Artist, Quaker, Musician

We as members of Putney Friends Meeting (Quakers) share the

goals of many others for social justice. We affirm any work that

addresses equity and inclusion for refugees, asylum seekers,

immigrants, people of color, and other marginalized groups.


Our faith community extends a welcome to all those who embark on a

dangerous journey to come to this country to escape violence and

dire poverty, to make a better life for themselves and their families.


Likewise, we offer that same welcome to those who come to our

town’s border with the desire to lead dignified, productive lives.

We also call on other individuals, groups, and faith communities to

stand with us in making similar public statements of support.

“Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”  
-Toni Morrison

“Hush little baby, a story I’ll tell…”  – from The Great Storm is Over, by Bob Franke

Dear Friends,

Stories have power—to shape us, to bind us, and to free us. They can carry us and guide us. And they can make us bearers of hope in the midst of the unbearable. 

In The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall integrates insights from neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology to explore the science of narrative in human experience.

Gottschall shows that our minds are “addicted” to stories, so much so that in the absence of a cohesive narrative, and in the presence of only extremely limited information, our brains inevitably respond to that painful dissonance by creating a story to explain what’s happening and to guide our response.

Once this has happened, it’s very difficult for our minds to change, a process which takes much greater effort than the almost effortless—but powerful—crafting of the (often false) story in the first place. So it matters what stories we allow to take root in our hearts.

We also have a potent capacity to transmit stories. When we “catch” a story, it transports our minds from our present contexts to inhabit a profoundly different reality. And when we share stories, they can spread like wildfire.

It seems we’re hardwired for stories. But what kinds of stories? Stories about difficult things, it turns out.

Studies (and streaming video data) show that humans demonstrate a tendency to gravitate toward those stories that include the greatest degree of—or potential for—conflict, pain, and danger.

Hearing this, I recognize my own tendency to become captivated by experiences of strife, suffering, and risk. And I know this is not limited to the stories I watch or read; I have this tendency in my life and actions as well. Focusing on the possibility for future harm keeps me wrapped in fear, and spreads that fear. 

Despite my best intentions, I know how easily I can be drawn into a story—and so into actions—focused on conflict, intensity, and harm. And despite the loneliness that results from letting these toxic stories find a home in me, I know I’m not alone in this. We could almost say that something in us seems to need a story that includes pain, fear, despair, and death.

And is this really so very strange? These qualities are inextricably part of the condition of the world. We can’t domesticate the wildness of our existence. We need stories that speak to the whole of our lives and potentials, not just the more comfortable or sanitized sides of humanity. A story that does not address suffering and risk has no power to hold us. 

But just because a story contains these elements doesn’t make all such stories the same. Where the story takes us matters.

Does it lead to liberation, or into deeper captivity? Does it open us to Love, or close us to relationship? The stories we tell matter, because the stories that make a home in us—that we tell and rehearse and tell again—become the stories we live.

Within and through every story, a fundamental question is waiting to be answered: In the presence of pain, struggle, and loss, how shall we live?

There are choices for us here. It seems it’s not enough to root out the death-dealing stories in our hearts. We must replace them with stories that lead to Love.

This is why I need you.

One of the essential purposes of our faith community is to cultivate and to carry an alternative story. As we practice our faith, our lives speak. And our lives—even more than our most beautiful words—are telling a story. As action after action shapes our lives, we could say that in some real sense, we’re made of stories.

The stories we tell together carry us, even as they enable us to make one another’s burdens light. As we discover new ways to share them once again, they create us anew—as beloved parts of a whole. If we who seek to live our faith in the Quaker tradition today are a People gathered, we are a People of the Story.

In this shared storytelling, we cultivate what we could call a narrative resilience—a capacity to sustain a living witness in the face of disruption. I will stumble again. You may grow tired. Many of us might even give up. But the communal story goes on.

So what is the story our lives are telling? 

