Faith Beyond Walls

Margaret Fell, mother of the Quaker Movement, welcomes traveling ministers to Friends’ headquarters at Swarthmoor Hall. Created by First Day School of Middlebury (VT) Friends Meeting. 

Dear Friends,

As we send this February newsletter, I’m reflecting on hospitality.

This past month, as some in power have called for walls and bans—and many more have raised voices and hands to oppose them—our faith’s commitment to welcoming the sacred through welcoming the stranger feels more important than ever. In my home meeting in Putney, Vermont Friends often recall the deep commitment of our departed Friend Hattie Reeves-Forsythe: hospitality is the basis of spirituality.

Participating in the women’s marches, supporting Islamic prayers in Copley Square in Boston, reaching out to refugees locally and participating in demonstrations at airports across our region, our wider community of faith has been living this truth, affirming life-giving relationship in the face of fear and all that would divide us as Children of Earth.

When we affirm relationships with our neighbors, our ways of seeing and acting change. We come to feel the harm done to even those who might seem far removed from us affecting us more profoundly as well. We come to see a little more clearly the ways we are all connected—not just in principle, but in the particularity of practice. The reality of the divine Life present in each one ministers to us, and is transmitted through us. Many of us know from experience how this can lead us to act for justice and healing in courageous and concrete ways, and sustain us for the path ahead.

This month’s issue of the email newsletter makes visible some of the ways the Spirit is leading Friends to share this core truth.

In November, I was blessed to join a group of six New England Friends who were welcomed as guests at the water protector camps on the Missouri River in North Dakota. Standing at the sacred fire; carrying a banner, minutes and letters from New England; we spoke about how paying attention to the faithful witness of one community can stir the conscience and the hearts of another. I believe the spiritual power expressed by the Native communities leading the nonviolent resistance at Standing Rock and beyond offers to teach us as Quakers something profound about aligning our lives with the imperatives of justice and wholeness at this time in history.

In these tumultuous days, may we continue to turn toward our neighbors, toward one another, and so toward God. May our faith be renewed through radical acts of spiritual hospitality. May we challenge one another daily to open our hearts, our meeting communities, and our lives to embrace a wider welcome for all, even as we are welcomed home by the Spirit against which walls and bans will never ultimately stand. May we stay humble, love fiercely, and keep our hearts teachable.

Please keep sharing your news of how Truth prospers among us.

In faith and service,


Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

P.S.: Speaking of Friends serving Love through opening ourselves to deeper relationship, here’s a late-breaking report from one traveling Friend on last weekend’s Vassalboro Quarterly Meeting in Maine.

In This Issue

Faith Communities Oppose the Muslim Ban

Faith leaders from across Massachusetts gathering in opposition to the Muslim Ban (photo: Kathleen Wooten)
On behalf of Friends in New England, our Presiding Clerk and Secretary have joined with leaders of sixteen other denominations in Massachusetts to sign this letter opposing President Trump’s January 27, 2017, Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
Read the letter from the Massachusetts Council of Churches
The Maine Council of Churches, in which New England Quakers hold membership, has also issued a statement condemning the Executive Order on immigration.

Read the letter from the Maine Council of Churches
Reflecting our wider global Quaker family’s engagement, here’s a statement opposing racism and injustice from British Friends’ equivalent of our NEYM Permanent Board.

New England Friends at the Women’s Marches

On January 21, 2017, Friends from throughout New England traveled to Washington, DC, and gathered across our region to participate in demonstrations supporting the rights and voices of women.
Read reflections from Friends who participated in the events

“Say the Wrong Thing” at Woolman Hill

Maureen Lopes of New Haven (CT) Friends participated in a January Woolman Hill workshop led by author, performer and educator Amanda Kemp of Lancaster (PA) Friends, and writes this reflection:

“We built a level of trust that allowed us to go deep into roots of feelings and fears around interactions between people of different ideas and beliefs around racial justice. We used readings from Amanda’s new book, Say the Wrong Thing: Stories and Strategies for Racial Justice and Authentic Community.”

