The Kindling Power

Most persons are awakened and set on their new track of life through the quickening and kindling power of some person who becomes for them the instrument of inspiration and of the creation of faith and the vision of a nobler way of life. 
Persons are set on fire by someone who is already aflame.

– Rufus Jones

Dear Friends,

I trace my life through moments when I was able to say “yes,” when I found through the encouragement of others the courage to let go of the shore for the ocean. In countless ways, my life has been shaped by relationship.

Among so many moments, I remember and give thanks for:

  • The face of a Friend across my kitchen table, when I was lost for answers, as she took both my hands in hers and taught me to pray out loud
  • Walking with a Friend on a beach in the predawn darkness before I brought a prepared message for the first time. His advice: “Risk failing in order to be faithful”
  • Just before a workshop out West, a Quaker elder who stopped me with a look, then adjusted my posture with some of the clearest, simplest instruction for ministry I’ve ever received: “Head up, shoulders back, heart open”
  • In the depths of a winter night, advice in a time of discernment about whether to let go of one work that had shaped my life, and say “yes” to another: The voice on the phone said, “Sometimes all choices will bring pain. You still have to choose”
  • The dedication of Friends serving as my ministry oversight committee–and each companion, mentor, and elder–witnessing, waiting, and watching with me over months and years, caring for the quiet work of God unfolding among us, discerning what it is time for
  • The Friend who loved animals, women, poetry, art and God, eyes shining as her life reached its end, embracing the undiscovered country to come, blessing those of us who would remain, challenging me to “go where the Life is”

Every day, the kindling power moving through relationship in Quaker faith community challenges me to say “yes” again. Reaching from Cape Cod to Maine to Connecticut; to Kansas, Ramallah, Cuba, and beyond, each day I’m helped and held by the web of relationships in which I’m blessed to participate.

Relationship is at the heart of Friends practice. It’s carefully woven in our communities through acts of presence, prayer, and participation. The substance of faithful community is formed when we love one another, serve one another, challenge each other to greater faithfulness, and name when and where we see the Spirit at work.

So I wonder:

  • What have been your experiences of being met, seen, and encouraged?
  • Who have been the instruments of this enlivening and mentorship in your life, and do they know it?
  • Where might you be called to offer this care, to share this encouragement, to name the gifts you see?
  • How might you challenge, guide, or affirm the Spirit at work in someone in your meeting?

In this season, communities across the world are waiting and watching together in expectant hope. We share stories of Light coming into the world, comforting and amazing us in the midst of fear and desolation. In the unlikeliest of places, Love is born, the fire of Hope is kindled. Through grace and daily choice, we help this happen together.

This month, let’s take the risk that each person we meet could be the kindling that sets our hearts aflame, that reignites our spirits. Risk the possibility that you could give that gift to others. In small acts of service and accompaniment and presence, risk nurture. Risk encouragement. Risk naming the Life you see at work in someone else. Risk participating in the kindling power.

May we come again and again to the sure knowledge that relationship with God and relationship with each other are truly inseparable. May we meet and welcome the Friend in one another.

In faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

P.S.– As a Yearly Meeting, we’re committed to supporting the web of encouragement and mentorship across generations. In February, we’re sponsoring a weekend gathering for Friends who share this yearning. Together, we’ll explore how this happens in our own lives, how we might learn and grow in this service, and how we might help our meeting communities to more fully embrace the ministry of relationship.

Might this opportunity be for you? You can learn more and share your interest in participating here. More information on Partners in Spirit is below.

P.P.S.Affirming the sacredness of relationship means recognizing the Light in each of our neighbors—especially those from whom fear, hatred, and oppression threaten to separate us.

If you haven’t already, please consider how your meeting might support Love Knows No Borders: a moral call for migrant justice sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and partners, December 10-18–next week. See the article below for more information.

Nia Thomas and Hilary Burgin, left; Kristina Keefe-Perry, right

Partners in Spirit: For young adults and aspiring mentors

February 15–18, 2019
Woolman Hill
Deerfield, MA

When you look back on your spiritual growth, who encouraged you?

None of us grows to our full potential without others seeing our inner promise, creating space, and encouraging us along as we move through the hardest stretches.

