“Returning to the Land” Webinars from Toward Right Relationship

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UPDATE: Peace and Social Concerns is asking that Friends meet at the Meetinghouse to view these webinars together (and to do the readings suggested beforehand). .

The Peace & Social Concerns Committee at Durham Friends Meeting Invite you to a Webinar Series, January-February 2024:

“Returning to the Land” by Nia To Go There (Cree) 

Nia To Go There, PhD will offer a series of four webinars that are co-sponsored by Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples and Decolonizing Quakers (both national Quaker organizations). Nia will recommend short readings for each program. 

January 13, 3:30-5 pm: “Returning to the Land: Cultural Perspectives.” Readings for this first session are AT THIS LINK.

January 27, 3:30-5 pm: “Returning to the Land: Seeing with a Native Eye.” Readings for this second session are AT THIS LINK.

February 10, 3:30-5 pm: “Returning to the Land: Colonization.” Readings for this third session are AT THIS LINK.

February 24, 3:30-5 pm: “Returning to the Land: Decolonization.”

Durham Friends look forward to some collective thinking about how we bring the important messages from these sessions home to Maine.

We hope to see you for all or some of these sessions at our Meetinghouse, 532 Quaker Meetinghouse Rd, Durham ME 04222.

Please contact Ingrid Chalufour at ichalufour@gmail.com with questions or to ask to have recommended readings forwarded to you.

Letter Writing Party for Maine Gun Safety, via Zoom, February 29, 7pm

Portland Friends Meeting (and others) invite us to participate in a Zoom Letter Writing Party for Maine Gun Safety — to be held on Leap Day, February 29, 2024.

Here are the details:

(to avoid zoom bombing you’ll have to quickly take a moment to register)

  • Not sure what to say in your letter? We’ll send you a template you could use, or you can write your own if you feel inspired! More materials HERE.

Come spend an hour with Quakers and others throughout Maine by writing letters to your legislators, Janet Mills, or the newspaper, to promote the four priorities of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition.

Make it even more of a party by invite friends to join you in person at your home, and then log on together!

Can’t make the party? That’s ok, you can write a letter on your own time. Attached is a Letter to the Editor Toolkit, and you can also use that to help you reach out to Janet Mills or your legislator. Find your legislators here: https://nrcm.salsalabs.org/mainelegislatorlookup/index.html.

Also, we’re attaching a list of high-priority legislators who could use more nudging on this issue. Most of them are outside of Greater Portland (although one is in part of Westbrook and Windham). But please take a few minutes with the list, and if you know someone who lives in one of these towns, please reach out to them to contact their legislator, and invite them to this zoom party. This is how the work gets done!

Hosted by members of Portland Friends Meeting and Durham Friends Meeting, open to all!

Rob Levin and Heather Denkmire and Valerie Todd and Leslie Manning

Questions: email rob@roblevin.net.

Swearing an Oath, by Doug Bennett

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, February 18, 2024

“He swore an oath.”  What does that mean and why does anyone do it? “He swore an oath.”   That’s what’s on my mind this morning. 

Notice that “he swore an oath” could mean two quite different things.  It could mean, he said a lot of bad words in frustration or anger, words that no one should say and certainly not in a bad, loud tone of voice.  Or “he swore an oath” could mean he mean that, on a solemn and important occasion, he assured us that he would do all that was expected of him.  Like when the newly elected President stands on the steps of the Capitol and says certain words with his hand on the Bible in front of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and tens of thousands of others.  “He swore an oath:”  oddly, two quite different meanings. 

This morning, it’s the second meaning I have in mind: the solemn and important occasions, the assurances that are  given, the magic words that are spoken.  Just the second meaning. 

Here’s an example, an oath a witness in a criminal trial is likely to be asked to give:  “I swear that the evidence that I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

Notice, of course that God is invoked here.  The oath is given knowing that God is right there as a witness.  The implication is that if I swear this oath and don’t do what I’m swearing I’ll do, there be divine punishment.  (That’s why it is a solemn occasion when we swear an oath. The original – 14th century – meaning of solemn” is “performed with due religious ceremony or reverence.”)

Of course, we Quakers know – don’t we – that God is always right at hand, paying attention to all that we do.  So what’s the point of an oath?  And you probably know that Quakers from our earliest days have refused to swear oaths.  We have often gotten in trouble for it.  In the 17th century, many Quakers went to jail simply because they would not swear an oath that was asked of them. 

Why is that?  Well, because of Matthew 5:37:  37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” 

Or James 5:12:  “12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.”

And because of these two verses in the Bible, and because of  how Friends understand what God is saying through them, Quakers have a testimony against swearing oaths.  Here’s how the Advices from NEYM’s F&P puts it:  )  “Let us maintain integrity in word and deed.  Holding to the simplicity of truth, let us keep free of oaths”  (p 207).  

And here’s how Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s 1955 Faith and Practice put it:  “Friends regard the custom of taking oaths as not only contrary to the teachings of Jesus but as implying the existence of a double standard of truth.  Thus, on all occasions when special statements are required, it is recommended that Friends take the opportunity to make simple affirmations, thus emphasizing that their statements are only a part of their usual integrity of speech” (p20).

This admonition against swearing oaths is a part of our Testimony of Integrity.  To swear an oath to tell the truth, Friends have believed for hundreds of years, is to imply that you might not be telling the truth when you do not swear an oath.  That’s the ‘double standard.’  We believe we should always be telling the truth and telling it straightforwardly.  Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Instead, we make simple affirmations when expected to ’swear an oath’, and we remind people that we endeavor always to speak the truth. 

So Quakers don’t swear oaths, but other people do.  What do these other people think they are doing in swearing an oath?  I agree we shouldn’t swear oaths, but there’s something in oath swearing worth noticing.  What do people think they are doing?

I want to acknowledge, in truth, that all this is on my mind and on my heart because the business of swearing oaths has been much in the news.  And that’s because oath swearing is in the U.S. Constitution in several places. 

The President is asked to swear this oath before taking office:  “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” (Article II, section 1, clause 8).

For members of Congress, the Constitution provides that they “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.”  The exact words of that oath are up to Congress and here’s the current version:  I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

This business of swearing oaths seems a little quaint, doesn’t it, a little old-fashioned.  Maybe it made sense back when people really worried that God would strike them dead on the spot (maybe a lightning bolt?) if they had their fingers crossed when they swore an oath, or simply thought, ‘who is this God; this God will never catch me?’