Read the rest of Maureen’s reflection from the workshop

Order the book

Report & Resources from
Quaker Organizing and Preparation Day

In January, responding to a call from two Friends from Beacon Hill (MA) Meeting, a group of Friends and allies gathered to share stories and experience and to explore ways we might support our meetings in work and witness in these times.
Coming out of this gathering, they shared with us some resources developed by participants for local meetings. We’ve posted an initial collection of these materials on neym.org. If you are aware of other resources you think might be helpful to Friends, please email office@neym.org to let us know.
Read a Report from the Day
View Resources

A Friend’s Message:
The shadow, the substance and the lamb

Recently Susan Davies of Vassalboro (ME) Friends Meeting, which is unprogrammed, was invited to bring a message at Durham (ME) Friends, where worship is semi-programmed.

At the request of several Friends, we share an excerpt of the message she offered here:

“I find it’s hard to escape a creeping feeling of despair in this fall’s climate of political polarization where one group of people assembles their observations, compares notes, formulates their opinions and comes to one conclusion about what it all means, and another group does the same thing and comes to an opposite conclusion. I try to imagine that each group is acting out of some underlying positive intent. But I often fail.”

Read the rest of Susan’s message here

Friends Camp Seeks Resident Fellows

Friends Camp recently received a Legacy Grant to support four Resident Fellows visiting Friends Camp in the summer of 2017.

Each Fellow will live at camp for two weeks and share their special interests or talents with the community. Residents could be but are not limited to Quaker artists, climate activists, or musicians!

Stipend and travel funds provided.

Click here to download the job description.

Do you know someone who would be a good fit? Are YOU a great fit?

Email Anna Hopkins at director@friendscamp.org for more information.

New UMass Exhibit Features
Friends Archives

From a recent press release from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst:

“The UMass Amherst Libraries are hosting an exhibit “All That Dwell in the Light: 350 Years of Quakers in New England,” from January 23 through August 18, 2017, in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, both on the Lower Level and in Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA), on Floor 25.

The exhibit will examine the history of Quakers and Quakerism in New England drawing upon the extraordinary records of the New England Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends (NEYM).”

Read more about the exhibit

New Spiritual Nurture Program
Welcoming New England Friends

A collaboration between Woolman Hill Retreat Center,
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends and core teacher Marcelle Martin

Nurturing Worship, Faith, and Faithfulness (NWFF) is a multi-generational faith and leadership program to help Friends in New England explore ways to meet God more deeply, hone methods of discernment, reach for fuller faithfulness, and ultimately bring these gifts and strengthened abilities home to their local meetings and beyond. The program is structured to set in place support, encouragement, and accountability.The class members will become a “community of practice” in order to support each other, providing and receiving spiritual nurture to and from local meetings in lasting ways.

Image: Core teacher Marcelle Martin, Chestnut Hill (PA) Meeting
Learn More about the Program

Update: Spring Living Faith Gathering 

The April 8th Living Faith Gathering will focus on how Friends are living—and might more fully live—our faith in the world, helping us to make more real the Beloved Community to which all are invited. Through worship, workshops, small groups and more, we will increase our capacity for fostering relationships of healing and justice.

The daylong gathering will include:

  • Multigenerational community-building and get-to-know-you activities
  • Programmed and unprogrammed worship
  • Singing
  • Experiential workshops on spirituality & activism
  • Youth programming and child care
  • Fellowship and great food

We are planning workshops on topics such as:

  • War tax resistance
  • Avoiding burnout
  • Supporting the Quaker Initiative to End Torture
  • Faith & work
  • Immigrant justice
  • Visioning new strategies for Peace & Social Concerns committees
  • and more!

Online registration will open in early March.

Questions? Email the planning team at livingfaith@neym.org

Updates on Yearly Meeting Commitments

  • Last week the Treasurer, Accounts Manager and Secretary completed the steps necessary for New England Yearly Meeting of Friends to fully divest from TD Bank, which is a major funder of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens life and indigenous sovereignty in North Dakota. This reflects continuing work in response to the Call for Prayer and Support for Standing Rock from November 2016.
  • Thanks to the support of Friends across our region, we’ve also met our Yearly Meeting’s minuted commitment to raise funds to support a cultural competency audit for Friends General Conference, a North American Quaker association of which our Yearly Meeting is a member. This action is another small step in our work as New England Friends to address the impact of white supremacy in our society and in our faith communities, in response to the Minute on White Supremacy approved by Annual Sessions in 2016.As directed by Sessions, the approximately $1000 surplus raised will be used under the guidance of the Permanent Board to continue this important work in our own Yearly Meeting.More news about how we—Friends across New England and the organization of the Yearly Meeting— are continuing to respond to our minuted discernment will be shared in future newsletters.

