State of Society Report, 2021, Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends

From NEYM 1985 Faith and Practice: “The [State of Society] report should be a searching self-examination by the meeting and its members of their spiritual strengths and weaknesses and of the efforts made to foster growth in the spiritual life. Reports may cover the full range of interest and concerns but should emphasize those indicative of the spiritual health of the meeting.”

In 2021, Durham Friends Meeting continued to worship as a pastor-less, semi-programmed meeting. During this year we were simple Quakers, maintaining the essentials of Quaker community life: meeting for worship, meeting for business, and some fellowship whenever possible.

We open and close our meetings for worship with hymns, which form a vital source of ministry, including in their selection. We continue to be blessed with message bringers, some from outside our own community, who inspire and challenge us.

We continued to worship via Zoom, but we began the long process of moving to hybrid worship through a threshing process that led to the purchase of a “Meeting Owl.” During this process we have tried to consider what’s best for our entire community; not meeting in person allowed us to protect the more vulnerable among us in keeping with a depth of caring within our Meeting. We remain aware that there are Friends who do not enjoy Zoom, and we would like to have them present.

Friends have been willing to adapt to learn new technological skills to help our community, and gratitude has often been expressed for the task of bringing meeting via Zoom.

The worship among those present on Zoom feels strong. DFM is a group of people from a variety of conditions and traditions; we draw on our unity when faced with challenges. We are a group that enjoys being together, and come from a distance to get here when we have the opportunity to be present in the meetinghouse.

The Monday morning prayer circle holds concerns that have been raised in worship on Sunday.

Mey Hasbrook, the Meeting Care Coordinator, brought her gifts and ministry to us until June of 2021, arranging message bringers, attending to the care of worship rotation, and helping committees with events and programs. Although she no longer serves as MCC, we have continued to benefit from Mey’s messages. It was a test year for developing new tools to fill the gaps in a Meeting now five years without a pastor; direction and supervision, and support for the person tasked with these pastoral responsibilities could be better delineated.

We have fractures in our community, from tensions and challenges that arose at the end of 2021 and continued into the new year. Ministry and Counsel was tasked with assisting in the potential resolution of these tensions. We are prayerfully listening and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. Some of the fracturing is influenced by our lack of physical presence in meeting for worship and meeting for business.

We continue to be challenged to be the people we wish to be and to resolve our differences with love and compassion.

We have initiated an educational media project that will harness the talents of our young people to record the faith journeys of members of Durham Meeting.

Wendy Schlotterbeck retired as Youth Minister after over a decade of supporting the children of Durham Meeting with love and concern. As the Clerk of Meeting noted in the Minute of Appreciation (newsletter September 2021), Wendy’s ministry to our youth reminds us of George Fox’s admonition to us: “Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”

We sadly note the absence of our children and their families at Meeting as we’ve continued to worship over Zoom. Our youth minister continued to create opportunities to bring youth and families together: a skating party that became a parking lot party; hike on the Papermill Trail; Godly Play on Zoom on Easter; Children’s Day, annual plant sale, and picnic at Labrador Pond in June; at Christmas through wreath making, an outside program, with much-appreciated carol singing at various members’ homes.

We did not have active adult religious education in 2021, and many are feeling the absence.

In late August 2021 we lost Tom Frye, a beloved member of our Meeting. Loving Friends stepped forward to support Tom in the challenges he faced as his journey ended. A group of faithful and caring Friends shepherded Tom to his resting place in the green burial section of the Lunt Cemetery near his friend Sukie Rice.

We held memorial services for persons who passed in 2020. 

We continue to welcome participation from Friends outside of our immediate geographic area.

A great-grandson was welcomed.

The Peace and Social Concerns committee functions like the “mortar” between the worship “bricks” of the meeting.

Participating New Mainer children in Brunswick and Bath received 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, distributed by the Social Justice enrichment branch of the Peace and Social Concerns committee.

We along with other Friends across Maine have been engaging with legislative issues of concern regarding the Wabanaki, as well as deepening our understanding of the land we occupy and our relationship with Maine tribes. As noted on the Durham Friends Meeting website, “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 . . . and all of the Native communities who have lived here for thousands of generations in what is known today as Maine, New England, and the Canadian Maritimes.” 

Responding to the increase in Afghan refugees in Maine, the Peace and Social Concerns committee recommended and Meeting responded with a financial donation and consideration of donation of necessities to these families.

We are learning new ways to support Friends in the callings they have heard.

We continue to engage and connect with Falmouth Quarter and to be part of the Velasco, Cuba–Durham/Portland Meeting sister relationship. We participate in setting the priorities of Friends Committee on National Legislation, we maintain our ties to Friends United Meeting, and we continue to provide assistance to Friends Camp. 

We updated and made significant revisions to our Meeting Handbook, a practice we commend as highly useful.

The Woman’s Society of Durham Friends Meeting met each month this past year, as it has done for decades, with the purpose of supporting ministries across the world and ministries in Maine. Cards and prayers for those in need were sent out each month. Programs and devotions shared by attenders to encourage and challenge were on courage, simplicity, faith, “Come, Abide, Go,” “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and more. Outreach and financial support was given through Monthly Tedford house homeless shelter meals, donations to USFWI Children and Youth projects, Warm Thy Neighbor heating assistance, Midcoast Hunger prevention programs, Good Shepherd food pantry, Friends in Belize projects, Wayfinder schools, and New Beginnings. Inreach has been offered in the well-loved hand-made quilts by Dorothy Curtis for the babies of the Meeting community.

We continue to participate in the work of the Lisbon Area Christian Outreach and the Brunswick Area Interfaith Council.

One member who works among veterans has offered us a wider view of the struggles and conditions of veterans and their families. 

In 2021, after thoughtful consideration and with some sadness, the parsonage was sold. A discernment group for use of the funds has been formed. Ongoing issues in the meetinghouse, such as replacing the furnace, pest control, and repairs, are part of the challenges of owning and caring for a beloved, almost 200-year-old building in the context of rising concerns about good stewardship of the Earth.

As with our meetinghouse, we are a community of aging persons who are challenged by how best to care for ourselves within this sustainable context, and continue to live faithfully, loving God, loving our neighbors and caring for our community.

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