Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends continues to worship as a semi-programmed meeting, receiving planned messages, ministering to each other and offering service and witness beyond our faith community. We are strengthened by the presence of God among us, even as we also have struggled with the challenges of loss, disunity, and grief.
We are drawn together by vocal ministry that comes from a living faith that helps us to remain steadfast when faced with problems. We are lifted up by a rich music ministry. We remind ourselves that even the simple act of “showing up” can help us face challenges and difficulties with hope and faith. During times of disunity we have been nourished by the forbearance that our elders modeled so well, reassuring us that we will find a path forward.
Joys, Learnings, Strengths, Outreach
In the spring we joyfully returned to the meetinghouse, and were able to offer hybrid worship through the efforts of a core group of volunteers, to whom we are grateful. To prepare for this time, members lovingly contributed their time developing Covid protocols and guidelines for use of the meetinghouse. After a year of hybrid worship, we have learned that technology has its distractions and at times dilutes the worship of those providing the technical support during meeting. However, we remain committed to the benefits that hybrid worship offers for those who worship with us, and those who bring us messages from afar. As one member said, “I don’t like the squares but I like the people in the squares.” At the same time, we value the physical space and the experience of sitting together in the meetingroom.
Early in the year, our heating system was dramatically improved through the use of heat pumps. With thanks to our trustees, we can now celebrate our lower carbon footprint through conversion away from fossil fuels. During the summer, the stone pillars at the Lunt Cemetery were beautifully restored through the generosity of the Clarkson family. The green burial area has become an important addition to the cemetery, and is a testament to the vision of a Friend who passed from us during first year of the pandemic.
In the fall we held a listening session to remind ourselves of why we came to Durham and why we remain. It was a time of connection, reflection, and nourishment. We plan additional sessions in the future, reflecting on stewardship and other aspects of our community and our values.
Also in the fall, the memorial services of two Friends, lovingly planned and attended, reminded us of the importance of our meetinghouse to so many beyond our worshipping community.
Several members regularly contribute their exceptional musical gifts to our worship. Music at meeting for worship has always been important to us, and became more so as we wrestled with the changes brought on by our physical separation.
We have provided support committees for the spirit-led work of our members. One works in our state prisons and with formerly incarcerated people, hoping to make our communities more welcoming and their returns more successful. Another has brought forth a wonderful book about group decision making.
Additionally, several members have worked with refugees and asylum seekers who are being resettled in Maine, including supplying household kits to those who have new housing, offering low cost housing, providing occasional transportation, and donating funds for the housing aid.
Our Peace and Social Concerns Committee has focused on two important community concerns. One is the Social Justice Enrichment Project. This project provides selected teachers with a set of books that teach the values of diversity, kindness, love, and affirmation. The project works with eleven teachers in pre-K through second grade classrooms in four local schools.
Another area of focus is on legislation that supports the sovereignty of the Wabanaki people living in Maine. This includes expanding our knowledge and understanding of the tribes and their contributions to our shared environment. Taking local action, we have proposed that the Town of Brunswick consider renaming a local riverside park to more fittingly honor and recognize its historical importance to the Wabanaki tribes.
Internationally, our relationship with our sister Meeting in Velasco, Cuba remains strong. For the first time in a number of years, we have supported the preparation of a member’s journey to Cuba with Puente de Amigos to visit Velasco Friends and attend Cuba Yearly Meeting in February 2023.
Locally, we were happy to support one of our young people as she enthusiastically attended Friends Camp this summer, her “favorite place on earth.”
Loss, Sorrow, Struggle
We lost several beloved members of our Meeting in 2022: Margaret Wentworth was a bridge to our past while remaining very involved in the life of meeting right up to the end. Charlotte Ann Curtis was a beloved and memorable member of this Meeting. Helen Clarkson remained connected to us through Zoom before she passed away. Sue Wood gave us the gift of her music and gentle presence.
Serious illnesses marked a difficult passage for some; we keep them in our prayers.
We experienced disunity and deep concern within our Meeting community during tender periods of time over the past year. Finding our way through these times has not been easy. We have had to consider, at times painfully, what is required to keep everyone safe with the coronavirus remaining present in our world. As we “emerged from hibernation” brought on by the pandemic, we faced further transitions in the form of the departure of several Friends. We were grateful for the prayerful support of Friends outside of the meeting when we experienced an unexpected change of Clerk. Similarly, we were grateful to all those who supported the process of replacing our gifted treasurer upon her departure.
We are saddened by the lack of children and young families in our midst, yet continue to remain hopeful.
We are comforted by the knowledge that despite the challenges of the past year, we continue to find joy in the worship, the witness, and the work we share as part of a beloved community. We continue to look to the Light of God to guide us forward in Love.