    As always, if you have questions about ongoing work of Sessions or the Permanent Board, email Presiding Clerk Fritz Weiss at clerk@neym.org or Clerk of Permanent Board Sarah Gant at pbclerk@neym.org.  

Friends in the News

rss iconHere are two stories we’ve seen this month of New England Quakers sharing and acting from their faith:

Are you aware of Friends or Friends Meetings featured in the media for their Quaker ministry and witness? Email us at neym@neym.org.

Service Opportunities

Seeking Key Position for 2016 Annual Sessions
image of hand

  • Childcare Coordinator
    • View the position description here

Interested in exploring service in this role for New England Yearly Meeting’s Annual Sessions this summer?

Contact Events Coordinator Kathleen Wooten at events@neym.org for more information.

Other Annual Sessions position postings coming soon.

View More Service Opportunities

Quaker Events

Coming Soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

Save the Date

  • March 18, 2017, Winthrop, ME: “DayTreat” with Ministry & Counsel. A day of mutual support, resource-sharing and connection for those caring for the spiritual lives of their local meetings. Sponsored by Ministry & Counsel Committee of New England Yearly Meeting.

  • April 8, 2017, Providence, RI: Living Faith Gathering. Join Friends from throughout New England for a daylong event to nourish our faith, grow our communities, and strengthen our witness.

  • April 22, 2017, Cambridge MA. Earth Day. Consultation on Corporate Climate Witness for New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. For more information, read the Minutes of Annual Sessions 2016 committing to this work.

View More Events 

A Last Word

Our Increased Compassion, Not Our Hardened Hearts

Dear Friends,

In recent days, Friends across New England have joined demonstrations and reached out with our neighbors to oppose President Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and immigration. We continue to hold all affected in the Light. May a deep well of prayer continue to ground our work and our witness in these times.

To offer a common religious witness opposing the Executive Order, the Massachusetts Council of Churches has issued a letter opposing the ban, which is attached to this message. Demonstrating New England Friends’ partnership with our wider family of faith, and recognizing that it is especially important for Christian voices to speak clearly and strongly now, NEYM Presiding Clerk Fritz Weiss and I have signed the letter on behalf of Quakers in New England.

We encourage Friends and Friends Meetings in states other than Massachusetts to continue our shared witness on this issue, to share news about what actions you are led to take, and to let us know if there are ways your wider spiritual community can be supportive.

In faith and service,

Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

“Our Increased Compassion, Not Our Hardened Hearts”

A Joint Letter from Massachusetts Heads of Church on the Executive Action Suspending Refugee Resettlement

We speak together, as Church leaders in Massachusetts, on the injurious Executive Action restricting refugees, issued on Friday January 27, 2017 entitled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”

Our Christian tradition is clear. Deuteronomy 10:19 commands, “You shall also love the foreigner, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” The Holy Family was forced to flee the violence of their homeland (Matthew 2). Our Savior was a migrant. We hear Jesus Christ declare in Matthew 25 that His followers will be judged if we do not welcome the stranger. We stand under that judgment today.

We believe in the aspirations of our nation, a place where all people long to live in safety. We remember with horror our nation’s decision in 1939 to refuse the refugees on the MS St. Louis, a ship of German Jews, condemning many to death. Refugees invite our increased compassion, not our hardened hearts.

We echo the words of Bishop Joe Vasquez of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country.”

We grieve this decision to limit refugees, as it will cause further suffering, not just to our fellow Christians escaping persecution, but all refugees fleeing violence.

As Christians we try to live our lives in accordance with Jesus’ Great Commandment – to love our neighbors as ourselves. We want safe homes, the freedom to worship, stable governments, and opportunities to thrive. Refugees desire the same. Our nation is founded on this welcome. We must make sure that we do not allow fear to overwhelm us, crowd out our compassion, or fundamentally change our character.Therefore, we pledge our voices and our churches’ active support to resettle refugees in Massachusetts.

We call on elected leaders, including President Trump, to reconsider the Executive Action to limit refugee resettlement.