So, again, why do we do this?  Or more bluntly, if someone isn’t going to support the Constitution, why wouldn’t they just lie?  Why does saying the words matter?  Wouldn’t someone who lies be prepared to lie while taking the oath? 

Think of what’s happening when you swear an oath.  You are speaking in front of others, probably a crowd of people, some of them holding positions of importance.  You know they will hear you say this oath.  Maybe that puts you on your best behavior.  Maybe even for selfish reasons, you care what they think.  So shaming is at work. 

You are also hearing yourself say the words.  Maybe that doesn’t mean much, but maybe it does.  It reminds you that you are promising to do the right things.  So embarrassment is at work here. 

And of course you are speaking out loud to God.  Maybe that means something to you.  If it does, then fear and awe, and the promise of redemption are at work here.

There’s an understanding of human nature bound up in our having this requirement to swear oaths in the Constitution.  It’s an understanding that knows that people sometimes act selfishly or meanly.  It’s an understanding that realizes people sometimes just do what’s best for themselves and the hell with anyone else.  

But it’s also an understanding that knows that people can act honestly and generously, with the welfare of others fully in mind.  The oath is an effort to call people to their best selves.  The oath is sworn to draw someone to that best self.  It’s an occasion to remember God is listening, and will remember.  There’s a religious backdrop, no doubt about it, no matter what God you believe in. 

I’m not trying to make a narrowly political or partisan point here, really, I’m not.  I’m asking us to notice that in this business of oath swearing is a view of human nature that has a religious underlay that our Founders thought important, even as they also believed in the religious liberty voiced in the First Amendment.  This view of human nature is far from cynical.  I know there are days I can slip into thinking ‘everyone is just in it for himself.’  ‘What did I expect?  Of course all politicians are corrupt’ always, always.

That’s not my best self, however, and it doesn’t expect that others have their own best selves.  A different understanding of human nature is far more accurate.  We Quakers believe that God can and will speak to each of us if we still ourselves and listen. 

This business of oath swearing is a reminder that the Founders of our nation believed that people could stoop to selfish, corrupt behavior but also believed that people could be called to their best selves.  Swearing an oath is one way to do that.  There’s nothing magic about it; it doesn’t always work.  We shouldn’t elect people who will swear a false oath.  But when we elect someone who can act honestly and generously, let’s also ask them to swear an oath that they will promise to act out of their best selves.  It nudges them in the right direction. 

What else nudges us to be our best selves?  We should think about that, even as we Quakers reject the swearing of oaths.  We, too, believe, maybe more than most people, that we can all be called to our best selves, and we probably need nudges, too. 

I believe we all have worst selves and best selves, selfish selves and loving selves.  How do we find it in ourselves, regularly, to be at our best?   That takes effort.  It takes nudges,  If oath swearing doesn’t do it for us, what does?  For me, I know coming here on Sundays helps.  I know prayer helps.  I know our Quaker advices and queries help.  I know having a spouse and friends with high expectations helps. 

This is a challenge for each of us. 

Also posted on River View Friend

God Has No Hands But Yours, Teresa of Ávila

At the opening of worship at Durham Friends Meeting on February 18, 2024, Diana White read the following, from Teresa of Ávila

God has no body now on earth but yours,

No hands but yours, 

No feet but yours, 

Yours are the eyes through which he is to look out 

God’s compassion to the world; 

Yours are the feet with which he is to go about 

Doing good; 

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, January 21, 2024

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met for the conduct of business on Sunday, January 21, 2024, with ten people in attendance at the Meetinghouse and two attending by Zoom. Nancy Marstaller clerked the meeting.

1.     Meeting Opening

Clerk opened the meeting by reading a prayer by Douglas Steere.

“O Blessed Companion, place on our souls a holy bridle by which we may be held back when it is right to pause, and touched forward when it is right to move. And give us the grace to heed Thy gentle touch. Make us willing to leave gladly to others what are their tasks and to buckle on quietly and for the duration, those things that have been laid upon us to carry as far as we are able. May we carry these things with easy minds, knowing well that the giver of the task is also the giver of the strength to fulfill it. Amen.”

2.     Approval of Minutes of December 2023 — Ellen Bennett

          Meeting approved the minutes.

3.     Finance Committee — Nancy Marstaller

        Committee is asking for Meeting approval for the following two items:

That Doug Bennett and Sarah Sprogell have electronic access to Norway Savings for the purpose of approving the automatic payments of offerings to our checking account and producing a list that will be given to our bookkeeper to record in Quickbooks.

               Meeting approved.

Adding Doug Bennett as an additional person authorized to sign checks, and approved keeping Sarah Sprogell as an additional signer.                                                                                                                                                            Meeting approved.

4.     Charity Fund Request 2nd Approval — Nancy Marstaller

Second request for approval for $1,000 from the Charity Fund to be donated to Warm Thy Neighbor.

               Meeting approved.

5.     Ministry and Counsel — Tess Hartford and Renee Cote

Woman’s Society will be working on Memorial Minutes for Charlotte Ann Curtis and Helen Clarkson. M&C will reach out to Kitsie Hildebrand’s family to ask about writing and submitting a Memorial Minute for her.

Tess read a draft Memorial Minute for Margaret Wentworth. It was suggested that the Minute include her work with Falmouth Quarter and add some basic biographical material.

Covid protocol update: People are reminded to err on the side of caution. Mask-wearing is encouraged, and people are requested not to attend Meeting if ill. Current strain is not as virulent, but more contagious.

Meeting Care Coordinator will report to M&C monthly, which in turn will bring any concerns to Meeting for Business. Co-Clerks of M&C are responsible for bringing MCC report to Monthly Meeting.

The MCC Search Committee will bring a suggestion to Monthly Meeting regarding the composition of the oversight/support committee and it’s relationship to M&C.  The Search Committee is asked to bring the recommendation in March.

6.     Trustees Report — Sarah Sprogell

        Annual Report was summarized. Please see attachment.                                                     

7.     Peace and Social Concerns — Ingrid Chalufour

        Annual Report was read. Please see attachment.

The Meeting expressed its deep appreciation to this Committee for the amazing work it has done, with respect to both education and outreach.

8.     Website 2023 Report — Doug Bennett

Much of this annual report includes data on website use, visit and views. Note that the website is a form of outreach for the Meeting. People who would like to see something on the website are asked to submit what they would like to see in writing. People are also encouraged to link to the Durham Friends website from their own social media sites to add to the Meeting’s outreach.

Ease and accessibility of the site have been noticed and lauded by others. It was suggested that we revisit our Facebook page. Should we have one and have the focus be on events? Review this question again next month.

