Always Coming Home

Dear Friends,

A Friend once told me a story. It went something like this:

Long ago, the swallows that now journey across the globe didn’t migrate with the changing seasons. The swift and graceful birds wandered aimlessly from place to place, without guidance or direction for their flight.

One bright clear day, they came to a small farm, where a farmer was working in her garden. With delight, she greeted the flight of swallows as they—first one, then another, then in numbers uncountable—found their way into the barn her hands had made.

The farmer was filled with joy at the presence of the swallows, and cherished their beauty, energy, and life.

But the farmer knew that this joy would be short-lived. A winter beyond what the swallows had experienced was coming, and she knew that if the swallows stayed, they would die in the cold.

She tried to explain in every way she could—in all the languages she knew—but saw the swallows didn’t understand her. Her heart was breaking at the recognition that the swallows didn’t belong in the barn—they belonged in the ever-changing air, riding the thermals, freed and lifted by the rushing wind, rejoicing in the sunlight and the infinite sky.

The farmer loved the swallows more than they could ever know. And so the farmer transformed herself into a swallow, to help guide them home.

She swooped into the barn, dancing with the swallows she so deeply loved. They recognized her as one of their own, and with a great movement, all at once, they leapt from the shadows of the barn and into the bright autumn air, returning to the sky.

The farmer-who-became-a-swallow led them for some time, as the light grew warmer and the wind more gentle. She led them over valleys and rivers, over deserts and seas. They delighted in the journey, in the beauty, and in their love for this newfound Friend who it seemed they’d known for so long. The farmer-who-became-a-swallow shared in this joy.

And yet, even as they settled in a new land, the farmer-who-became-a-swallow was troubled in her heart. She knew, as the other swallows did not yet know, that the seasons would change again, and they would need to find their way to other lands. She also knew that she couldn’t stay with them forever.

Because she knew the swallows so well, she understood how easily they could be distracted, how inclined they were to become fascinated with other things, to forget who they were born to be, and to lead each other astray. She knew that her time as a swallow would be all too brief, and that over many miles and the passing of time they would forget, and wander, and get lost. When new challenges arose, they would find themselves without guidance, in danger, separated, scattered, and alone.

And so the farmer-who-became-a-swallow transformed herself into a song, so that they could sing her love to one another. And as they sang, and as they journeyed together, she would live in their hearts forever, always available to guide them home.

And so it was. Each time the song was sung, it passed from one bird to another, ever-changing, ever-new, and yet always carrying the infinite love of the farmer, who became a swallow, who became a song.

There are many now who wonder if there ever was a farmer, who became a swallow. You might wonder, too. And yet with every changing season, the song that lives in every swallow lifts their hearts; it calls them back to the exultation, adventure, and wonder of the ever-changing sky. Each time the song is sung or heard, they are drawn by the memory of the flight for which they were born.

Now the swallows live their lives in pilgrimage, over the fragile, blessed earth. And wherever the flights of swallows are found, they carry the song within them, singing love and belonging and courage into the world. Wherever they go, whatever strange seasons they encounter, they know they can turn to the resilient song that waits within them.

Their journey home isn’t measured in many thousands of miles spanning continents—it’s measured in each new beginning, every turning within, with each new flight toward faith. Again and again, the song’s unity gathers their hearts.

They sing to one another the ever-new sound that leads them back to their truest selves, inviting them to risk, to love, to take wing—always returning, always coming home.

I believe this song can live in our hearts as well. And my experience is that this song—this guidance, this power for liberation, this deep belonging, what Friends for generations have called gospel—can guide us in our living.

As with our swallow-kin in the story, the song in our hearts calls us to joy, to courage, to leap into lives lived in pilgrimage. It calls us to remember and to make manifest who we were born to be. In each new place, in every new moment, it takes fresh forms.

This year, let’s listen together for new harmonies, for the particular expressions of this Love—here, now, in you, in me. May it gather us all in a new “we”, as we discover a new “how” for our journey home.

In faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Friends Decision-Making and Clerking, 2019

Are you interested in learning more about Friends practice of discernment?  Are you a clerk who would like additional guidance and support in your service? Are you considering service as a clerk, but feeling ill-equipped?  The upcoming workshops in New York and New England might be for you.

February 1–3, Powell House in upstate New York is offering a weekend workshop for everyone who wants to deepen their understanding of Quaker decision-making. Visit the Powell House website to learn more and to register.

More details on the workshop being planned here in New England on April 13 will be shared soon.

Nurturing Faithfulness: An Informational Webinar

Please join Nurturing Faithfulness co-teachers, Hilary Burgin (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) and Marcelle Martin (Swarthmore Monthly Meeting, PhYM) on January 22, 7:30 p.m., to hear more about the Nurturing Faithfulness program co-sponsored by Woolman Hill and New England Yearly Meeting.

Nurturing Faithfulness is a 9-month exploration of Quaker faith and leadership, designed to support individuals in faithfulness and sharing faithfulness with their Friends communities. Participants attend three residencies between August 2019 and May 2020, monthly webinars, and have a variety of small group nurture experiences. Curious? Join us for our webinar! Email if you would like to RSVP and get a reminder email, or simply join the link below on January 22nd.

Join Zoom Meeting online:

One tap mobile:  16465588656,,192119140# US

Dial in: 1 646 558 8656 US

Meeting ID: 192 119 140

Training on “Noticing Patterns”

In 2018 the Yearly Meeting in Sessions charged Ministry & Counsel with creating a process to name people to help us see when and how we are enacting patterns of oppression. The Noticing Patterns Working Group is clear that we need time together to build the skills of noticing and sharing awareness of these patterns in ways that invite people in, build community, and help us become more God-centered and just.

The Working Group will host a day-long workshop on Saturday, March 9th at Wellesley (MA) Friends Meeting. We hope you can join us! The workshop will be a chance to learn about and experiment with the practice the Working Group has developed, gain skills for talking about patterns of oppression, and connect with other Friends who want to help move our shared work forward.

All Friends are welcome, whether you are new to social justice work or have been doing it for a long time, young Friends and adults. Please consider encouraging others from your meeting to attend. To register, click this link.

Other events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

View More Events

Speakers Announced for August Sessions

The Bible Half-Hour speaker at Annual Sessions this summer will be Colin Saxton, now a Stewardship Consultant working for Everence, a faith-based financial services company. Prior to that he served as a Quaker pastor, superintendent of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends, and general secretary of Friends United Meeting. Many New England Friends who have heard Colin speak know him as a gifted, engaging, passionate and joyful minister who will bring true gifts to New England.
Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting), will facilitate a plenary (whole group) session designed to “ground ourselves in the decisions that have led us to this point, … call in the wisdom of our ancestors, create art and prayer together, and envision a future beyond ourselves …[to] learn, interact, engage, pray, and imagine together, bringing that sense of community, hope and creativity into the rest of our week … [seeking] understanding of where and how we have been the Beloved Community and where we have failed to live up to God’s vision.

In preparation for this summer, Lisa is inviting New England Friends—whether we plan to attend Annual Sessions or not—into an experiment with a “virtual plenary.”

Listen to Lisa’s invitation here or watch the video below.

Read more about Colin and Lisa.

Virtual Plenary: An Invitation from Lisa Graustein

Watch a video with Lisa’s invitation to deeper engagement with our theme and related minutes of New England Yearly Meeting

Legacy Gift Fall Awards Announced

The Yearly Meeting Legacy Gift Committee has announced the grantees for the fall round of grants. The grantees include individuals, monthly meetings, and programs. Read the complete list here.

Application Deadlines

Legacy Gift Committee’s next deadline is March 1, 2019. The Committee will be accepting applications for both the NEYM Future Fund and the NEYM Witness and Ministry Fund. Guidelines and application information are available here.

If you have questions about any part of the Legacy grant program, please contact the co-clerks.