We have and will continue to welcome and support refugees. Our churches are in every single city and town of Massachusetts.

And, we ask our churches to reach out in love and Christian hospitality to the refugees living near them. We encourage our churches to show compassion and support to those who have fled hardship and violence. Signed:

• The Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian, Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America

• The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ

• Mr. Anthony Barsamian, President, Massachusetts Council of Churches

• Reverend Howard K. Burgoyne, Superintendent, East Coast Conference, Evangelical Covenant Church

• Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River

• Reverend Dr. Harold M. Delhagen, Synod Leader/Executive for The Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Church (USA)

• Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, Bishop, United Methodist Church, New England Conference

• Reverend Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches

• The Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts

• The Rt. Rev. Alan Gates, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

• The Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

• Bishop Jim Hazelwood, New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

• Reverend Jocelyn Hart Lovelace, Presiding Elder, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Boston- Hartford District

• His Grace Bishop John, Diocese of Worcester and New England, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

• Reverend Mary Day Miller, Executive Minister, The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts

• Noah Merrill, Secretary & Frederick Weiss, Presiding Clerk, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Joint Resolution

Rally- January 21st, 2017, Putney, Vermont, photo by Nancy Jane Lang
Rally- January 21st, 2017, Putney, Vermont

A proposed resolution by the Vermont Senate and House of Representatives:

Joint resolution expressing strong opposition to any governmental registry based on religion, race, or ethnicity and to any mass deportation of undocumented residents.

Whereas, the Declaration of Independence’s proclamation “that all men are created equal,”  has, on occasion, fallen short when members of religious, racial, or ethnic groups have been subjected to discriminatory federal policies, and

Whereas, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the far broader Immigration Act of 1924 are two of examples of federal laws that either prohibited or restricted immigration based on religion, race, or ethnicity, and

Whereas, at the start of World War II, Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 directed the exclusion of persons of Japanese ancestry, including U.S. citizens, from the nation’s west coast and resulted in the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment (concentration) camps, and

Whereas, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this order in an infamous decision, Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), and although Congress enacted the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Pub.L. No. 100–983, that apologized for this wartime policy, the potential of the federal government mistreating individuals based on their religion, race, or ethnicity still exists, and

Whereas, while campaigning, now President‑elect Donald Trump stated his support for mandatory registration of Muslims residing in the United States, seemingly to include American citizens, and

Whereas, although he quickly began to narrow, if at times ambiguously, the scope of his proposed registry, the mere fact that he would contemplate a religiously based national registry raises chilling comparisons to the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II, and

Whereas, President-elect Trump also proposed while campaigning to deport all 11 million undocumented persons residing in the United States, and

Whereas, although he subsequently narrowed the deportation proposal to those undocumented persons who have committed crimes, a number he estimated at two to three million individuals, the concept still raises core constitutional issues of due process, and

Whereas, this proposal, depending on the ultimate scope of its coverage, has the potential to result in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented young persons who are living in this country through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and

Whereas, the registry and mass deportation proposals run contrary to our nation’s most fundamental democratic principles, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly expresses its strong opposition to any governmental registry based on religion, race, or ethnicity and to any mass deportation of undocumented residents, and be it further

Resolved:  That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to President-elect Donald Trump and the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

*Clerks Note: This text was read at the rally. It has not been minuted as approved by the Meeting, it will be considered at the next monthly Meeting.

MLK Jr Day Celebration

martin-luther-king-jr10TH ANNUAL MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR CELEBRATION

Sunday, January 15, 2017,  4PM

Centre Congregational Church, Brattleboro

Sponsored by the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association

featuring SAMIRAH EVANS and friends


SPAGHETTI DINNER FUNDRAISER, 5PM

for the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Youth Group trip to South Dakota

to work with and learn from the Cheyenne River Sioux

after the dinner stay to learn about and get involved with local organizations working against racism:

The ROOT Social Justice Center,  Black Lives Matter Vermont

Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and others

January 10th Bill Introduction, Universal Background Checks

So far, 78 people have RSVPed for the January 10th Bill Introduction Press img_5784Conference. We need a lot more! If you haven’t yet RSVPed, please do so! We need you. If you’ve already signed up, convince a few friends to come with you. This is our chance to show lawmakers that public support for Universal Background Checks is strong — and that the polls numbers really do translate into in-person support. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to make progress.