9.     Nominating Committee — Linda Muller

The attached report was read. Note that Nancy Marstaller is stepping off of the committee. Please bring ideas for potential nominees to the Meeting. The committee is looking for one more person. The Meeting expressed its gratitude for the work of the committee, and for Linda as Clerk. Linda has stepped out of the role of Clerk of Nominating; a new Clerk has not been determined.

        Tess Hartford will be Clerk of the Meeting next month.

10.   Other Business

Craig Freshley is planning a concert to raise money for New Mainers. Meeting members agree to help with set-up and clean-up of space and refreshments, as well as the website.

                 Meeting approves sponsoring the concert, with support from Meeting members.     

11.   Closing Worship

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Bennett, Recording Clerk

Attachments:

Agenda and Materials for Durham Monthly Business Meeting, February 18, 2024

The agenda, reports and other materials for the February 18, 2024 business meeting of Durham Monthly Meeting can be found HERE

Agenda for DMMF Monthly Meeting Feb. 2024

Opening reading

Approval of Nancy Marstaller as clerk for meeting

  1. Approval of last month’s minutes
  2. Approval of Margaret Wentworth memorial minute
  3. Reading of Sue Wood memorial minute
  4. Finance Committee
    • 2023 End of year budget report
      • 2023 Annual report
  5. Ministry and Counsel report
  6. Trustees report
  7. P&SC report
  8. Library Committee Annual Report
  9. Other

“Prayer” by Maya Angelou

At a Meeting for Worship for Healing on February 11, 2024, Leslie Manning led us in the following:

Prayer by Maya Angelou (call and response) 

Father, Mother, God, 

Thank you for your presence 

during the hard and mean days. 

For then we have you to lean upon. 

For this we give thanks 

Thank you for your presence 

during the bright and sunny days, 

for then we can share that which we have 

with those who have less. 

For this we give thanks 

And thank you for your presence 

during the Holy Days, for then we are able 

to celebrate you and our families 

and our friends. 

For this we give thanks 

For those who have no voice, 

we ask you to speak. 

We ask your mercy.

For those who feel unworthy, 

we ask you to pour your love out 

in waterfalls of tenderness. 

We ask your mercy. 

For those who live in pain, 

we ask you to bathe them 

in the river of your healing. 

We ask your mercy. 

For those who are lonely, we ask 

you to keep them company. 

We ask your mercy. 

For those who are depressed, 

we ask you to shower upon them 

the light of hope. 

We ask your mercy. 

Dear Creator, You, the borderless 

sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the 

world that which we need most—Peace. 

Amen

“Our Anti-Bias Curriculum,” by Ingrid Chalufour

Ingrid Chalufour brought the message at Durham Friends Meeting on February 4, 2024

Today I bring good news. Your money for children’s books is well spent. The 7 teachers who worked with us this fall have completed a process of using books to help them create an anti-bias classroom community. Basically, we have layered an anti-bias approach onto what they already do to create community. A definition:

“Anti-bias curriculum is an approach to early childhood education that sets forth values-based principles and methodology in support of respecting and embracing differences and acting against bias and unfairness.” From Teaching for Change

Note that we not only introduce injustice but we let children know they can do something about it.

The teachers received books about kindness; books that elicited empathy including topics such as homelessness and bullying; books that introduced all kinds of diversity (race, ethnicity, family structure, gender). They wrote reflections for us about the use of the books and the children’s responses. In conclusion, they wrote reflections about the impact of the whole unit. Their stories have provided evidence that the books do have an impact on children’s learning and on the teachers as well. I will share a few quotes:

Jeanne, who teaches a combined 1st-2nd Grade wrote, “I see that my work has had an impact this year because… my students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas about the similarities and differences between us. I think the sense that any of these topics (race, ethnicity, language, religion, other aspects of culture…) are open for discussion and wondering is a key aspect of the anti-bias classroom. The other key component is the idea that we can each make a difference…. We all have such a long way to go but pure curiosity, without judgement, in a space of caring is how we start the journey.”

Aja, a PreK teacher wrote, “The books and conversations we had helped create a safe space where our ideas are not right or wrong but used to build knowledge from one another. We found joy in our physical differences and people colors are now widely used and discussed in the classroom. Children went home and talked about learning about melanin. We challenged some biases around gender stereotypes, abilities, and family and home structures. The kindness book was a wonderful book to read over and over and was such a simple yet helpful book in establishing a caring classroom community.”

From Emma another 1st-2nd Grade teacher, “I believe that because I made an effort to have open and honest conversations about identity, the children became more comfortable talking about the different ways they identify and the different ways people in their community identify. We spent time defining words like ‘empathy’, ‘race’, ‘diversity’, ‘community’. I know the majority understand these words because when I first asked what they meant, few students raised their hands and their answers were off-base; now when we have conversations revolving around those topics, it’s clear that we don’t need to define them because they are either a) using those words, or b) able to answer the questions I pose that contain those key words. I think in these early stages of language acquisition, this is a critical piece.”

Finally, from Kate a Kindergarten teacher, “Adding this layer has made me look more closely at the curriculum in order to figure out where could I weave in these books, so along with content students are experiencing, accepting, celebrating differences.”

We, the work group, are continually learning from the work of the teachers and from the consultants who are informing our journey. The teachers work this fall has taught us that spending time on creating an anti-bias classroom community is an essential foundation to the social justice work that follows which is exploring the Black experience in America and Wabanaki studies, with attention to care of the environment.

As we move from creating community to this new work about People of Color, we are introducing racism. Some ask why do you introduce 4- to 8-year-old children to racism. A primary reason is that small children are keen observers of the world. They are noticing similarities and differences and forming opinions, making judgements. When their judgements are made in the white dominant culture, they can begin to discriminate. At the same time these children are very quick to see unfairness. It is the perfect time to introduce the unfairness of racism. The question we have tackled recently is how do you do this. Young children are concrete thinkers so you must scaffold the message, moving from experiences the children can identify with to more abstract concepts like race. It is also essential to our approach that introducing any injustice is accompanied by the idea that you can do something about it.

Recently I happened upon a book at Curtis Library that does all of this. It is just the perfect book as our teachers transition to their new topic this winter and spring so we bought one for each of them and I will share it with you now: Our Skin, by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli and Isabel Roxas.

Important Wabanaki Legislation, 131st Legislature, February 2, 2024

The following information, and more, can be found on the Wabanaki Alliance Bill Tracker website at https://www.wabanakialliance.com/131st-bill-tracker/  The bills listed below are currently being targeted for your support. They will be voted on by the House and the Senate in the near future. 