Empire—a name for the manifestation of domination, separation, selfishness, and fear—tells us a story that sustains and makes possible the systems of exploitation, oppression, denial, and death that are plunging our world toward oblivion. This is a one-way, dead-end story, a story whose direction is the end of all of us. This is a story that captivates us with ease, deprivation, ignorance, excess, loneliness, and scarcity. When we’re in the grip of it, we transmit it unconsciously with every step.

But there’s another story—one about deep hope on the other side of despair, about a brighter shore beyond the darkening horizon, about a Love that conquers death. It’s a story that is wholeness, that calls forth right relationship, that treasures the fundamental interdependence of creation. It sustains the enduring Truth of experienced Life that shatters lies. It calls chain-makers to become chain-breakers, and turns the hearts of exiles toward home—no matter how long the journey still to go. It’s a story of a profound, tender, self-giving wildness that seeks to be born anew, as early Quaker Isaac Penington writes, to “grow…and be…and breathe…and act” in every heart.

When we let our lives speak from within that Story, we’re not relying on some promise of release in a far-off future—we’re participating in a new creation, here and now.

This is the Story I need your help to remember. This is the Story I need your help to share. It’s the Love we’re invited to bear witness to—with how we live and serve and walk today.

I hear stories are contagious.

in faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

P.S.—The newsletter is later this month than usual, so we’re doing an edition bridging months. Please continue to send news items and submissions.

We’ve been working on a new online home for New England Quakers that we hope will help us cultivate, connect, and share the stories of Friends’ life and ministry in even more meaningful ways. We’d love to hear your experiences and insights about how it’s working for you, and how we might continue to grow.

And we hope the stories, news, and resources shared below will be an encouragement to you and your local meeting in the coming days.

Events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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A Challenge from Bolivia

(Photo: Emma Condori)

The mountain in the background (above) was for many years snow-covered.

Bolivian Friend Emma Condori made a profound impression as she spoke about the climate crisis in her home country during a visit with Plainfield (VT) Friends Meeting. Rachel Walker Cogbill (Plainfield) shares what she heard about the crisis and steps to deal with it, on

From Ramallah: A Reflection on Sessions 2019

Adrian Moody, head of Ramallah Friends School, visited a yearly meeting for the first time, in August—ours! He shares affirming words about his experience at our Annual Sessionsin the School’s newsletter.

Yearly Meeting Seeks Outreach Archivist

New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) is seeking a part-time contracted Outreach Archivist, supporting Friends and Friends meetings to better steward our living history. We are looking for an individual who is a Quaker or someone with strong familiarity with New England Yearly Meeting, and who is experienced and/or trained as an archivist. The Outreach Archivist will confer with the Yearly Meeting, quarterly meetings and monthly meetings on best practices for creating, gathering and transferring permanent records to the Yearly Meeting Archives at SCUA (UMass Special Collections and University Archives) in Amherst.

This contractor will collaborate with the NEYM Archives Committee as well as the staff at SCUA. The work will include contacting meetings who have not yet sent records to the Archives as well as offering workshops and trainings to meetings and other groups within Yearly Meeting.

The position is expected to range from 150 to 200 hours per year. If you are interested or know someone who might be, please contact Carol Forsythe, clerk of the Archives Committee, at

Smith Neck Friends Support
Quaker Records Project

The Smith Neck (MA) Friends Meeting presented the Dartmouth Historical & Arts Society with a $10,000 donation at Town Hall on Oct. 10 to help kick off the Quaker Friends Records Project, with all Dartmouth Meeting of Friends records dating back to 1699 to be transcribed, indexed, and made available to historical researchers on the DHAS website. Digital images of more than 6,000 pages of the Dartmouth Meeting records are already on the society website.

Racism: Let’s Talk About It

Susan Davies (Vassalboro, ME, Friends Meeting) writes about what it was like for her meeting to start talking about racism and white privilege, and offers some ideas for starting the conversation in your meeting in this article on

Susan is co-clerk of the Challenging White Supremacy work group of the Yearly Meeting Permanent Board. The work group is available to assist; contact Susan or Fran Brokaw (Hanover, NH, Friends Meeting).