A date for the Universal Background Check Bill Introduction and Press Conference has been set! This is where your presence in-person is invaluable. Mark your calendars now, and RSVP here!

WHEN

January 10, 2017 at 12pm – 3pm

WHERE

Statehouse

The schedule:
12:00pm – Lunch with your representatives in the Statehouse cafeteria
12:45pm – Press conference in the Cedar Creek Room
1:30pm – 3:00pm  – Strategic Organizing Meeting in Room 10

If you live far from Montpelier, don’t let yourself be daunted by the drive. We’ll have carpools coming from every corner of the state. Together we’ll show lawmakers how strong the support for Universal Background Checks is!

RSVP here!

We need to come together and show up!

Thank you,
Ann

Ann Braden

President, Gun Sense Vermont

Ann Braden
http://www.gunsensevt.org/

Friends, welcome prophets among us in these dark times!

To New England’s Meetings

Dear Friends,

Many of us are feeling under the weight of grief, fear, and anger in the face of national and world events. Many of us are digging deep, to feel where a prophetic response may be: Is there a word from the Lord that Friends are to carry at this time, in deed or in word? Is our spiritual condition healthy, alert, and clear enough to hear and receive such a word?

Here is one thing I know: A prophetic people is one which welcomes the arising of
prophecy.  The first motion is, in love, to make room for the leadings, and the people who are led, and give them opportunity to bring what they have been given.  This advice comes from the earliest life of the Christian movement. In the ancient book of advice called the “Didache” or “Teaching of the apostles,” the little fellowships gathered in Christ’s name are admonished to be open to the motion of the Spirit as embodied in traveling ministers: “Let every bdquoteapostle [one who has been sent] who comes to you be received as the Lord.”  Knowing that we have this treasure in earthen vessels, we are to “try the spirits” and feel where the divine is present when someone feels moved to act or speak under the guiding influence of the Divine Spirit — but we are warned not to quench the Spirit’s motion, but to accept the unexpected activity of that Spirit in our lives as a community as well as individuals:  “The spirit blows where it will, and you hear its sound, but don’t know whence it comes or whither it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the spirit.”

As a people, we have fallen so far into a comfortable and secular mind,  that we think concerns and leadings are somehow a matter personal to the concerned Friend, and our meetings can pick and choose whom to hear, whom to invite and allow to come among us!  That is a way to avoid the uncomfortable evidence that the living God is still working through us, preparing individuals and pushing them or drawing them into service.     It is a way not to change, not to grow, to keep control of our schedules and our attention; to keep ourselves unfree.  We often talk about being “spirit-led,” but as a people how available are we really to that experience?

When we make time for the unexpected, when we accept the opportunities that come to us through Friends who are called to travel to us, and have the encouragement of their meetings to do so, we enable those Friends, and others not yet arisen, to learn better how to watch for, hear, bear, and accomplish their service.  Our meetings  are “schools of the prophets” — or can be if we recognize the opportunities that come our way, accept them with joy, and learn from them — both from the message and from our experience of reception and discernment.

I have known many Friends, newly drawn into service, who have been discouraged by the convention that prophets come to meetings only when meetings issue invitations.  This turns the matter upside down, Friends:  The calling and the service are given through the body, through and out of the common life in the Spirit, and represent an invitation from God to see, to feel, to know, and perhaps to act in fresh ways, in ways renewed by the living water of God’s life that brings these leadings and opportunities to us.

It can be inconvenient for a meeting to make room for such an unplanned, “wildcat” experience of the Spirit.  It may also be that a Friend’s concern, to be brought to a meeting, will require some discernment by the meeting about ways and means.  I can assure you, though, that it is pretty inconvenient for a Friend to have such a concern, to set aside other things, and dare to stand forth, dare to speak for God and for us.  The sense of unreadiness, of unworthiness, of emptiness, is very sharp in such a Friend, and he or she is only too conscious of difficulties for themselves and for their visitors.  Yet the act of faithfulness, however imperfectly accomplished, is a step into greater life, and if it is rooted in love, it is evidence of God’s work and life active among us.  And Friends, there is such a famine among us, and among people in general, for such evidence!