TAKE ACTION:  Contact your legislators. Contact your legislators and ask them to vote YES on LD 25 and LD 294.

To find your legislators go to www.maine.gov  and type voter lookup into the search bar. Select Government: eDemocracy: Voter Information Lookup and enter the name of your town.

LD 25: An Act to Provide Indigenous Peoples Free Access to State Parks

Sponsor: Sen. Craig V. Hickman, D-Kennebec
The Wabanaki Alliance supports this bill. 

SUMMARY
This bill provides that a member of a federally recognized Indian nation, tribe or band is not required to pay a fee for admission to or use of any state owned park or historic site managed by the state of Maine. An amendment to the bill proposed in committee also waives camping fees. 

STATUS: Vote coming soon. 
The Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry held a public hearing on Jan. 25. The committee voted that the bill ought to pass as amended. It will go to the Senate next for a vote. 

LD 294: An Act to Include a Tribal Member in the Baxter State Park Authority

Sponsor: Rep. Benjamin T. Collings, D-Portland
The Wabanaki Alliance supports this bill. 

SUMMARY
This bill would add a Wabanaki citizen to the Baxter State Park Authority, which has full power in the control and management of Baxter State Park. The nominee would be appointed by the governor based on a joint recommendation by tribal governments of the Mi’kmaq Nation, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik and the Penobscot Nation.
STATUS: The Legislature will vote soon. 
The Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry held a public hearing and work session during the first half of the legislation session. An additional work session was held January 17 and the majority of the committee voted the bill ought to pass as amended. 

Leslie Manning Recorded in Ministry

At the January 27, 2024 gathering of Falmouth Quarterly Meeting, Leslie Manning was recorded in Ministry. She had been recommended by Durham Friends Meeting. The Quarterly Meeting acted after hearing the report of a visiting committee composed of Maggie Fiori, Fritz Weiss, Kim Bolshaw, and Mia Bella D’Augellia.

Recording of Ministers varies among Yearly Meetings. A useful history of the recording of Ministers among Friends can be found here.

Durham Friends Meeting has four other recorded ministers: James Douglas, Edwin Hinshaw, Martha Hinshaw Sheldon and Carol Marshburn.

James Nayler’s Last Words

At Falmouth Quarterly Meeting on January 27, 2024, held at Durham Friends Meeting, Brian Drayton led a worship sharing session on James Nayler‘s last words. With a short introduction from Britain Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice, here are those last words:

In 1659 [James Nayler] sought to be reconciled with George Fox, from whom he had become estranged, but was rebuffed. William Dewsbury was at last instrumental in bringing a reconciliation, and James Nayler resumed his Quaker service, ‘living in great self-denial and very jealous of himself’.

In 1660, after his release, he set out on foot for the north, intending to go home to his wife and children. On the way, he was robbed and bound, and found towards evening in a field. He was taken to a Friend’s house near King’s Ripton, where he died. These were some of his last words:

There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end.

Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations.

As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other.

If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God.

Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind.

In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It’s conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered.

I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.

“We Enter Singing, Then Fall Silent Before the Lord,” by Doug Bennett

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, January 21, 2024

“Make a joyful noise.”  “Come into his presence with singing.” In recent weeks Craig has gotten us talking about prayers.  Today I want to talk about singing. 

One of the things that led me to drift away from religion when I was younger was that very little of what religion involved made any sense to me, and no one really tried to explain it to me.  Church was different from anything else in life.  That was clear.  But why?  Just to be different?  As I grew older, I started realizing Church was supposed to help make sense of things that went on the rest of the week, a different more all-encompassing sense.  But – and this was a problem for me – Church itself didn’t make any sense. 

Every week it was the same pattern in my Presbyterian Church.  Organ playing, a hymn sung while the minister walked down the aisle, an Old Testament Reading, a prayer, a New Testament reading, an offering, the Doxology, a responsive reading, and so on, eventually a sermon.  And of course, I came to realize it was different at other churches.  Why do we do all this, I wondered?  Why our pattern? Why not the others?  There seemed to be no answer other than “this is the way,” “this is the way we’ve done it for ages and ages.”  For me, that didn’t make any sense. 

That was just how it was:  many things about going to church were different, even odd, yet left unexplained.  No one ever said, “here’s the deal;”  or “this is why we do it this way.”  This is why we sing; this is how and why we pray, and so forth. 

I mentioned “The Doxology.”  That was an especially puzzling word.  Most hymns are known by their first line.  I now know the Doxology is a special kind of hymn, one tacked on to the end of something else, like an offering.  It’s a word from the Greek meaning literally “a speaking of praise.”  The idea of singing such a thing reaches back to Jewish worship liturgy.  There are a few different Doxologies, but in most Churches, they use the same one each week.  There isn’t a Doxology in our Quaker Worship in Song hymnals (Quakers for the most part don’t use a Doxology) but there are a few in our brown hymnals, The Singing Church.  Let’s sing one: #556.  (This Doxology, by the way, comes from a psalm, Psalm 150). 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  Amen

You can see it’s a joyful noise, a hymn of praise to God.  And it’s brief, just one stanza; it adds a little excitement to something that has just happened. Think of it as an exclamation point after whatever just proceeded it. 

No one ever said why we sang the Doxology right after the offering was taken. It was like the Bible: no one ever said what that was, either.  It was just there, and ponderous.  Also, a little odd.  No one ever said ‘here is a book written over time by many people telling stories about people being faithful to God, and people not being faithful to God, and about what happened next.  Thinking about all these stories can help you be more faithful to God.’   (Maybe you would explain what the Bible is in a different way than what I just said, but any explanation would be better than none at all.)

One of the many reasons I became a Quaker is that we have a simpler form of worship, and we often talk about why we do it the way we do.  Like why we settle into silence or stillness.  When we Quakers are not being silent, we talk about that, about why we fall silent to listen to God, and what we hope we do after one or another of us hears from God. 

Sunday School made a little more sense.  I learned some things there.  At the Presbyterian Church my family attended, there were two Bible passages we all learned by heart.  Perhaps you did, too.  (I know Ellen did.)  Both passages were Psalms.  We learned the 23d and the 100th Psalms. 

But still, as I recollect it, no one explained to me, then, what a Psalm was.  There they were in the middle of the Bible, pretty different from the stuff that came before or came after inn the Bible.  Sometimes they were part of what was read or recited as part of a Church service.  Why? I had no idea. 

