Coronavirus Update: Living—and Acting On—Our Faith

Dear Friends,

In New England’s natural landscapes, April is a time of renewed tenderness, and of breaking open.

This year, amid the new buds and birdsong, many Friends are seeking ways to slow down and stay open—and to be made tender—to new Life within and among us, even while meetinghouses and public gathering places are closed, even in the midst of turmoil, suffering, and grief.

For many of us, this is also a time of action and urgency, as plans are disrupted, lives are upended, and we do what we need to do to make it through today. We’re adapting to new and uncertain circumstances.

Whatever is going on for each of us individually, let’s remember that we’re all in this together. This is both a foundational truth, and something we have to make real in this time with our choices and our care. May our hearts break open to embrace an ever-wider sense of who is part of our “we”.

This week, we’re writing with invitations for ways we can live and act on our faith—one focused on nurturing connections among Friends,and one focused on witness in support of some of those most vulnerable.

Please read on below for more.

Living Faith Reimagined: An Invitation

A message from the Living Faith Planning Team…

Dear Ones,

As we listen for how we are called to serve in this season, we return to our vision for the spring Living Faith event, originally planned to take place today: Saturday, April 4.

Living Faith gatherings have always been dynamic opportunities focused on supporting each other in living out a shared faith, both within our Quaker communities and in the wider world. While the next in-person Living Faith gathering is postponed until the fall, our commitment to lift up and support the ways we can live—and act on—our faith during this time continues.

You’re invited to share

Today we write to invite you to participate in a New England-wide project, called A Week in the Life, to celebrate and lift up the ways New England Quakers are living our faith in these times.

During this coming week—known in many churches as Holy Week—we are inviting you to take a photo of yourself living your faith right now. This could be a photo of anything you are doing to deepen and express your practice and leading as a Quaker—daily prayer, caring for someone else, doing necessary work, sheltering in place, etc.

To contribute to the project, please send your photo and a short caption (including photo credit) to us at LFsharing@neym.org by the end of Easter Sunday, April 12th.

Please note, these photos will be public, so share only images and words you are comfortable being public to anyone, and that you have permission to share from everyone pictured.

If you don’t want your face in a photo, think about taking a picture of your hands, something you have made, or creating a still life photo that represents how you are called to live your faith this week. You can be serious, you can be silly, you can do this in any way that is right for you.

We’ll be back in touch

The week following Easter, we will share the collected content from A Week in the Life on our website, in this update, and via social media. In this way, we hope to lift up some of the many ways Friends are living—and acting on—our faith in this moment.

We hope that this shared effort strengthens our sense of connection during a time of physical separation, deepens our ability to witness to the power of the Spirit in our lives, and helps us to hold one another and this beloved world in the Light.

with Love,

Sarah Cushman (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting)
Clerk, for the Living Faith Planning Team

Contribute a Photo for the Project

Opportunities for Advocacy and Witness

Even as we practice physical distancing, we urge Friends to consider how we can live our faith through advocacy to support those who are especially vulnerable.

Below we’re highlighting two issues of particular urgent concern accompanied by actions Friends can take, as well as links to learn more.

Stand with the Mashpee Wampanoag

  • As those who are able shelter at home, our neighbors of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are at risk of losing what is left of their homelands due to recent decisions by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Secretary of the Interior. Also known as the People of the First Light, the Mashpee Wampanoag have occupied the same region for over 12,000 years. Sovereignty, tribal government, health, education, and emergency services are all threatened by the actions of the U.S. government. Learn more here.
  • Mashpee Wampanoag community leaders have shared that Friends’ advocacy at this time is welcomed, especially in support of HR 312, federal legislation that would prevent the Department of the Interior from “disestablishing” the Tribe’s reservation.

    Rachel Carey-Harper, (Barnstable, MA, Preparative Meeting), a Friend with many years’ relationship with members of the Tribe, has created a call to action for Friends and a sample letter that Friends can use to offer support through letter-writing and phone calls.

    From Rachel: I respectfully ask Friends to prayerfully consider appropriate responses and support for the indigenous people in Mashpee…Let’s envision and work toward a renewed commitment to respect and healing. As this blossoms in all our hearts, it enables us to meet each other with Light and unconditional Love.

    Read more from Rachel here. There is also an online petition organized through MoveOn.org that you can sign here.

Care for Those Incarcerated or Detained

  • Alongside many in our region and around the country, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is calling for government officials across the U.S to protect the vulnerable, especially those confined in detention centers, jails, and prisons, where physical distancing is not possible and coronavirus outbreaks are spreading

    Take action to contact your governor and relevant ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) authorities with the message that we must care for all who are in danger—including those members of our communities who are detained or incarcerated, and their families.

  • Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has more information on the particular vulnerability for those incarcerated and in detention, and action steps you can take, here.
  • “No Way to Treat a Child”, a campaign co-sponsored by the AFSC, is asking Friends to support a bill in Congress that would prohibit U.S. taxpayer funds from supporting the military detention and abuse of children, with particular emphasis on the care of Palestinian youth in Israeli detention centers, where coronavirus infections have already begun to spread.

    Consistent with New England Friends’ 2017 minuted call for an end to U.S. military aid to the Middle East, we encourage you to learn more and take action here.

Looking for more legislative action updates? FCNL is maintaining a COVID-19 advocacy page here.

Aware of other ways New England Friends can support those most vulnerable?  Email Noah. We’ll gather and regularly review these opportunities to support Quakers in witness during the pandemic.

Continuing Connection and Support for Meetings

We remain grateful for the rich sharing and relationship being fostered through our weekly calls with meeting leaders and via the New England Quakers discussion forum on Slack (contact us to join).

This week, we’ve heard questions from Friends about online security, particularly for those of us using Zoom. In response, we’ve added a page on the topic, with tips for managing virtual risks, to our website here.

In the coming days, we’re continuing to support Friends serving in local meetings with further resources and connections related to online discernment and decision-making, as well as sharing practices and counsel for holding space for grief and mourning in these times.

Please reach out—just reply to this email—if there are other ways we can be of help in the coming week. 

In tender openness, with profound care, and until we meet again,

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

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