So if a Friend reaches out to your meeting, with an earnest statement that she or he is traveling under concern, with the unity of their meeting (your brothers and sisters!), remember that we can earn a prophet’s reward even by offering a cup of water to a prophet.  Find a way to entertain this Friend, as we are to entertain strangers sent among us, for thereby we may unexpectedly be visited by an angel — not the traveling Friend, but the beloved Spirit, the Shepherd and Teacher, made available in the giving and receiving of spiritual hospitality.  Make room, Friends, light your lamps in welcome, live like people who truly love the Spirit, and who love to see the springs of Life break forth in any!

In Christian love your friend,

Brian Drayton

On the Threshold

When I visited Friends in Vassalboro, Maine last month, I was blessed to have dinner with Paul and Elizabeth Cates at their home on the family’s flower farm just down the road from the Vassalboro meetinghouse. We had seen each other briefly at the Living Faith gathering at the Friends School of Portland a week before, and it was wonderful to have more time with them.

Over dinner, our conversation turned to the climate surrounding the recent presidential election, about Elizabeth’s life in Germany in the shadow of authoritarianism, and the fears so many who knew fascism first-hand have been feeling in recent months.  Her family was part of the Confessing Church, the Christian movement in opposition to fascism; Paul and Elizabeth first met as he carried messages between East and West Berlin after the war, connecting the churches in that divided city.

I shared my sense, strengthened in prayer, that this is a time that calls for Friends to speak clearly, now more than ever.

“To speak, yes”, she said. “And—to help.”

In worship in the Vassalboro meetinghouse, just up the hill from the edge of China Lake, bounded by the beautiful burial ground where so many generations of Friends are laid to rest, I felt the close presence of New England Friend Rufus Jones, whose ministry and tireless service reshaped the Quaker movement in the early twentieth century. There, praying on the shores of the lake where Rufus grew up, I was drawn to remember a story Rufus told—a story I grew up with—about a delegation of American Friends sent to Germany to seek Nazi permission to provide aid and safe passage for Jews being persecuted under fascism.

The story goes that in the days following Kristallnacht—the “Night of Broken Glass”—when hundreds of Jews were killed, thousands were arrested, and thousands of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were destroyed on November 9-10, 1938, the American Friends Service Committee asked Rufus and two other Friends to travel to Germany to see what American Quakers could do in the face of such violence and suffering.

Their mission led them to petition the Gestapo—the Nazi secret police—directly. After they had presented their initial request, they were asked to wait for a decision. There in a small room deep in the headquarters of the fearsome secret police in Berlin, they entered into a time of silent, waiting worship.

After who knows how long, they were told that the permission they were seeking had been granted; they would be able to work (for the time being) for the relief and safe passage of Jews who were suffering so greatly in Germany.

Since I visited Vassalboro, in daily prayer and in worship in meeting, I’ve found my thoughts turning again to that worship, there on the threshold of the Gestapo. I’ve wondered: In the midst of such fear, in the heart of such institutional evil, surrounded by worldly power, what assurance might they have felt in that worship? What was their experience, waiting there in the stillness, on the threshold of fascism? Where did they find the courage to make room for worship together at such a time, in such a place? What risk of faith must it have taken, in the face of all the voices and pressures telling them that “power” came through violence, oppression and fear, to again entrust their lives to the motion of Love?

Imagining those moments of worship, the witness of Friends in that generation, and the Love that flowed through them, I find myself amazed. And I’ve come to realize that’s exactly where I need to be.

Thomas Merton, in an essay in his “Raids on the Unspeakable”, reminds us that in the story of Christmas, the Christ-child is born when there is no space available—in a “time of no room,” a time such as this. The radical discipline of Advent, this season when so many of our wider Christian siblings celebrate the preparation for the coming birth of Jesus, is a time of waiting, of absence, of preparing room in our hearts and in our lives for the inbreaking of new Life and Light in the midst of the darkness of the winter, in the midst of the suffering, fear, anxiety, busyness, distraction, division, rage and hopelessness of our world.

In the Christmas story, when this Life and Light come through, there is amazement. Suddenly, everything is seen in its true perspective, and the forces of death and empire lose their dominion over our hearts.