 It was some years later that I realized that the psalms were songs.  Now I even know that the word “psalm” means “a sacred poem or song, especially one expressing praise or thanksgiving.”  The word “psalm” comes from a Greek word meaning “a song sung to a harp” or more simply “something plucked.”  That Greek word found its way into Church Latin, and then into English.  The Hebrew word, by the way, for that book in the Bible is “Tehillim,” meaning “songs of praise.”

Here at Durham Friends, we begin worship with a song, and we end worship with a song.  I like that.  I’m grateful that Dorothy Hinshaw and Nancy Marstaller play the piano for us.  And KJ Williams before, and Sukie Rice especially encouraged our singing, and Craig Freshley sings occasionally for us, and now Ezra and Laura.  Tess has a striking voice, and really, all of us sing.

You probably know not all Quakers do it this way.  It’s more an Evangelical or Friends United Meeting way of doing things than a Friends General Conference or Conservative Friends way of doing things.  I first became a Quaker at Germantown Meeting, part of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.  Hymn singing was definitely not part of the regular worship service there.  We gathered in silence, and we ended in silence.  Hymns might be sung as part of a midweek potluck supper gathering, but not during First Day Worship.  Not.  No. 

Psalms 23 and 100.  I spoke earlier of those two.  Today, I hear the 23d more often than the 100th, but today it is the 100th that is on my mind.  Like the Doxology, it urges us to praise God, but it says more.  Here it is, from the King James version of the Bible. 

100th Psalm

1Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness:

come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God:

it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,

and into his courts with praise:

be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good;

his mercy is everlasting; and

his truth endureth to all generations.

It is not only a psalm – a song – it is also a psalm about singing – about singing a song of praise and thanksgiving.  It is a song giving us some guidance about how to worship God. 

If you look more closely, you’ll see that this psalm consists of four instructions followed by three reasons.  (Now here’s somebody explaining what the deal is – why we do things the way we do.)  The instructions are about how to worship God.  Remember Craig’s three kinds of prayer: please, thanks, sorry?  The instructions in the 100th psalm – there are four of them —  are these:  sing, serve, know God, and be thankful. 

Sing:                1Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve:              Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know God:      Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Be thankful:     Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Why should we do these things?  That’s the subject of the three reasons that come at the end of this psalm.  Like many Psalms, the 100th takes a turn in its middle.  It starts out one way, and then it shifts to another.  Sometimes that’s a change in focus or in voice or in perspective.  Here the change is from encouraging us to sing our praises to God towards giving reasons for such singing:  serving, knowing and thanking God. 

In a nutshell, those reasons are goodness, mercy and truth. 

God is goodness through and through. 

God’s mercy extends to every person through all time. 

And God’s truth is rock-solid and eternal. 

Here are the words of the psalm.

For the Lord is good;

his mercy is everlasting; and

his truth endureth to all generations.

You might also be thinking that this Psalm is like a prayer, and I think you’d be right.  Psalms are songs, but they are also prayers of a sort, ones that praise God and voice our thanks. 

So I’m thinking, that’s a good reason we sing as we enter our worship (we make a joyful noise), and why we sing at the end.  That’s the deal.   We sing our praises to God, then we fall silent to hear what God has to say to us, and then we sing again in praise as we leave worship. 

Also posted on River View Friend

Durham Friends Woman’s Society Minutes, January 15, 2024

Present: Dorothy Curtis, Kim Bolshaw, Sarah Sprogell, Dot Hinshaw, Ann Ruthsdottir, Nancy Marstaller

  1. In the absence of Susan Gilbert, Nancy will take minutes.
  2. We drafted a memorial minute for Margaret Wentworth.  Nancy will type it up and send it out for suggestions, also send to Ministry and Counsel members for review and see if they want it brought to this Sunday’s monthly meeting.
  3. We wrote cards for friends.
  4. The treasurer’s report was read and accepted. Our current balance is $50.96. Tonight’s offering was $20.
  5. The January Tedford Shelter meal was ham, potatoes, green vegetable, drinks, and dessert. Team C, led by Sarah and Dorothy, will provide the February meal. We received a thank you card from the Tedford staff.
  6. We enjoyed working on the memorial minute as a group, and decided that next month we will draft one for Charlotte Ann Curtis. Looking ahead, we plan to draft ones for Helen Clarkson and Kitsie Hildebrandt.

Nancy Marstaller, secretary pro tem

Agenda and Materials for Durham Friends Business Meeting, January 21, 2024

Reports and Other materials for the business meeting can be found at this site.

Agenda for Durham Monthly Meeting Jan. 21, 2024

1. Opening

2. Approval of last month’s minutes

3. Finance Committee report with action items

4. Woman’s Society Charity Fund request for Warm Thy Neighbor
     - 2nd approval

5. Ministry and Counsel 
     Margaret Wentworth memorial minute
   
6. Trustees Annual Report

7. Peace & Social Concerns Annual Report, updates

8. Website 2023 Report

9.Nominating Committee report
     Resignation of individual

“Breach of the Peace,” Iona Community

At worship this past Sunday (January 14, 2024), Leslie Manning brought the message. You can see and hear a recording of the lecture here (password is UL7WA?zi). She read this poem from the Iona Community:

She also read this passage from William Penn:

True religion does not draw men out of the world but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it. — William Penn

Durham Friends Woman’s Society Minutes, December 21, 2023

Present: Dorothy Curtis, President, Nancy Marstaller, Treasurer, Susan Gilbert Secretary, Wendy Schlotterbeck, Kim Bolshaw, Tess Hartford.

We met at  Dorothy Curtis’ home and combined our meeting with the traditional WS Christmas party and gift exchange, held for the first time since 2019.  Surrounded by Dorothy’s collections of Christmas ornaments, and tree, we shared fun and laughter, conducted our meeting, signed cards to Friends, and enjoyed tasty Christmas cookies, hot herbal tea, grown and blended by Kim, and  delicious fruitcake made by Dorothy from Clarabel Marstaller’s recipe.

Cards: For Friends. Wendy has cards to donate to the WS card ministry.

Program: We took turns reading from Blueprints, “Showing Up In The Neighborhood”, by Margaret Fraser an American Quaker now based in Northern Ireland. Scripture: Luke 6:37 -38. “ Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”  Margaret felt called to move to Ireland, and settled near  East Belfast.  In this area of  religious and social divisions, poverty and unrest, drug gangs,   Margaret volunteers at the Methodist Church’s East Belfast Mission which offers “An urban regeneration project in inner East Belfast providing shared space for community transformation and renewal… It’s about providing shared space for people from all backgrounds and communities in East Belfast.” 

