot, to be presented next month.

            Traveling Friend, Jay O’Hara, requests funds to support his work with a Midwest coalition supporting indigenous peoples’ attempt to stop the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. Jay has been involved in climate change work and direct action around water protection.  Ministry and Counsel recommends that the meeting donate $1000 toward this ministry.   More information regarding this request will be researched and brought to the March monthly meeting for approval. 

3. Nominating Committee: Kristna Evans reported for the committee. They recommend that Barbara Simon be added to the Communications Committee, and that Robert Eaton become Monthly Meeting Clerk.  A complete report will be presented in March.

4.  We approved these recommendations, extending our appreciation to Martha Sheldon for her years as clerk. 

5. Finance Committee: Sarah Sprogell presented an Accounts Report, and a well prepared FY 2020 Year End Report:

            “The year 2020 was unusual for the meeting, and indeed for the world in general, because of the world-wide corona virus pandemic that developed in the early months of the year.  Beginning in March, we closed the meetinghouse to all group gatherings, and held meeting for worship, business and committees on the digital zoom platform.  We adjusted our budget, in the expectation that many Friends might find themselves in difficult financial circumstances.

            Despite our financial concerns about uncertainty, we ended the year on very solid footing, with a total income of $71,348.46 and total operating expenses of $37,153.61.  This unexpected surplus of $34,194.85 allowed us to transfer $25,000 into our capital account, leaving us with a healthy cushion of $9,194.85.

Our income for the year was about $8000 more than expected for several reasons.

  • Our members and attenders gave generously this year, increasing our weekly and monthly contributions by about $4000.
  • The quarterly distributions from our NEYM investment funds were about $2000 higher than expected.
  • The sale of a small, unusable piece of property on Rt. 1 in Brunswick brought in $2000.

Our expenses were significantly lower than expected primarily because of our absence from the meetinghouse due to the year-long pandemic restrictions.  Thus, our operating expenses were about $20,000 less than expected for a number of reasons.

  • Committees spent very little of their budgets.
  • Our Youth Minister and Custodian offered to reduce their income based on their reduced work schedules.
  • Although we hired a Meeting Care Coordinator, the start date was late-summer, resulting in a reduced salary for the year.
  • Our fuel oil and regular building maintenance expenses were quite low because we didn’t use the building as usual. 
  • The parsonage had very few maintenance expenses this year.

            Significant events of the year included the approval to hire Mey Hasbrook as our Meeting Care Coordinator in August, and she began work in September.  We were very pleased that this long-desired goal was met in a year filled with the unexpected challenges of a pandemic.  Mey has already been a blessing in so many ways.

            Other notable financial actions included significant work being done on the meetinghouse, and the installation of a new water heater at the parsonage.  These expenses were paid from our capital account.  Together, these tasks came to about $37,000.  After approving the transfer of $25,000 from our operating surplus, we ended the year with about $20,000 remaining in our capital account.  The meetinghouse improvements, organized and carried out by Trustees include:

  • The repair and painting of the walls in the meeting room. 
  • The painting of the kitchen, the back hallway and several outside areas.
  • The removal of the old carpet in both hallways, the refinishing of the front entry floor and replacement of the back hall floor.
  • The installation of a new water treatment system and the re-plumbing of both kitchen sinks.
  • The repointing of the south-facing brick wall of the building and repairing exterior windows when needed. The complete repointing of the meetinghouse exterior will be a multi-year project.

            Our Charity account remains healthy with a balance of $13,445.86.  We were pleased to give $3600 to causes approved by the meeting in 2020.”

            A chart listing all of our accounts can be forwarded upon request.  Please contact Sarah Sprogell at sarahsprogell@gmail.com if you would like a copy.

6. Trustees:   Katharine Hildebrandt reported for the Trustees.  They have received a number of estimates for the replacements of the two oil furnaces at the meetinghouse.  They are considering options, including an additional heat pump, or maybe two.  They are hoping to have a proposal next month and plan to include the Greening of the Meetinghouse Committee in their discussion, but in the meantime, the furnaces are functioning and the building seems to be adequately heated.

            They have a report from the Modern Pest technician regarding the Parsonage.  The mouse infestation is significant and being treated.  The technician is concerned about numerous holes and rot in the foundation. The prospects of addressing the extent of the repairs needed is daunting.  Although the rental income of last year was $13,200, the expenses were approximately $8590.00, and this included the very few repair expenses.  This left a net result of approximately $4600.00.  We are very fortunate to have young tenants who do not complain very much and seem very happy living there.            

