A Deeper Hope

SEPTEMBER 2018

A Deeper Hope

Dear Friends,

In my morning devotional time since Annual Sessions, I’ve been reading Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, a foundational reflection by Thurman, the Black theologian, preacher, professor, activist and mystic whose work helped inspire the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and who was a student and friend of Maine Quaker Rufus Jones.

This writing, first published in 1949, wrestles with the question, “What is the word of the religion of Jesus to those who stand with their backs against the wall?”

My own experience and identity shape the way I receive his message. Reading his work, I feel far from the condition of the radical Jesus he describes. I’m shaken, yet comforted. And I’m challenged. I’m particularly struck–even convicted–by one challenging word Thurman uses again and again to describe people in all times and places “with their backs against the wall”–disinherited.

Because to be disinherited, one first has to already be an heir.

Much secular activism in which I participate focuses on a vision of progress toward the realization and expansion of universal rights for all. A central premise is that, together, we are building a better world. Painfully, often slowly, history moves forward. We can and do make things better. Step by step, through skillful organizing and advocacy, sound policy, better institutions, enlightened leadership, and greater inclusion, we (hopefully an ever-widening “we”) make progress. We struggle and strive to build with human hands the structures of a more perfect world. This is powerful, essential, and often life-saving work, to which many Friends for generations have dedicated themselves, understanding this as an expression of Quaker ethics shaped by our faith.

But this isn’t the whole story. Thurman’s challenge brings me back to the ground truth.

Infinite worth permeates Creation. Absolute, unconditional Love is the organizing principle of the Universe. At the heart of things, every person is a being of incalculable value, filled with an unshakeable dignity, beloved beyond all measure.

What I understand from the testimony of our faith tradition as Friends is that, at the heart of things, we are not constructing a better world. From the beginning, Friends have been animated by the understanding that we are helping to reclaim, restore, and remember what has always been true from the foundation of the world. And in this world founded on this unshakeable truth of belovedness, some of the beloved have been disinherited by one another, and by the powerful forces and structures of separation, confusion, hatred and fear that have been built and sustained across generations–but never disinherited by God.

As I begin to remember, it becomes clear that the rock bottom reality is this: nothing in all Creation can change the fact that every person is an infinitely beloved child of God. And yet, in countless ways, we live our lives in ways that seem to deny it.

So for me, the central challenge is: Will I live today as if this Truth is true? Can I recognize this essential belovedness, both in myself and in my neighbor? When I am anchored in this recognition, I am opened to see more clearly–and help to transform–the patterns, prejudices, and powers that deny this Truth.

Recently I shared an unexpected quiet moment with a Friend as we both made our way to a common destination. As we walked together, we reflected on the condition of our Quaker faith community in New England, and the condition of our wider society. She shared her concern for a loved one who–like so many among us–has been pouring energy into the upcoming elections, desperate to bring about a political change that, this person so deeply hopes, could open a way toward greater compassion, justice, and moral courage.

We affirmed the necessity and profound importance of each of us doing the work before us, of laboring together with all the means available to build the world we seek.

And yet she feared for her loved one, for herself, and for all of us. She worried about what could happen if the election or the political process doesn’t bring about the redemption that so many of us yearn for, if the political arena in which so many of us have placed our hope proves unable to respond to the depth of the hatred, division, distraction, and violence that has been unmasked and unleashed in these times. She worries about the cost–and the fruits–of a shattering despair. Secular political action is vital and needed. But it will not, by itself, bring the healing the world needs.

“We need a deeper Hope,” she said.

Thurman’s challenge lights a path for me toward that deeper Hope–a Hope that is not at risk.

What is at risk–and what is being decided in every moment–is whether we will trust that Hope, turn toward it, abide in it, and let it guide our living.

May we find that essential belovedness–both within ourselves and in our neighbor–and know that it is unshakeable. From this ground, may our actions spring. 

In faith and service,

Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Photo: Friends Couple Enrichment

Couple Enrichment with John and Debbie Humphries

September 21–23, 2018
Powell House
Chatham, NY

A Couple Enrichment Workshop is an opportunity for a couple to focus on their relationship, enhance communication skills, and deepen their appreciation of each other. This couples weekend will be facilitated by Debbie and John Humphries (Hartford, CT, Friends Meeting). Couple enrichment workshops help couples celebrate their relationship’s joys and strengths, and develop skills to deepen and improve them. A Couple Enrichment program is not therapy; it is a way to make good relationships even better. Find more information at the Powell House website.

Other events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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Highlights from 2018 Annual Sessions

Photo: Diane Weinholtz

Curious what Annual Sessions was like this year? Interested in revisiting the experience? Want to share what happened with your meeting?

You can see video from Bible Half-Hours, the plenary panel, slide shows and more on the Yearly Meeting YouTube channel.

These “talking points” give highlights of the week’s events to post and share with your local meeting. Minutes from business sessions will be posted on the Yearly Meeting website soon!

Lost and Found at Sessions

Several items left behind at Castleton are in the Yearly Meeting office. If you lost a travel mug, water bottle, hat, shirt, or umbrella, call or email Sara Hubner to see if it’s among these items.

Racial Justice Course for Friends,
small groups, and local meetings

Image: Hartford Friends

Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) is leading an on-line course to explore how we perpetuate racism and white supremacy as individuals and as a Religious Society. We will also practice skills for interrupting racism and deepen our capacity to work for racial justice within ourselves, our meetings, and our wider communities. More information about the course, including a syllabus and options for participation, can be found here.