It just may be that the challenge for our faith today is fundamentally the same as the one before those Friends in Berlin in 1938. We stand on the threshold of a new year, on the threshold of a new presidency, in a time when so much is passing away, when the institutions of church, economy and society that once seemed eternal are profoundly changed or breaking down, when the present terrors of white supremacy, authoritarianism and ecological collapse are deeply felt.

Though fear and uncertainty surround us, though we can’t predict tomorrow, though for so many of us looking into the future feels like staring into the abyss, I believe we are invited—challenged—to walk in fearsome places in simple obedience to the tender, unshakeable Love of God, and to make room for amazement. Our Friends practices and our meeting communities can help us to open ourselves to the Power we can encounter in worship together, the Love and Life of God, the quickening Spirit that waits to be born anew today—in our own hearts, in us as a faith community, and in our world.

In the risk of faith,


Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

Epistle from Travelers to Standing Rock

Pictured, from left: Christa Frintner and Kim West (Friends Meeting at Cambridge, MA); Honor Woodrow (Framingham, MA); Jay O’Hara and Meg Klepack (West Falmouth Preparative, MA); Noah Merrill (Putney, VT).
Read the Epistle from Standing Rock
In late November, six New England Quakers traveled to the water protector camp of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Fires Council) in North Dakota.Jay O’Hara of West Falmouth (MA) Meeting, who helped organize the delegation in November, initially visited the encampment in September and wrote this reflection.

This month’s Friends Journal features a story from Shelley Tanenbaum of Quaker Earthcare Witness, one of several other Friends who have visited Standing Rock in recent months.

Note: Due to weather and changing conditions at Standing Rock, all Friends interested in supporting the continuing prayerful witness of the water protectors and join them in advocacy are encouraged to consult www.ocetisakowincamp.org and sacredstonecamp.org for current news and guidance, and to read this December 8 coalition statement from the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camps.

Image: Panorama of Oceti Sakowin Camp. Photo: New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

News from the Permanent Board

Sarah Gant of Beacon Hill (MA) Meeting, who serves as clerk of the Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting, has for the last year written periodic letters to Friends throughout New England.These reports offer important updates on the work of the Permanent Board which stewards our shared work and carries the governance responsibilities of the Yearly Meeting between Annual Sessions.

Read Sarah’s most recent letter here.

Ruby Sales to address Annual Sessions 2017

Photo of Ruby Sales
One highlight – Sarah shares the breaking news that civil rights activist and public theologian Ruby Sales has agreed to be our keynote speaker at Annual Sessions this August.

Click here to listen to a recent podcast interview with Ruby Sales (pictured left) with Krista Tippett of OnBeing. More information on Ruby’s time with us—and how we hope it might support New England Friends’ commitment to address and heal from the spiritual contagion of white supremacy—coming soon.

Further efforts to address systemic oppression and foster organizational change

In early January, please hold in the Light Friends Camp Director Anna Hopkins and Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Merrill—the two managerial staff of the Yearly Meeting—as they participate in a five-day intensive offering of Beyond Diversity 101, a program developed and led by Niyonu Spann of Chester (PA) Friends Meeting in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and co-led by Lisa Graustein of Beacon Hill (MA) Friends Meeting.

From the workshop description:

“An intensive skill-development workshop for individuals focused on creating a more whole society by transforming systems of oppression. This special January offering will be a modified BD101 COR (Creating Organization Readiness). We will work with community or organization teams to clarify the purpose of equity initiatives, build skills for analysis and intervention, and strengthen the internal capacity to maintain progress throughout a transformative process.”

New Collection of Clerking Resources Available


This fall and winter have seen an abundance of workshops in New England supporting the spiritual work of clerking and participating in Friends process of corporate discernment in meeting for business.If you couldn’t make one of those events—or just want resources to share with your meeting—we’ve collected several resources on clerking in the Quaker tradition.

Coming soon: Video of a recent presentation by Jackie Stillwell of Monadnock (NH) and Jan Hoffman of Mt. Toby (MA) at Burlington (VT) Meeting.

View the Clerking Resources page
Have great clerking resources of your own to share? Please email us. We’d love to consider how we might share them more widely.

New Youth Ministries Child Safety Policy Approved

Each year, hundreds of young people participate in the Youth Ministries of New England Friends.