Minutes: Not available at the meeting.

Treasurer’s Report: November’s offerings were $18. Nancy paid the annual WS dues. We have $50.96. in our account. Our request for $1000. from the DF Charity Fund to be given to Warm Thy Neighbor  passed first approval at the monthly business meeting.

Telford Meal: Team A, Kim and Wendy provided scalloped potatoes with and without ham, carrots, broccoli, and a big pumpkin pie. January, Nancy’s team B will be cooking. She suggested that some of her large active team could be moved to teams with fewer volunteers. Kim offered to help any team if she is called.

New Business: Nancy suggested that our January 15 meeting be spent writing the Memorial Minute for Margaret Wentworth and others who have passed.

Dorothy ended the business meeting with a traditional Shaker poem:

Respectfully Submitted, Susan Gilbert

Falmouth Quarter to meet Saturday, January 27th at Durham Meeting, 11:30 to 5 pm.

UPDATED 24.1.30 Minutes of the session can be found here.

UPDATED 24.1.24 Agenda and Materials for the Quarterly Meeting gathering can be found here

You are invited to attend the Falmouth Quarterly Meeting from 11:30 to 2:45 at Durham Friends Meeting. 

We will have a simple Meal available 11:30 to 12:30.

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business will begin at 12:40 and conclude by 1:25. The agenda and two proposed minutes are at this link.

To attend the business meeting by zoom, use this link: durham meeting zoom link. The password is 1775

We are excited to welcome Brian Drayton, who  will lead a program and discussion, entitled “There is a Spirit which I feel… James Naylor’s Last Words” from 1:30 to 2:45.

“There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.”

An opportunity to stay for the second session of the webinar, Returning to the Land, “Seeing with a Native Eye”  from 3:00 to 5:30, a four part program that Peace and Social Committee of Durham Monthly Meeting is offering .  Readings for this session are available at this link: returning to the land

EARLIER POSTING:

Falmouth Quarter will meet on Saturday January 27th at Durham Meeting.

The draft schedule follows.

11: 30 gather and simple lunch

12:45 opening worship and brief business meeting

1:30 – 2:45  Program focused on James Naylor’s last statement facilitated by Brian Drayton:

“There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.”

Those who wish to can stay for the Program hosted by Durham’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee:

 3:30-5 pm: “Returning to the Land: Seeing with a Native Eye.”

Meditation from Steven Charleston

Read at the opening and closing of worship at Durham Friends Meeting, January 7, 2024:

Meditation of the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Ret. Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, of Choctaw Ancestral Lineage. 12/24/2023, Sunday.  

Please join me today, whoever you are, whatever you believe: join me in releasing love into the world.

Love as mercy, love as peace, love as forgiveness, love as healing: join me in sharing love in every way you can.

And when you do, join me in believing it will make a difference. Love always makes a difference.

Please join me today in extending that love as far as your heart can reach.

“Walking in the World as a Friend,” from QREC, 2nd Mondays in 2024 @7:30pm

an invitation from the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative:

Walking in the World as a Friend Discussion & Practice Group
Please join us for a free Online Practice & Discussion Group sponsored by Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC)We meet monthly to enrich adult Quaker Religious Education for ourselves and our meetings/churches.Each month will open with worship and a message from the book Walking in the World as a Friend: Essential Quaker Practices. Then we will hold worship sharing to hear from each person, followed by a discussion on any questions, reflections, or implications for us as Friends and our witness in they world, then close with worship. We may discuss practices, such as journaling, spiritual companions, and faith and practice or scripture study, that help us and our meetings/churches.We are using Walking in the World as a Friend for reference. You may purchase the book at CourageousGifts.com or download the PDF HERE for free. You may also watch the videos on YouTube.
Monday, January 8, 2024 7:30pm Eastern US Time
Experiences of Living in the Spirit and the role of a Minister (pp 27-30 or relevant videos)
Monday, Febuary 12, 2024 7:30pm Eastern US Time
Experiment with Spirit and the Role of the Steward (pp 35-37 or relevant videos)
Monday, March 11, 2024 7:30pm Eastern US Time
Essential Quaker Structures as an Ecology of Practices (pp 45-58 or relevant videos)
In 2024, we plan to meet the second Monday of the month in January, February, and March and take a one-month break in April. We expect to continue this pattern of 3 months on and 1 month off through 2024. This is spiral curriculum. Every time we engage the themes, we bring more to the reflections and go deeper.

REGISTER HERE

Advent Message 4 to Velasco Friends from Falmouth Quarter Friends, December 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Velasco,

This is the week we light the candle for Love and remember the family in the stable in Bethlehem.  Then, as now, their homeland was occupied. Then, as now, their children were threatened.  And yet I imagine that when Joseph and Mary held their baby, they felt their hearts filled with more love then they could ever have imagined being possible.  Spirit holds each of us, rocks each of us, loves each of us with more love than we can possibly imagine.  “For unto all of us a child is born, unto all of us …”

With love and great gratitude to share this season with the Iglesia de los Amigos en Velasco.

___________________________________________________________________________

Queridas hermanas y hermanos de Velasco,

Esta es la semana en la que encendemos la vela por el Amor y recordamos a la familia en el establo de Belén. Entonces, como ahora, su patria estaba ocupada. Entonces, como ahora, sus hijos fueron amenazados. Y, sin embargo, me imagino que cuando José y María cargaron a su bebé, sintieron que sus corazones se llenaban de más amor del que jamás hubieran imaginado posible. El Espíritu nos sostiene a cada uno de nosotros, nos mece a cada uno de nosotros, nos ama a cada uno de nosotros con más amor del que podamos imaginar. “Porque a todos nosotros nos es nacido un niño, a todos nosotros…”

Con mucho amor y mucha gratitud de compartir esta temporada con la Iglesia de los Amigos en Velasco.

Durham Monthly Meeting Minutes, December 17, 2023

Durham Monthly Meeting of Friends met for the conduct of business on Sunday, December 17, 2023, with 11 people in attendance at the Meetinghouse.

1. Meeting Opening

Clerk played a recording of Peace of the Earth — a Guatemalan hymn, followed by silent gathering. There were no additions or corrections to the agenda.

2. Approval of Minutes of November 2023 — Ellen Bennett

Meeting approved the minutes of the November meeting.

3. Finances — Nancy Marstaller

a. Finance Committee: The committee brought forward the proposed budget for 2024 for a second reading and approval. Changes from the first reading include: increasing the income from weekly contributions; Peace and Social Concerns carry-over grant revenue was moved to operating income and then expensed out; money allocated for Wabanaki Reach was moved to an operating expense line and will be identified for land reparations, and custodian salary was increased. The result is a deficit budget now reduced to $544. 