QuakerSpeak: Faith and Art

Maggie Nelson, Portland (ME) Friends and Yearly Meeting Young Friends Events Organizer, talks about how her faith informs her art in this QuakerSpeak video.

Missing Anything?

A number of items remained at Lost and Found at the end of Sessions in August—umbrellas, travel mugs, sunglasses, a guitar capo, and clothing, including a child’s sweatshirt. If you believe any of these items might be yours, please email the Office Manager. Items still unclaimed on December 1st will be donated to charity.

Photographing Worship as Ministry

Jean Schnell (Framingham, MA, Friends Meeting) has a new collection of photographs, “Meeting for Worship,” which you can view on her website. She also has written a blog about the project.

Friends Camp: Developing Leadership

Photo: Friends Camp

Friends Camp Director Anna Hopkins reports on the inaugural session of Rising Leaders, counselors-in-training. Living in the cabins with campers and a mentor counselor, Leaders became an integral part in the creation of the small cabin-family communities that are the building blocks of the Friends Camp experience. Read more on the Friends Camp website.

Growing Relationships Lead to
Restoration Project

Photo: Goodwin Church
Mt. Toby (MA) Friends visiting Black churches in the Amherst area discovered that Goodwin Church needed help. Goodwin Church is the oldest Black church in America, and its 1910 building requires major repair and rehabilitation. Mt. Toby Friends brought this to a meeting committee and then to business meeting, and approved a minute to co-sponsor fundraising for repairs.

A recent local benefit raised funds for the rebuilding; the work continues.

Rediscovering A.J. Muste

Friends at Annual Sessions 2019 may have seen a video about A.J. Muste (who once pastored Friends in Providence, RI), a leader in of the American peace movement from 1941 until his death in 1967. Bayard Rustin said that while he was an advisor to Martin Luther King, he never made a difficult decision without first talking about it with Muste.
See “A. J. Muste: Radical for Peace/Finding True North” by clicking on this link and entering the password Peter. For more information about this continuing project, contact the filmmaker, David Schock.

Video: Friends and Climate Witness

Eden Grace (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) gave this year’s Swarthmore Lecture at the Woodbrooke Quaker Conference Centre In Birmingham England, this summer. Her subject was “On Earth as it is in Heaven: The Kingdom of God and the Yearning of Creation,” reflecting on the theological, spiritual and biblical grounding of Friend’s witness on the climate crisis and the Quaker response.

Video: This is Friends Camp!

Get a taste of life at Friends Camp in this video compiling one second of every day of summer 2019.

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

Are you aware of Friends or Friends Meetings featured in the media? Email us so that we can share the news!

Curious about Quakers?
Ever wonder what a worship service would feel like without a clergy member? Interested in hearing more about an organization whose social justice activism is rooted in faith?

To celebrate World Quaker Day, Putney Friends Meeting is hosting an Open Meetinghouse:

Sunday, October 6th

17 Bellows Falls Rd.

Putney, Vermont

Please join us for any or all of the day’s activities.

8:30a Meeting for Worship
9:30a Coffee, Tea, and Conversation
10:00a All Ages Singing
10:30a Meeting for Worship
11:45a Fellowship and Free Lunch
1:00p-3:00p Information Sessions

  1. Understanding Worship and Business  
  2. Structure & History
  3. Testimonies, Queries, & Social Justice
  4. Children’s Programming
  5. Drop-In Worship

The Meetinghouse is wheelchair accessible and we have assisted listening devices available.
More information about The Religious Society of Friends and Putney Friends Meeting can be found at

In celebration of World Quaker Day, Putney Friends Meeting at 17 Bellows Falls Road in Putney will host an Open Meetinghouse event on Sunday, October 6th.  In addition to the regularly scheduled Meetings for Worship at 8:30am and 10:30am, and All Ages Singing at 10:00am, the Open Meetinghouse event will include a free lunch at 11:45am and offerings from 1:00pm to 3:00pm to include children’s programming, drop-in worship, and information sessions on the following topics: Understanding Worship and Business, Structure and History, and Testimonies, Queries, and Social Justice. Visitors are welcome to participate in any or all of the day’s activities.

