In 2019, Durham Friends Meeting was a spiritually vital, supportive worship community in Maine’s lower midcoast. Our numbers were a little diminished this year. Nevertheless, there was strong ministry from a wide array of members. We looked after one another — sometimes in difficult situations–, and we leaned into our commitments to peace, justice and sustainability throughout the year.
On a typical First Day, we gathered a few dozen people in worship. Now in our third year as a programmed and yet unpastored Friends Meeting, messages are generally brought in turn by members of the meeting. Occasionally we invite someone from a neighboring Meeting or a Friends organization to bring a prepared message. Eighteen different members or regular attenders gave these messages this year. The honesty of these efforts at seeking and speaking the truth are the soul of our Meeting.
As we gather in worship, one or another Friend calls out a hymn for us to sing together. A few much-appreciated members of the Meeting rotate the responsibility to play the piano to accompany this hymn singing. We also close Meeting with a hymn chosen at the moment. Often there is a wonderful resonance between the hymns we sing and the messages we share.
We are a Meeting that takes delight in children, and we celebrate the births and significant moments in the lives of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of our members and regular attenders. One of our members, with assistance from others, takes care that a quilt is sewn and gifted when a child or grandchild is born, even at a distance. We provide childcare and adult Sunday school every Sunday all year and offer Sunday school during the school year for children and youth on the first and third Sundays of the month. Our Christian Education Committee sponsored several intergenerational game nights, a yard and plant sale, a Children’s Day, and wreath-making and egg painting occasions. We are especially grateful for the work of our Youth Minister.
Julie Fogg passed away in the spring, and Clarabel Marstaller passed away in the fall. A mentor to many of us, for decades Clarabel was a stalwart member, a wise and cheerful steward of both this Meeting and of New England Yearly Meeting as well. We mourn the passing of both. We welcomed a few newcomers who have joined the Meeting this year, and we miss a few who have drifted away.
We have been challenged this year to provide care for an unusual number of our members who are aging, ill, poorly housed or facing other significant life difficulties. Providing the right approach and finding the right people with sufficient time to devote has been regularly before us. We are grateful for the generosity of spirit and energy that has allowed us to meet these challenges, many of which continue.
Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee has made climate crisis issues a particular focus of attention. They hosted a film series, a youth panel and house parties to raise awareness, and sponsored climate crisis events with other churches in midcoast Maine. They also supported lobbying efforts encouraged by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Several of our members (and this has been true, too, in the past) are significantly involved in in wider engagements among Friends and the concerns that animate Friends. These include New England Yearly Meeting, Friends United Meeting, AFSC, Pendle Hill, the Center for Courage and Renewal, the Lisbon Area Christian Outreach foodbank, promoting civility in public discourse, supporting refugees, sponsoring peace vigils around Bath Iron Works (a builder of war weapons), prison reform, the Kakamega Orphan Care Center in Kenya, and opposition to gun violence. A hardworking affiliate of USFWI, our Woman’s Society continues to provide spiritual sustenance and practical support for nearly everything we do.
The Meeting continues to host a Twelve-Step Group and a Native American worship group.
Our Finance Committee gave needed attention to reorganizing the Meeting’s finances (especially its various funds and bequests), and our Trustees gave diligent attention to care for our Meetinghouse, rented parsonage and burial grounds.
We are seeking wider attention to our community’s spiritual life, fellowship and our concerns and leadings. We widened the purview of our Newsletter Committee to become a Communications Committee. With that change we are trying to see how best to communicate – in both old and new ways — with all who are a part of Durham Friends Meeting.
A very old Meeting, Durham Friends is finding ways to renew itself.
Approved at Monthly Meeting for Business on April 19, 2020