Witnessing for Immigrants

Photo: Monadnock Quaker Meeting
Many New England Friends participated in the Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice, which began August 22 at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester, NH. Four days and forty miles later, they ended at the Strafford County jail in Dover, NH, where ICE incarcerates people. The march was covered by the Associated Press, NH Public Radio, the Seacoast Online and Manchester Ink Link websites, WMUR-TV, and Foster’s Daily Democrat, among other outlets. You can find photographs taken along the way on the Facebook event page.

Concern for Palestinians in Gaza

A group of concerned New England Friends has written a Minute of Concern for Palestinians in Gaza which they are sharing for monthly meetings to consider. Read the minute here.

Making the Experience of Palestinians Visible

Skip Schiel (Cambridge, MA, Friends Meeting) returns to Israel in September, hoping to enter Gaza with the Alternatives to Violence Project to witness and photograph conditions for Palestinian refugees. Learn more on Skip’s website.

Living Faith: Fresh Changes This Fall

On October 27, Friends from across New England and beyond will again gather for Living Faith, a daylong, multigenerational celebration of Quaker spirituality, community, ministry, and witness.

As we enter the third year of our experiments with Living Faith, we will be hosted in Hartford, Connecticut by the dynamic community at The 224 EcoSpace, a social enterprise of the Conference of Churches and FaithWorks CT.

This beautiful new space offers exciting possibilities for interaction with the diverse community groups that share in the center’s life, and with this ministry of creativity, creation and renewal in the heart of the city.

We’re trying something new, which will bring some changes. We’ll share some parts of the facility with other groups, and have an opportunity to meet and learn from local leadership about this thriving ministry and the context in which they work. Based on requests and continuing feedback, there will be shifts in styles and attention to worship, a smaller number of more curated workshops, and programming placing greater emphasis on supporting the life of local meetings, living our faith in our daily lives, and creating connections beyond Living Faith.

Living Faith seeks to be especially welcoming to those just beginning to explore Quaker spirituality, to New England Quakers who are venturing into Quaker activities beyond their local meetings for the first time, and to families with young children.

Questions? Contact livingfaith@neym.org. Save the date for October 27, and watch for a registration announcement later this month!

Ministry in Mongolia

Sas Carey (Middlebury, VT, Friends Meeting) has traveled among Mongolia nomadic herders for 24 years. Sas shares about her work here.

New Video: Becoming a Quaker Minister

What is Quaker ministry? What does it mean to be recorded as a Quaker minister? Stephanie Crumley-Effinger (Earlham School of Religion) speaks from her experience.

Upcoming Grant Application Opportunities

  • Did you know New England Yearly Meeting gives grants to support the thriving of local meetings and Friends ministry and witness? The deadline for the next round of grants from the NEYM Future Fund is October 1, 2018.

    For more information and to apply, visit neym.org/legacy-gift.

    If you have questions about applying please contact Suzanna Schell (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) & Jean McCandless (Burlington, VT, Friends Meeting) co-clerks at legacy@neym.org.

    A list of recent grant recipients can be found here. A slideshow of the many ways in which the Funds are supporting the ministry of New England Quakers in the areas of racial justice, climate change, outreach, religious education and more, is coming soon to the NEYM YouTube channel.

  • The Forum for Theological Exploration offers grants to congregations and church-related ministries interested in providing young adults with leadership opportunities within pastoral ministry. The deadline for the current round of grants is September 15, but even if you can’t meet the deadline, Friends might want to keep the grants in mind for the future.  Learn more here.

What is a “Living Epistle”?

What is one of the oldest Quaker practices, now being renewed? Friends World Committee for ConsultationSection of the Americas is sending Friends to travel within the Religious Society of Friends, across difference.  FWCC hopes that these “living epistles” will help knit us together, and encourage Friends in their faith.  It’s called the Travelling Ministry Corps. Read more about the program here.

Interested in joining the Traveling Ministry Corps? Visit the FWCC website for more information.

Quakers in Print

Andrew Grannell (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting) has published a memoir of his journey as a husband, father, and public Friend. A Lifetime of Good Beginnings is available for sale at your local bookstore or online …

… Kathleen Wooten (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) has an article in Friends Journal, “Simple, Relevant, Amusing,” about sharing the Quaker message via social media …

… And Jeffrey Schmalz (Allen’s Neck, MA, Friends Meeting) published a letter to the editor in the Standard Times.

Celebrate Friends Everywhere

Are you passionate about creating connections and building relationship within your meeting and between Friends? Seeking to connect seekers and long-time Friends with our diverse Quaker traditions? Yearning to gather in worship?

Consider joining Friends around the world on October 7, 2018, in celebration of the Quaker faith on World Quaker Day (WQD). Find out what it’s all about at neym.org.

Sharing about World Quaker Day on your social media platforms?  Kathleen Wooten (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) NEYM Social Media Manager, is creating some graphic posts for New England meetings. You can find them posted on our Facebook page.

Help Design Our New Website!

In order to better lift up the life and ministry of Quakers in our region, we’re working with a team of web developers to create a new, more focused, functional, connecting and inspiring neym.org—the website of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

This is an important chance to make your voice heard, and we’d love to hear from you.

Have an experience to share about using the current website? Your answers to three questions on this user survey would be a great help. And thank you!

Take the survey

Got Images?

We need photographs for the website, newsletter, and other publications for New England Friends.

If you have photos from Annual Sessions, events at your local meeting, or other activities of Quakers in New England, please send them to office@neym.org, including the names of the person(s) in the photo, the date taken, the event, and the full name of the photographer.

Thanks in advance!

News of New England Friends sharing and acting from their faith in the past month:

Are you aware of Friends or Friends Meetings featured in the media? Email us so that we can share the news!

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