Time-Sensitive Requests

Beginning in January 2019 and continuing through September 30, 2019, the Legacy Gift Committee will consider funding requests for time-sensitive projects that take place outside of regular deadlines (March 1 and October 1). The Committee will consider time-sensitive applications on a rolling basis, with a minimum of a month’s notice.

This process is intended to enable timely support for participation in or provision of trainings, conferences or other time-sensitive events or projects that fit Legacy funding criteria (including support, oversight and reporting). The maximum grant is $1,000.  Applicants should follow the Legacy guidelines and application procedures.

Love Knows No Borders

Diane Dicranian, front row, left.
Diane Dicranian (Winthrop Center, ME, Friends Church) was among hundreds of people of faith who gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border the week of December 10. Read more about Diane’s experience here.

Portland Friends Host Families Experiencing Homelessness

For more than a year, Portland (ME) Friends Meeting has been a host congregation partnering with Greater Portland Family Promise.

Read about this effort and how it has changed Portland Friends here.

Confronting the Past with Faith

Martin Rumscheidt (Dover, NH, Friends Meeting) has written a new book, In Search of a Theology Capable of Mourning. In this 42-minute video, Tom Jackson (Dover Friends) interviews Martin about the book, coming to terms with German history—including Christian support for Nazism and the Holocaust—and Martin’s relationship with his father, who worked in German munitions during the Second World War.

Epistle from “At the Well” Gathering

Photo credit: Jennie Isbell Shinn

Quaker women and genderqueer people with a call to ministry gathered for renewal at Stony Point Center, New York, in December, and published an epistle to share their experiences and lessons learned.

Read the epistle here.

What Canst Thou Tweet?

Image: Kathleen Wooten

Kathleen Wooten (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) is a called to a ministry of connection, both in-person and digitally. She shares her thoughts about the advantages—and warns of pitfalls—of using digital technology for outreach and inreach in this article.

Click here or the image above to watch the livestream recording.
Repairers of the Breach, the Kairos Center, and the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign held a national Watch Night Service, New Year’s Eve, bringing together people of faith and conscience and recommit ourselves to the fight against systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.

The first Watch Night Service took place in 1862 when both enslaved and free Black people came together in churches and homes across the nation while they waited for the news of the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than 150 years later, we continue this tradition with all those who, despite the challenges that arise every day, believe and are working towards a more just and equitable society today.

View a recording of this year’s Watch Night Service in Raleigh, NC, and hear directly from Rev. Dr. Barber, Rev. Dr. Theoharis and others, and hear powerful music that will inspire the heart.

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends is an endorsing partner of the Poor People’s Campaign. 

Celebrating the Light

Image: Friends in Belfast Area (ME) Friends Meeting welcomed the winter season with candlelit, contemplative time and a “solstice spiral.”

Finding the Path

Photo credit: Eric Muhr

Rebecca Leuchak (Providence, RI, Friends Meeting) uses hiking on trails not clearly marked—setting off into the uncertain distance—as a metaphor for the spiritual journey. Read Rebecca’s essay here.

Nurturing Faithful Ministry

Brian Drayton (Souhegan, NH, Friends Meeting) has been writing a blog “Amor Vincat” (“May love have the victory!”) for many years. In this essay, he writes about Quaker traditions to help nurture gospel ministry among Friends.

News of New England Friends sharing and acting from their faith:

Maine Quakers Speak Out Against Skowhegan Mascot

Diane Oltarzewski (Belfast, ME, Area Friends Meeting), Mark Raines (Farmington, ME, Friends Meeting), and Shirley Hager (Winthrop Center, ME, Friends Church) were among many who spoke at a public hearing about the Skowhegan High School mascot, the “Indian.”

Skowhegan High School is the only school in the state that still has a Native American mascot. The hearing is posted here on YouTube; Shirley appears at 47:57, Diane appears at 1:28:22, and Mark at 2:39:48. Read the statements given by Diane and Shirley here.

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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