Meeting approved the 2024 budget.

b. Woman’s Society: To continue the tradition of annual support to area organizations, Woman’s Society would like the Meeting to consider giving $1,000 from the charity account, to Warm Thy Neighbor, administered through Tedford Housing in this area. 

Meeting approved this first request.

4. Ministry and Counsel — Tess Hartford and Renee Cote

Visiting committee is considering Diana White’s transfer of membership from Portland to Durham.

Renee read the minute from M&C concerning Mey Hasbrook’s resignation:

 “At Monthly Meeting on October 15, 2023, Mey Hasbrook’s letter of resignation was accepted. The final meeting encouraged by Monthly Meeting did not take place when Mey objected to the number of persons that would be present and refused to meet. During her time with Durham Friends Meeting, at the time of her resignation, and in an email in November, Mey made a number of allegations of harm that were circulated within and outside the Meeting. Ministry & Counsel investigated these allegations and found that they have no basis in fact. We are very sorry for the distress that these allegations have caused and ask that we continue to hold all involved in prayer. We remain available to respond to questions and concerns, as confidentiality allows.

Meeting accepted this report with gratitude for the hard work of Ministry and Counsel.

5. Trustees Report — Sarah Sprogell

Update report available on the website.

6. Nominating Committee — Linda Muller

Highlighting updates on DMMF committee assignments, please see attachment. The Committee will be considering a Music Committee. 

Meeting expressed its great appreciation for the committee and for the work that it, with Linda as clerk, has done.

7. New Business 

Approval of Positions in lieu of Officers:  Clerk recommends that the duties traditionally done by the Clerk and the Treasurer are delineated and assigned, regardless of who is occupying those positions. Specifically, “that the Clerk of Trustees be named as Acting Clerk for the purposes of contracts and other Meeting business and that the Clerk of Finance be named as Acting Treasurer, as needed…”

Meeting approved this proposal, with an effective date of January 1, 2024.

Meeting Care Coordinator: Clerk left the room. Tess Hartford was approved as interim Clerk for this portion of the meeting. Renee read the report of the MCC search committee. 

Meeting approved Leslie Manning as MCC beginning January1, 24, a position described in the document dated February 2023.

The question of oversight and support will be taken up in concert with Leslie. The Search Committee for this position will make a recommendation as to the composition of the support/oversight committee for the MCC at the next meeting for business. 

8. Closing Worship 

Respectfully submitted, 

Ellen Bennett, Recording Clerk

Attachments: Reports and Other Materials

“Please, Thanks, Sorry,” by Craig Freshley

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, December 3, 2023

You can hear a recording of Craig Freshley’s Message, “Please, Thanks, Sorry,” at his website Craig’s Quaker Messages.

This message focuses on three types of prayer and during this message I held up three little signs to match what I was saying; signs that read PLEASE, THANKS, and SORRY.

For a few cycles to start the breathing exercise at the end, I held up PLEASE as I inhaled, and THANKS as I exhaled.

There’s silence in the middle of the message from 13:30 to 16:30, and also at the end of the message beginning at 18:34.

Here is a transcription of the message:

Please, Thanks, Sorry

Good morning, friends.

The last message I brought was about prayer, and today’s message is about prayer. Last time I recited my prayer, a specific prayer that I have pushed myself to write over many years, and it’s evolving. In fact, I’ve changed it since the last time I spoke to you about this prayer, and maybe I’ll say it at the end of today’s message. Last time I talked about the value of what I’m going to call stock prayers, prayers with specific words and verses that we say over and over again the same way. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of St. Francis, the 23rd Psalm, the Prayer of Yellow Hawk, the Serenity Prayer. These are some of my favorite stock prayers. A lot of thought has been put into the words of these prayers, and it’s so helpful to say them and think about their meaning. Take them to heart over and over. Reciting stock prayers is, for me, a form of meditation. It focuses, the mind cuts out distraction. It’s in keeping with the Catholic tradition of using rosary beads, or the Buddhist tradition of chance or mantras. It provides a discipline. So whereas last time I focused on my stock prayer, my way of bringing discipline and saying the same things over and over. I say that to myself several times a day that, that prayer,

But I also ex explained last time that sometimes I make up prayers, and that’s good too. That’s the focus of today’s message, is making up prayers on the spot. I think there is great value in quieting the mind in wrestling with this question. What should I pray for right now? What a big question it requires me to consider all that I could pray for and make a short list. It pushes me to decide what’s most important. Just the exercise of making that decision before we even get to the prayer. Deciding what to pray for is, I suppose its own form of prayer. I’ve been told, I don’t remember where I heard this, but I’ve come to believe this, that there are basically three kinds of prayer.

Please. Thanks, and Sorry. So to help me make my short lists, I think of prayers in these three categories. I think to myself, what do I want help with? What am I thankful for? What things have I done that I’m sorry about.

In a moment, I’m going to ask you to think about your short lists of what’s most important in these three categories. But first, I’m going to say just a little bit more about these three different types of prayers and what they mean for me, how I think of them. These are often prayers of desperation. Please help so and so get better. Please prevent X, Y, z, bad thing from happening. Please stop the fighting. Stop the oppression, stop the flooding. Please help those in desperate need. Please help me get out of this jam. Sometimes those are the most desperate prayers of all. I’m in trouble. I need help. Please help me. But a please prayer can also be from a not so desperate place, a more, a more thoughtful place. Please help me be a better person by blank, blank, blank. Please help me with this particular thing so I can be better. Please help me better understand why. Blank, blank, blank, blah, blah, blah. Please help me forgive him or her. Please help me be more open to them.

It can also be a prayer of humility. Just yesterday, I heard Rob Levine say, if you don’t know what to do, pray. If you don’t know what to pray for, pray for help. Sometimes I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to think. I don’t know how to be, but I remember that I have this available to me. I can ask for help. I can say a prayer and I can begin it with please. It’s really hard for me to ask for help. Yet I’ve learned that it’s one of the most valuable things I can do, and I’ve learned that when I ask for help, it’s good to be okay with non-specifics rather than please change that person in these ways so that they’re nicer to me. I’ve learned that’s not a helpful prayer. I’m likely to be disappointed with that type of prayer, but rather, please help me find peace in this situation from a place of humility, not knowing the answer, rather than, please tell me what I should do about this or that. Instead, please help me be okay with however, turn this turns out and help me play my part.