Putney Friends Meeting is a community of people who are members of The Religious Society of Friends, nicknamed “Quakers.” The Sunday morning services of unprogrammed Quaker Meetings, such as Putney Friends Meeting, are unique. Friends meet in silent expectant waiting with the possibility that vocal ministry may be shared by anyone. They have no hired clergy, and instead share in the responsibility of being open to the Divine’s promptings and leadings. 

Putney Friends Meeting is an open and affirming church, welcoming all. The Meetinghouse is wheelchair accessible and there are assisted listening devices available. Childcare is available during the 10:30am Meeting for Worship each Sunday, and First Day School is offered for children on the first three Sundays of each month. Anyone who is curious and wishing to learn more about Quaker practices, who wants a chance to experience waiting worship, or who is seeking a religious community that is the right fit for them is encouraged to attend the Open Meetinghouse. More information about Putney Friends Meeting and The Religious Society of Friends can be found at 


Dear Friends,
 Most years, on Indigenous People’s Day (“Columbus Day”) weekend, I go to the Sandwich (NH) Fair. A good old-fashioned fair, this includes gymkhana events; 4-H kids showing off their pigs, sheep and oxen; and lots of fried food. I always migrate to the horse pull, where pairs of draft horses pull a sled with successively heavier weights. At the beginning, usually all horse pairs pull the sled the required 12 feet, most barely breaking a sweat.

As the event goes on, and the sled gets heavier, the horses have to work harder, and gradually teams drop out as they fail to pull the minimum distance. I have on occasion wondered, “What draws me to this event?”

I think it’s that I find some joy in seeing the horses reveal an essential part of their nature. They were bred to pull heavy things and in this event, as they dig in and pull, we are witnesses to their strength, and the satisfaction in using that strength. The best teams are horses that are well-matched in size and style, and that have obviously worked together a lot.

The setup which allows the horses to do this work is a complicated arrangement of straps and padding, at the heart of which is the yoke, a padded ring that goes around the base of the horse’s neck. This is the piece the horse leans into, pulling enormous weights without hurting itself. One could argue that the yoke helps the horse to realize what God intended for him.
As someone who often thinks in visual images, I’ve always liked the metaphor of leaning into the yoke when I have some challenging piece of work to do, whether it’s actually physical labor or  not. Some heavy “sled” that I have to pull for a required distance.

Jesus used the image,“My yoke is easy and the burden is light,” to describe following his path. I’ve been told that in this context “easy” doesn’t mean”not difficult,” but more like well-fit or “comfortable.” Which makes more sense, as following Jesus’ path is not what I would call easy, but during periods when I am more diligent in my retirement and open to the encouragement of the Lord, I recognize that I will not be given anything I can’t handle, no sled I cannot pull.
I expect most of you reading this have some experience of being yoked to some work, whether this is committee work at your local meeting, caring for an ailing family member, working  in prisons or for immigrant rights. Sometimes the call comes in the familiar voice of a Friend on nominating committee, sometimes by the unsettling but powerful voice of the Divine. Sometimes we end up taking on roles out of a sense of duty, only to find some joy and satisfaction in the work. I also like the expression “well-used.”

When there is a sense that my gifts have fit well with a need, and that it was indeed my work to do, even if the work is hard, there is some satisfaction in serving the Lord. I think the horses must feel something like that, after engaging with their full selves in a bit of physical labor. Some of this work can be scary, but if the Divine has called you to it, there’s usually a sense of being carried, of being supported through the work. As you lean into it, you find that, against expectations, the yoke actually fits!
This reflection on yoked service is a lead-in to publicly expressing my own appreciation, and the Yearly Meeting’s appreciation, for two individuals who have just taken the yoke off, after a long pull of 4 years. Fritz Weiss (Hanover, NH, Friends Meeting) has just stepped down as our presiding clerk, serving his expected term of 3 years plus an extra year. In addition to the very public role of clerking business at Sessions, the presiding clerk is charged with clerking Coordinating and Advisory Committee and staying on top of myriad issues facing the Yearly Meeting, Yearly Meeting committees, the quarterly meetings, sometimes issues at monthly meetings, and occasionally interpersonal kerfuffles. Fritz took on this work with deep spiritual grounding, commitment to NEYM and the Quaker way, a warm and friendly manner, and a sense of humor. And a nice fedora.