          We discussed the possibility of selling the parsonage.  There is a significant amount of expense in maintaining the property.  Concerns expressed were: being landlords is not part of our mission, a lot of work and effort is involved in looking after two old buildings, and those living there have felt isolated.  Employees (pastor, etc.) would probably prefer a housing allowance in order to purchase their own property. It was suggested that the Trustees convene a “threshing” meeting to discuss this matter in order to involve more participation.

7. Christian Education Committee:  They met on February 9th with all present. The committee includes Kim Bolshaw, Scott Barksdale, Tess Hartford, and Wendy Schlotterbeck, clerk.  They discussed the coming year, and plan to continue social distancing, meeting outside only, and masked in- person gatherings until at least September 1st unless the monthly meeting decides that they can resume gathering in the meetinghouse.  They made plans for a February 28th skating party.  They discussed collaborating with Central Maine SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), and participating in a Wabanaki Reach Educational program at which the topic will be Wabanaki history and decolonization.

8. Youth Minister: Wendy Schlotterbeck will attend anti-racist training on February 27th.

9. Peace and Social Concerns Committee: Ingrid Chalufour presented the committee’s annual report: “Peace and Social Concerns is charged with the tasks of discernment and taking action. We seek to identify current issues of importance to the Meeting and plan ways to address the issues through reflection, education, and action. We began 2020 with a continued focus on the climate crisis and an event focused on the military’s outsized carbon footprint. We provided educational materials and guidance in writing letters to our federal legislators. Soon after COVID shut us down. The committee took a break as we focused both personally and collectively on how we would stay safe and maintain our spiritual community.

            In June we regrouped on Zoom to consider how we could respond to the issue of police violence toward Blacks that was gaining new attention through the power of video footage. We planned and facilitated a series of discussions titled Becoming Antiracist. Along with the discussions, readings were posted on the Meeting website. Two paths of action grew out the third discussion and these continue to be the focus of our activities. The first, a strong interest in Indigenous sovereignty has led us to both educate ourselves and to look for ways to support the activities of the Wabanaki population in Maine. The second focus is on the social justice education of the children in our part of Maine. To meet this focus a subcommittee of P&SC was formed. Both of these sets of activities have drawn new membership to the committee and we are strongly committed to an active 2021.”

9. Mey Hasbrook, Meeting Care Coordinator, reported.  She continues to schedule meeting message bringers and is preparing a special youth-centered or intergenerational Easter worship; collaborating with Sophia’s House of Lewiston on their planning team for special event benefits and promoting these events; and is working with the Education Media Project sub-committee of Ministry and Counsel. She continues leading the Café Corner virtual meetings.         Mey is attending New England Yearly Meeting leaders’ meetings, and had conversations with NEYM Faith and Practice Revision Committee about the position of Meeting Care Coordinator.

10. Nancy Marstaller gave a report regarding our sister relationship with Velasco Meeting in Cuba. “Since Portland Friends Meeting and Durham Friends Meeting approved Portland joining in the sister relationship with Velasco and the formation of a joint committee to care for and nurture the relationship, the new committee has met three times. Nancy Marstaller and Fritz Weiss are co-clerks.

            Durham has noted and appreciated that there is new energy in the relationship with Velasco.  Our two meetings in Maine are building a stronger relationship.  Committee members are now receiving newsletters from both meetings and recognize that the first experience of inter-visitation may well be Durham and Portland visiting each other.

            An invitation to Friends in Portland and Durham is to hold Velasco in prayer as they gather.  Velasco Meeting meets on Sunday at 9:00, on Tuesdays at 7:30 the ladies meet, and on Saturdays at 8:30 pm the youth meet.  We can hold them in prayer at those times.

 Communication with Velasco is via facebook messenger.  Nancy Marstaller and Wendy Schlotterbeck from Durham and Hannah Colbert and Sydney McDowell from Portland are able to send messages; if you have messages you might like to send, please share with them.

Our meetings are open; if you are interested in being involved, please contact one of the co-clerks. Con amor, Nancy Marstaller, Wendy Schlotterbeck, Hannah Colbert, Doug Malcom, Ann Dodd-Collins, Sydney MacDowell, Fritz Weiss.”

            They have received a letter from the pastor of Velasco Friends Meeting which requests prayers for their annual assembly during the pandemic and their financial challenges regarding raised salaries required by the state.

11. Clerk Martha Sheldon received a friendly letter from our former member and pastor, Ralph Green.

12. The revision of the Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends Handbook has been circulated and was approved.  Sarah Sprogell and Renee Cote will edit the booklet for errors, etc.

Clerk Martha Hinshaw ended the meeting with spoken prayer. 

Dorothy Hinshaw, Recording Clerk