It’s okay to ask for help. It’s good when you start with the word please, and it’s good to be open to however the help might come. Thanks. This is gratitude. When I’m not feeling good about myself or about the world around me, there is nothing more helpful to me than to take stock of the good things I have. Do not take things for granted.

It seems to help me every time. I knew a guy named Leon, an old guy, and when you asked him how he was, he would always say the same thing. I’m fantastic. I woke up on the right side of the grass today.  Every time, same answer, grateful to just be alive. That is a good place to start.

But not only that, it’s not just that I’m alive. I have an amazing life. So many blessings. We as humans have a long and deep tradition of prayers, of gratitude and blessings. Blessings before a meal, blessings at the start of an endeavor. Gratitude at the end of an endeavor. Gratitude upon winning the award. I couldn’t have done this without you. All prayers of gratitude. Folks in recovery are often asked to make a gratitude list. When I was a child, my mom encouraged me to end my day by kneeling at my bed and thinking of the good things that happened that day. Pretty simple prayer. Just think back on the good things that happened. I have found that gratitude is pretty much universal medicine for whatever ails you.

Sorry, another type of prayer. You might call this confession or repentance. I’m going to bring something else that I have learned in recovery. This is, this book is called Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m going to read a paragraph. “When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves, which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving towards all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others of what we could pack into the stream of life?”

But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse, or morbid reflection for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review, we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken. I find it helpful to review my actions, to look at me and consider how I have been aligned or not aligned with how God wants me to be. And consider what corrective actions need to be taken. What apologies do I need to make to help me feel better? What do I have to fix with actual actions and what do I need to let go of? I don’t need to be responsible for everything. Back to please. I can ask for help with the burdens of my regrets. I would like us to pause for a moment. I’m going to stop talking and I’m going to offer a few minutes of silence for you to consider, for us all to consider our transgressions. What are you sorry about? What regrets do you have between you and your God? Let’s just take two or three minutes here and each try to make a short list.

[PAUSE]

I love that everyone seems to be praying so hard, and I hate to interrupt.  But I’d like to wrap up and take us into even more silence, and I’d like to do one or maybe two more things before I walk back over there. I’d like to do a little breathing exercise with you. 

We just spent some time reflecting on, sorry, regrets, transgressions. Now I’d like to spend a little time reflecting on please and thank you. And the way that I do this sometimes is I, I breathe and when I breathe in, I think please. And when I breathe out, I think thanks. It’s a really simple prayer, and when I breathe in, I think of things that I need help with, and when I breathe out, I think of things that I’m grateful for. So I’m going to ask that we start this together. I’m going to hold up signs, and then I’m going leave you to your own rhythm and we’ll see what happens after that.

We breathe in and we breathe out.

FGC Changing Times Conference, January 18-21, 2024

Join Us Online January 18-21, 2024
Registration is Open
Dear Leslie, Registration is open for FGC’s Changing Times Conference –
In these changing times, how is Spirit moving among us?

Join Friends from across North America in seeking what messages Spirit offers us as we explore Spirit led growth and transformation. We will have time to deepen our spiritual lives, share ideas across yearly meetings and explore new ones as we meet online.

Our schedule will begin with a plenary each day followed by workshops and we will have the opportunity to reflect and consider the day’s events in Reflections Groups each evening. There will be morning worship and chances for fellowship online in the evenings.The main components of the conference are:Our connection to SpiritBecoming an Actively Anti-racist Faith CommunityChanging structures for Changing TimesThe Future of the Religious Society of Friends.Come, take a break, find community, share ideas and concerns and find refreshment as we seek together what messages Spirit offers us.
with excitement and gratitude,
Ruth ReberRuth ReberSpecial Events CoordinatorFriends General Conference1216 Arch St. #2BPhiladelphia, Pa 19107ruthr@fgcquaker.orgwww.fgcquaker.orgWhy this Conference now?
This online conference grew from the seeds of desires expressed by Friends in Gathering Anew Focus groups to have opportunities to share across Yearly Meetings and Monthly Meetings. It is one of four Gathering Anew Experiments to explore meeting Friends needs in these changing times.

In consultation, Yearly Meeting Clerks and Secretaries spoke of a deep desire to seek the Divine together. What messages might Spirit be offering to us at this time? Changing Times is a chance to explore together, some of the key questions before us. We are in a time of change, a time full of potential and choices.Who will speak to us?Tuning InFrancisco Burgos,
Executive Director, Pendle Hill
Francisco Burgos is the executive director at Pendle Hill and has facilitated spiritual retreats and lectio divina sessions for many audiences. Francisco was a De La Salle Christian Brother for almost ten years, serving in Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, and has been a Friend since 2004. He is a member of Harrisburg Friends Meeting and an attender of meetings including Monteverde Friends Meeting in Costa Rica and Adelphi Friends Meeting in Maryland.Living into Continuing RevelationVanessa Julye,
Friends General Conference’s Associate Secretary for Organizational Cultural Transformation
Vanessa Julye, works on increasing awareness of White Supremacy and its impact in the Quaker and sectarian communities. She meets with and provides programs for BIPOC Quakers throughout the world both in-person and virtually. She has been recognized as having a calling to a ministry with a concern for helping the Religious Society of Friends become a whole blessed community. Vanessa speaks on racism focusing on its eradication and the healing of racism’s wounds.Changing Structures in Changing TimesTitle: Empower, Support, Cross-Fertilize, and Encourage
Paul Buckley is a member of Clear Creek Friends Meeting in Richmond, Indiana. Since his graduation from the Quaker Studies Program at the Earlham School of Religion, he has been a traveling minister and a writer on Quaker topics. He is serving as the Clerk of OVYM’s Restructuring Committee. His most recent publication is a 2023 Pendle Hill Pamphlet, Quaker Testimony: What We Witness to the World, the product of twelve years of thought and contemplation on Quaker Testimony.

Title: Restorative Quaker Design
Rashid Darden is a member of Friends Meeting of Washington and Associate Secretary for Communications and Outreach for Friends General Conference. He is also a novelist who focuses on the Black LGBT experience, whether in contemporary fiction or in urban fantasy. 

Title: The economic and sociologic context of contemporary Quaker experience and how it informs our future
Barry Crossno is a member of the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia sojourning  with Cleveland Friends Meetings. He serves as the General Secretary of Friends General Conference. He brings to FGC a deep commitment to the future of the Religious Society of Friends and the  nurture and care for Friends.WorkshopsEach day offers a new selection of workshops focused on the topic of the day. Check out the website for a full listing of topics and leaders.
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