Through this same four-year period, Sarah Gant (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) served as clerk of Permanent Board. This, too, is a big job, shepherding a variety of concerns and projects through the year, with six meetings every year. The Permanent Board clerk must stay on top of all the big issues that affect the Yearly Meeting, participates in Coordinating and Advisory, and must be diligent and patient, coordinating the various subcommittees and ad-hoc committees that report to Permanent Board. Sarah engaged in this work with great competence, an obvious love of NEYM, and an infectious joy.

We owe both these Friends a debt of gratitude for serving us and the Divine with such love and open heartedness. I suggest that each of you thank them for their service when next you see them.

Leslie Manning (Durham, ME, Friends Meeting) and I will be donning the yokes that Sarah and Fritz have doffed, and I expect it will take a little while for the fit to work quite as well as it did with these Friends. Please forgive us our minor transgressions, and accept our apologies if and when we fail spectacularly! Know that we, too, love our Yearly Meeting and have an abiding faith in the potential of the Quaker path to transform our lives. We welcome your prayers.

Bruce Neumann
Fresh Pond Friends Meeting (Cambridge, MA)
Presiding Clerk, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

Read more….

Dear Friends,
In response to the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, and seeking to speak prophetically to the condition of American politics and society, the Poor People’s Campaign has shared a “pastoral letter”. They are asking for supporters to share this message within their networks and to consider signing on to the letter as individuals, through the online platform they provide. 
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends is an endorser of the Poor People’s Campaign. I have signed the letter. I hope you will consider sharing the letter with Friends in your meeting, and inviting them to sign on if so led.
Here is the link to the letter.
In faith and service,
Noah Merrill

Secretary, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

Image: Friends Burial Ground, Ballitore, Ireland

Dear Friends,
Three weeks ago, I was blessed to be with Quakers in Ireland. The day before the yearly meeting sessions began in Dublin, Irish Friends gave me a special gift—the opportunity to visit the burial place of Job Scott.

Job was a New England Quaker and traveling minister from Rhode Island whose preaching and writing were deeply cherished. He was a teacher, a war tax resister, and an opponent of slavery, exploitation and oppression in all of its forms. 

In 1793, he died of smallpox while traveling in ministry in Ireland. He has been described as the last Quaker minister to preach the original Quaker message, prior to the separations that divided North American Quakers in the 1800s. 

But there is no gravestone for Job Scott.

The story goes that the last living Quaker who knew where he was buried refused to reveal the location, because he was afraid of idolatry—he was concerned that people would set up a monument to this famous Friend, that people would come to mistake the one through whom the gift of ministry was given for the Giver

From the burial ground, the Friends hosting me brought me to the ancient meetinghouse nearby. There, in an upper room warmed by a fire, we found a group already gathered in worship together. 

The simple ministry we heard spoke deeply to my condition. And it was there that I found what I’d come all this way seeking. I came home again.    

A Friend spoke about our spiritual journeys being like children learning to walk: full of risk, frustration, and stumbling, but also of yearning, discovery, and becoming something new in relationship with everything. In our journeys of faith, we learn to “walk” together, held and sustained by Love. 

Those who’ve come before us are never really gone. I believe the ministry of Friends who have come before us can still find resonance in living communities open to receive it. But if these voices from the Quaker past continue to speak and inspire in relevant ways, it’s because there are communities of faith living now, opening in our own context to the same Life and Power those Friends knew.