Through the retreat programs of Junior Yearly MeetingJunior High Yearly MeetingYoung Friends and the summer sessions of Friends Camp, youth participants and skillful, gifted staff together search for and discover essential truths about what matters most in life, build lifelong relationships and practice following inner guidance with the support of a loving community.

This fall, the Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting approved final revisions to a new Child Safety Policy for the Youth Ministries under our care, continuing our deep commitment to responsible and faithful stewardship of these important ministries on behalf of New England Friends.

Read the new policy

While this policy covers only the programs under direct oversight of New England Yearly Meeting as an organization, we encourage all local meetings to consider how your meeting fosters an environment of safety, accountability and loving care for each of the precious children in our faith communities across New England. Where possible, we hope this policy might serve as a template to inform local meetings’ discernment.

Is your local meeting…

Seeking further support in developing child safety policies and practice?

Looking for ways to ensure youth workers are background-checked?

  • New England Yearly Meeting also offers confidential criminal background screenings for youth workers and volunteers in local meetings. Contact Office Manager Sara Hubner for more information.

New Video: Ministry and Meetings

In this third video in the partnership between New England Friends and QuakerSpeak, we asked about the relationship between those serving in public ministry and the Friends meetings that support them. 

Legacy Grants: Upcoming Deadline

The Legacy Grants of New England Yearly Meeting support the life and ministry of Quakers and Friends communities in our region.

The next deadline for submissions is March 1, 2017. Click here for more information on the funds overall, and click here for information on applying.

Invitation to a Day of
Quaker Organizing and Preparation

In recent weeks, we’ve heard from many New England Friends and Friends Meetings who have been praying and preparing in recognition of a worsening social and political environment in our country—especially for immigrants, Muslims, People of Color and LGBTQ+ people. Many of us are gathering for worship and discernment about how we are called to live our faith in this time of division, violence and fear.

On January 15 in Boston, Lisa Graustein and Greg Williams of Beacon Hill (MA) Friends Meeting are hosting an event to support Friends in organizing and preparation for deepened work and witness.

Learn More About This Event
  • Are you or Friends from your meeting planning to participate in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21? Friends Meeting of Washington (DC) is offering limited hospitality.
  • Are Friends in your area bringing people together to pray, strengthen relationships, foster dialogue, or share how you might be led to witness today? Please let us know so that we can help spread the word.

“To New England’s Meetings”: A Letter


Brian Drayton of Souhegan (NH) Meeting recently wrote a letter urging Friends to welcome those led to travel in the ministry.Here’s an excerpt:

“Many of us are feeling under the weight of grief, fear, and anger in the face of national and world events. Many of us are digging deep, to feel where a prophetic response may be: Is there a word from the Lord that Friends are to carry at this time, in deed or in word? Is our spiritual condition healthy, alert, and clear enough to hear and receive such a word?”

Read the Full Letter

New England Friends Commit to Protect Civil Rights,
Offer Sanctuary

Needham and Wellesley, Massachusetts

Several local congregations have issued a proactive statement making clear that they will offer sanctuary to immigrants and refugees who may be in need of support and protection in the coming months and years.

Wellesley (MA) Friends Meeting is one of the signatories.

Read the letter

Maine

Quakers from several parts of the state have been actively working with religious and community groups throughout their region on a public pledge to protect the civil rights of immigrants in their communities.

Following requests by several Maine Friends, the Presiding Clerk and Yearly Meeting Secretary signed the pledge on behalf of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

Read the pledge

Ecumenical Witness

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends is a denominational member of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.

Executive Director Laura Everett recently spoke to an interfaith event at the Islamic Society of Boston in Wayland, MA, expressing our support of and commitment to our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Read the text of the address

Quaker Events

Coming Soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

Save the Date

  • March 18, 2017, Winthrop, ME: “DayTreat” with Ministry & Counsel. A day of mutual support, resource-sharing and connection for those caring for the spiritual lives of their local meetings. Sponsored by Ministry & Counsel Committee of New England Yearly Meeting.

  • April 8, 2017, Providence, RI: Living Faith Gathering. Join Friends from throughout New England for a daylong event to nourish our faith, grow our communities, and strengthen our witness.

  • April 22, 2017, Earth Day. Consultation on Corporate Climate Witness for New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. Location and details to be determined. For more information, read the Minutes of Annual Sessions 2016 committing to this work.

View More Events 

A Last Word

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