Mentors are omega-3s for our spiritual growth, increasing vitality and drawing out potential. And yet, many young adult Friends in New England report they struggle to find authentic mentoring relationships.

I do not believe that this problem exists because there is a lack of Friends capable of spiritual nurture; I believe it is (at least in part) due to an awkwardness at starting mentoring conversations and a failure to see ourselves as worthy of this powerful role. 

Read more from Nia Thomas (Northampton, MA, Friends Meeting)
Partners in Spirit is a retreat bringing together aspiring Quaker mentors and emerging adults (ages 18–25) who seek to strengthen their Quaker spiritual practice and to better live their faith daily.

Attendance is by application, and space is limited. Find more information and apply here.

Love Knows No Borders: a moral call for migrant justice

The American Friends Service Committee begins a Week of Action on December 10 (International Human Rights Day), concluding on December 18 (International Migrants Day).  On December 10, more than 200 faith leaders from across the country will take part in an action at the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego, California. Diane Dicranian of Winthrop Center, ME, Friends Church is leaving soon to join this action. Please hold her and all involved in the Light in the coming days.

Here are a few ways you can support this effort, and learn more:

1. Learn more about the action and week’s events at the AFSC Website
2. Watch this week’s teach-in and call to action on Facebook.
3. Follow the NEYM Facebook page for updates and reports from Diane and others, including live-streaming of an interfaith service on Sunday, December 9, at noon EST.

If you or your Friends meeting plan to participate locally or in other ways, please let us know.

Other events coming soon

View More Events

Giving Thanks, Celebrating New Service

From Young Adult Engagement Coordinator Hilary Burgin:

Dear Friends,

As some Friends may have heard recently, I have some bittersweet news: I have accepted the position as Executive Director of Quaker Voluntary Service, and I will be concluding my staff work with New England Yearly Meeting in December (yes, this month).

My own calling to faithfulness has deepened and grown through my work with young adult Friends and with you all around welcoming and outreach. I see tremendous love, care, and opportunity among Friends in New England. I see young adults hungry for spiritual nurture, some being fed by their relationship with local meetings, some through young adult Friends events—and some still seeking their homes. I see meetings seeking ways to welcome young adults. I see individuals faithful to their gifts and leadings, in community with others also seeking to be faithful. I’m excited to see how our Yearly Meeting will explore new edges, take risks, and continue the important conversations and growth that are happening.

As I shift jobs, I will be staying in New England, still living in Boston and worshipping with Beacon Hill Friends Meeting. I look forward to continuing to be with you as a member of our yearly meeting!

To stay in touch, you can write me at

In Peace, with gratitude,


From Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Merrill:

I want to celebrate Hilary’s service as staff of New England Yearly Meeting these past few years, and share my joy and encouragement as she takes these next steps. Like so many of us who have worked to help Quaker Voluntary Service grow in recent years—from its founding, to bringing a QVS house to Boston, to now supporting the transition to a new executive director for this start-up Quaker organization—I’m excited to see Hilary bring her gifts and commitment to servant leadership to QVS.

We will miss working with her as part of the Yearly Meeting staff team, but New England Friends will continue to benefit from what Hilary and many other Friends have done as part of a three-year, grant-funded partnership between New York and New England Yearly Meetings for fostering multigenerational Friends meetings.

This winter and spring, as we conclude the final year of this project, we’ll be integrating lessons learned in the work Hilary has led. We look forward to sharing learning and resources, and to continuing the conversation about outreach, inclusion, and welcome. We’re planning and preparing in-person events, written articles, and tools to support Friends as we continue to do this vital work in our local meetings. Watch this newsletter for more news and next steps in the coming months.

There will be more opportunities soon for Hilary to share her gifts with New England Quakers: at February’s Partners in Spirit retreat, in another opportunity in March at New York Yearly Meeting’s Powell House still in development, and beginning next fall as Hilary serves as co-teacher for the Nurturing Faithfulness program—a partnership of Marcelle Martin, Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center, and New England Yearly Meeting.

Hilary is an inspiring example among the many Friends in New England who are supporting the Spirit’s work through the Quaker movement in these times. I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for Hilary’s work, and holding her in the Light in this time of newness and transition.

in faith and service,


Boston QVS welcomes Kristina Keefe-Perry

Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) will step into Hilary Burgin’s former role as the Boston Coordinator for Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS). Kristina was a founding board member of QVS, and is active in public ministry in New England and beyond.