We have a choice in how we tell our story, how we hold our history. Jaroslav Pelikan writes: “Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition is the living faith of the dead.”

We can–and at times do—fall into worshipping Friends’ history, pining for a long-lost golden age of Quaker heroes, or believing that the way we’ve done things is sacred and therefore unchangeable. This can keep us from being open to the movement of the Spirit now

But if we listen with the ears of our hearts, the wisdom, humility, courage, and faith—as well as the mistakes, wounds, and shortcomings—of our spiritual ancestors can weave a cloud of witnesses that gather around us. Their testimony in their own time and context invites us to live faithfully together in our own.

This month, I’m grateful for all those—past and present—whose faithfulness has kindled new life in me. And I’m grateful for the communities of deep hope—in our Quaker tradition and in others—that offer the promise of rediscovering the Life and Power today. In this promise, I feel the echoes of the testimony of Friends’ faithfulness, from moment to moment, and from generation to generation.

May we be a community that receives and honors what has come before, drawing nourishment from the past to help us nurture the present and embrace the future. May we walk a path that opens our hearts to the Spirit’s continuing guidance for how we can live that same Truth in fresh ways today. That’s a path I want to follow, and a community I want to be part of. How about you?

in faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Dear Friends,
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to gather with Friends from across New England and New York Yearly Meetings to explore the ways we “hold the whole” of our spiritual communities.

Hearing from people  about their experiences, I was moved by this reflection from Kathleen Wooten of Fresh Pond (MA) Friends Meeting, and wanted to share it with you. Kathleen’s message resonates with conversations I’ve heard happening in many Friends communities, across our region and beyond.

In these conversations, I hear a rising invitation to reorient our hearts toward spiritual abundance, toward welcoming the diverse gifts we’ve been given for the good of the whole community. This is challenging work. For some of us, it may call us to re-examine how we understand the economics of grace.

In our wider society, we’re often accustomed to seeing what benefits one as a loss to another. As Quakers, even in our meeting communities, we can fall into the sense that giving “too much” attention or care to some diminishes others. It’s almost as if we’re concerned that if we help our neighbor to spread her wings and take flight, we might be left behind.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In celebrating, we just might be given more to celebrate. In giving, we might receive. In helping each other grow in particular service, even more of us might come alive to how we are called to serve, becoming more and more fully the channels of Love we were born to be. We serve, each in our own way.

Becoming a spiritual community that helps everyone to find their place at the table—and to set the table for others—might take us all. In these days, when the fabric of our society is torn by anxiety, isolation, and fear, Friends tradition invites us to a different path. When we help each other come alive, we come alive to serve.

And what, after all, is the purpose of wings?

Here’s Kathleen:When penguins swim, they are one of the fastest animals and most effective hunters on the planet.  They dive deeply, speed around catching fish, and are generally obviously made for what they are doing in that moment. With wings. In water. Hmmmmm.

The times when I am able to come most fully alive, to live into the piece of God’s kin-dom I am meant to shepherd and serve, is when I am simply able to feel direct nudges of the Spirit, and experiment with what works best for the tools I possess. I need to be able to take risks, to fall down safely, and to be encouraged to keep going.

Read more of Kathleen’s blog here.

Whether we fly or swim, our wings—the gifts we’ve been given to carry—aren’t for us alone. They’re for the building up of the whole community, given to be a blessing for the whole world. This month, with each other’s help, may we come to more fully know, embrace, and express the particular qualities we were born to share. With the love, care, and encouragement of our Friends, may we reach out to those around us, with the gift of all we are.

in faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Explore Quaker Discernment & Decision-Making

NEYM Presiding Clerk Fritz Weiss (Hanover, NH, Friends Meeting) and former Presiding Clerk Jackie Stillwell (Monadnock, NH, Friends Meeting) will lead a two-part workshop to explore clerking basics on April 13 at Beacon Hill Friends House.

The morning session is designed for Friends with little or no experience with clerking; the afternoon session will provide experience in facilitating Quaker decision-making process. Friends may choose to attend one or both sessions.

