Coronavirus Update: To Bless the Space Between Us

3/20/2020

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.
It’s okay to be fearful.
It’s okay to have a sense of unreality.
It’s okay not to be able to function normally.  

Those feelings don’t have to be denied—in fact they need to be embraced. Whenever we have feelings which shake up our world, we have to be willing to enter into them. When we have the courage to do so, instead of trying to find ways around them, not only are we accompanied by Spirit every step of the way, but we are able to move through those feelings to a new sense of peace and safety, a new sense and trust in that which is unchanging.  

– Maggie Edmondson, Winthrop Center (ME) Friends Church.
Read the rest of Maggie’s message, “To Bless the Space Between Us.”

Dear Friends,

We wrote our first update of this kind ten days ago. So much has happened since then.

The number of confirmed cases has risen. Time predictions have been extended. In the midst of this, Friends across New England have responded to changing circumstances with swiftness, creativity, and tenderness. You’re demonstrating deep care for our profound connectedness, and for the spiritual and physical health of Friends and neighbors.

This Tuesday evening, on the first of our weekly check-in calls with local Meeting leaders, we were joined by Friends from 23 meetings. As our Meetings have dealt with the loss of our accustomed way of gathering, you have found new ways to foster and manifest the resilience within and among us.

A growing number of meetings have made the leap into virtual worship, and, with it, have found that there are particular joys possible in this way of meeting—we appreciated Amesbury (MA) Friend Christine Green’s description of worshiping online for the first time, which you can read here.

Other meetings have worshiped in parking lots, established prayer partners, created phone trees, observed worship from their homes at a set hour, or used Zoom or phone to participate in small, mutually supportive Faithfulness Groups for shared spiritual nurture.  In a time when much may feel frantic and reactive, we are grateful for the ways that Friends are learning to act boldly, responsively, discerningly, lovingly.

This is a time which calls each of us to prayerfully consider how we are led to act. And yet, it’s helpful to remember that we don’t all need to play every role.

We hope each of us will listen for the contribution that is ours to make. Our staff and volunteer leadership team, who have been hard at work these last two weeks, have been focusing on listening to the emerging needs of meetings and offering the most relevant supports we’re equipped to offer in response. We’re focusing on where we can make the most meaningful contribution, alongside so many others.

In the past week, this has included:

  • Regularly expanding the resources listed on our website that respond to the particular needs facing Meetings at this time.

    • We have recently added:

  • Hosting the first of ongoing Tuesday evening check-ins with meeting leaders. Each Tuesday from 7:00–8:00 p.m., we will continue to host these calls as a space for sharing resources and mutual support. This week, we were joined by almost 40 Friends from 23 meetings. Click here for more information on how to participate, or reply to this email for help.

  • For those interested in more active engagement and information sharing, we’ve set up forums for discussion about virtual worship and pastoral/practical care for Friends and neighbors in these times, via Slack (an online discussion tool).

    If you would like to join our Slack channel, you can click on this link. If you are new to Slack—as many of us are—you can learn more on the brief “how-to” linked here.

In addition to engaging with local meetings this week, we’ve also made some necessary decisions:

  • All in-person events sponsored by NEYM events are now moved to online, postponed, or canceled through April

  • While we are still actively preparing for Sessions as planned in August, we have begun contingency planning should our traditional Sessions not be possible

  • If you have questions about potential changes in the process of yearly meeting discernment coming to Sessions, or how your monthly meeting might participate, please contact Presiding Clerk Bruce Neumann at clerk@neym.org. A more detailed update from Bruce will be sent to all local and quarterly meeting contacts in the coming days.

May you know and trust the loving embrace of the Spirit surrounding you, everywhere you find yourself. Keep in touch.

in faith and service,

Nia Thomas, Quaker Practice and Leadership Facilitator
Noah Merrill, Yearly Meeting Secretary

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