You can read more about Kristina here.

Friends Responding to Hate and Violence

Image: Callum Taylor
Friends in New England and beyond continue to respond to the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life temple in Pittsburgh. Framingham Friends Meeting (MA) sent a letter to the rabbis of temples in their area which you can read here.  Monadnock (NH) Friends published an open letter to the Tree of Life Synagogue which you can read on their Facebook page.

Pittsburgh Friends expressed gratitude for the support they have received in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting, and approved a minute responding to gun violence.

Framingham Friends also sent a letter to Islamic groups and the principal of Hemenway Elementary School, expressing their distress at the hateful messages sent to a 10-year-old student at the school.

Santa Fe (New Mexico) Monthly Meeting approved a minute supporting the rights of refugees.

Friends Peace House: Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities

The Listening Room at Friends Peace House (photo: Anneke Hohl)

Anneke Hohl (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting) visited Friends Peace House (FPH) in Rwanda earlier this year. Read about the work of FPH, including Alternatives to Violence and a campaign to bring mediation into Rwandan prisons, here.

Nurturing Relationship with the “Praying Indians”

Chief Caring Hands and Wellesley Friend Sue Webb (Photo: Roland Stern)
Wellesley Friends recently met to share a meal and watch the film Praying Indianswith guests Zadi Zokou, the filmmaker; and Chief Caring Hands of the Natick Praying Indian TownPraying Town tells the story of the first Praying Indian village, founded in 1651 in South Natick, Massachusetts. On August 11, 2012, for the first time after almost 300 years, members of the tribe again began worshiping at the Eliot Church, South Natick.

Online Course: Building a Nonviolent Campaign

In the face of hatred, injustice, and environmental destruction, are you tired of being told simply to call your elected officials? Do you feel ready for bolder, more creative action on the issues you care about?

Beginning January 7, an online course (4 lessons) will teach you the basics of nonviolent, direct-action campaigning. Eileen Flanagan, the instructor, is a former clerk of the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and a member of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Learn more and register here

Racial Justice and the Beloved Community

Heather Denkmire (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting) is a participant in the course “Racial Justice and the Beloved Community” led by Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) and funded in part by a grant from the Legacy Fund of New England Yearly Meeting.

Heather writes for the blog Black Girl in Maine about some of what she’s learning.

The Power of Civil Disobedience

Lewis Randa (Wellesley, MA, Friends Meeting) recently spoke to his meeting about the power of civil disobedience. Lewis is the founder of the Life Experience School and the Pacifist Memorial in Sherborn, Mass. The first student at the Life Experience School, Courty, joined Lewis for the “Second Hour” presentation.

An act of civil disobedience that led to the arrest of Courty contributed to produce change: In 2009, the Department of Mental Retardation changed its name to the Department of Developmental Services.

Quakers Sue New York Prisons

Friends in New York Yearly Meeting, which includes several Friends meetings in prisons, have joined in a lawsuit against the Green Haven prison and the New York Department of Corrections. The suit alleges several instances of denial of freedom of religion.

Read more

New Book: Exploring Prophetic Ministry

In Walk Humbly, Serve Boldly: Modern Quakers as Everyday ProphetsMargery Post Abbott of Multnomah (OR) Friends Meeting explores the understanding and practice of prophetic ministry among Friends today.

In this book, Marge lays out one vision of what a prophetic community might look like among Friends, recognizing fully how often we fall short and how our visions differ. Yet she has hope that in reaching far we might at least in part demonstrate what it means to live in the city of God.

Her work is enriched by the many Friends from around the world who responded to queries about their experience of the prophetic ministry, focusing on how they know and respond to the guidance of the Inward Light and looking to what underpins their witness. Marge hopes this work might be useful for opening conversations and encouraging others to pay attention to those often gentle nudges that can bring us to awareness of our callings and help reshape our lives.

Each chapter contains queries for use by groups. The final query reads:

“Can you imagine Friends as a band of everyday prophets? What does this look like in your imagination? What are the preconditions that would allow this to happen? What might be your first step in becoming part of this band?”

Read more and order the book here

Got photos?

We always need compelling 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, 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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