Click here for more details.

Exploring Prayer and Meditation

On May 24-27, Marcelle Martin will lead this three-day weekend exploring numerous approaches to prayer and meditation, including thanksgiving, petition, intercession, healing prayer, Examen, Lectio Divina, mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, Centering Prayer, Grand Silence, extended meeting for worship, and prayer with scripture, images, music, and the body.

This workshop is also a chance to experience a taste of the Nurturing Faithfulness nine-month course, to be offered at Woolman Hill August 2019–May 2020, in partnership with New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

Register for Exploring Prayer and Meditation at the Woolman Hill website.

Events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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Join the Virtual Plenary Experiment

In the February and March newsletters we shared videos by Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) for  a “Virtual Plenary” to deepen engagement with the theme for 2019 Annual Sessions, “Provoke One Another to Love.” This is an opportunity for meetings and individual Friends—whether or not they are planning to attend Annual Sessions—to take part in exploring these important issues that we face as Friends today. All of the videos and related resources are posted here.

This month we are sharing two of three videos about Climate Change. (Part 3 will be posted on the website as soon as it’s available, and included in next month’s newsletter.)

These videos were designed to be viewed on your own and can also be used to shape an adult religious education session, using the reflection questions for discussion. If you want support or ideas for how to use them in First Day School or for adult programming, contact Lisa.

Virtual Plenary—Climate Change, Part 1 of 3: The Minutes
Virtual Plenary—Climate Change, Part 2 of 3: Patterns of Diversity

Sharing—And Celebrating—New Shapes of Service

From Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Merrill:

With joy, I’m writing to share some exciting shifts in the focus of work of two Friends serving New England Quakers as staff.

Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting; pictured right) has previously served as part of the Friends Camp staff; as the founder of Art Camp, a weeklong camping program for adults exploring art as an expression of spirituality (now a program of Friends Camp); in an interim role coordinating the Young Friends (high-school-aged) program last year; and since the fall in an exploratory short-term role. I’m grateful to announce that Maggie will be moving into the new—and ongoing—staff role of Young Friends Events Organizer.

Maggie will have primary responsibility for Young Friends programming and events. She will work closely with Gretchen Baker-Smith (Westport, MA, Friends Meeting) to nurture connections with the Junior High Yearly Meeting program, and to strengthen transitions and continuity of relationship between these vibrant ministries of New England Friends.

Nia Thomas

Maggie will serve with support from—and in collaboration with—Nia Thomas (Northampton, MA, Friends Meeting; pictured right with baby Llewelyn), who has nurtured Young Friends for many years and will continue to be involved in many aspects of youth ministry with teens, families, and meetings.

In turn, Nia’s focus will shift to more fully include work with Friends of all ages in the new role of Quaker Practice and Leadership Facilitator, helping New England Quakers deepen our engagement with spiritual formation, training in Quaker practice, and the nurture of leadership. In this role, Nia will be working to help network and convene those active in these areas of ministry, curate resources, and connect many more people with opportunities that nourish their gifts and help the Quaker movement to thrive.

Responding to Continuing Revelation

While these new titles and staff roles are being formalized this spring, in reality they reflect an unfolding of this work that has been in process organically for some time. This change in orientation builds on learning from a three-year grant funded project, supported by the Shoemaker Fund, to learn about fostering vibrant multigenerational spiritual communities. It reflects a continuation—and an evolution—of some of the groundbreaking experiments in outreach and religious education led until last fall by Beth Collea (Wellesley, MA, Friends Meeting). And this transition responds to the wider discernment of Friends throughout New England in recent years on the need to focus more intentionally on nurturing the web of local Friends meetings and the wider ecology of the Quaker movement across our region.

We hope you’ll experience the fruits these changes will bear in the life of Quakers in New England in the coming months. In the meantime, you can reach Maggie at, and Nia at As always, I’d also be happy to hear from you at

I’m grateful for each of the many, many Friends who have helped with vision, discernment, questions, expertise, prayers, and ongoing financial support to make these transitions possible.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating these changes, congratulating Maggie and Nia, and looking forward to new growth and possibilities as this work unfolds!

in the Love that makes us Friends,

Noah Merrill (Putney, VT Friends Meeting)
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

Supporting Our Muslim Neighbors

Friends from around New England took part in prayer vigils in response to the mosque shootings in Christchurch New Zealand, including Friends from Wellesley (MA), New Haven (CT), Concord (NH), and western MassachusettsCanadian Friends circulated a minuteexpressing their sorrow and prayers for both the victims and the perpetrators of violence.

Maine Friends Support Maine Native Tribes

Leslie Manning (Durham, ME, Friends Meeting) spoke on behalf of the Friends Committee on Maine Public Policy in support of funding for the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission on March 19. You can read her testimony here.

Support for Our Immigrant Neighbors

South Starksboro (VT) Friends Meeting has passed a minute in support of immigrant families and asylum-seekers. Read the minute here.

Called to Nurturing Faithfulness?

Might you be led to participate in a multi-generational faith and leadership program designed to help Friends explore ways to meet God more deeply, deepen discernment, reach for fuller faithfulness, and share these gifts and skills with your local meetings and beyond?

Consider joining the Nurturing Faithfulness program beginning in August 2019 co-led by Hilary Burgin (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) and Marcelle Martin.

Click here for more information, and decide if this is the program for you or someone you know.

Got Office Skills?

Work behind the scenes with staff and volunteers in the Yearly Meeting office during Annual Sessions in August. You will be supporting the Office Manager during the two weeks that the office is on site at Castleton University in Vermont. It’s busy, sometimes chaotic, but also fun. Read the job description and if you’re interested, email Office Manager Sara Hubner.

Speaking Out Against the Death Penalty

On March 26, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 455, a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty. Among those who spoke in favor of the bill were Marian Baker (Weare, NH, Friends Meeting and a representative to the N.H. Council of Churches), Margaret Hawthorn (Monadnock, NH, Friends Meeting), Bess Klassen-Landis (Hanover, NH, Friends Meeting), and Arnie Alpert from the American Friends Service Committee New Hampshire office.

Read Margaret Hawthorn’s testimony here.

Marion Baker testifies in opposition to the death penalty in New Hampshire

Friends Camp Has Adopted Art Camp!

With two years under its belt as a grant-funded independent ministry, Art Camp is becoming a program under the care of Friends Camp. Maggie Nelson (Portland, ME Friends) will continue to coordinate, with support from Friends Camp Director Anna Hopkins. You can read more about this change here.

Watch for more details about this year’s Art Camp, both here in this newsletter and on!

Quilts for Beauty and Comfort

A building renovation leads to a quilt-making project—which leads to another quilt-making project! On, read how and why Mt. Toby Friends are making quilts.

Preserving Your Meeting’s History

The present life of your meeting will be history before you know it! Preserve important records by submitting them to the Yearly Meeting Archives at UMass Amherst. Wondering what to send? How to send it? Click here for answers to frequently asked questions or contact the Archives Committee.

Friends Celebrating Pete Seeger

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Friends from nine meetings across New England are organizing singalong concerts in their area to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pete Seeger’s birth—and the many groups carrying on his lifetime of work on behalf of peace, justice and the earth. You can find more details here.

Annie Patterson & Peter Blood of Mt. Toby (MA) Meeting will lead Friends in a singalong concert of Pete’s songs on Tuesday evening of Annual Sessions in August.

Apply for a Prejudice & Poverty Grant

The Working Party of the Yearly Meeting Racial Social Economic Justice Committee (RSEJ) seeks applications for grants from the Prejudice and Poverty Fund. We urge “organizations who work to alleviate the suffering of segments of the U.S. population” to apply immediately.

Read details about application and submit your request for consideration this month.

Emily Savin on PBS

Emily Savin (Northampton, MA, Friends Meeting) discovers her inner rebel and breaks one of her mom’s sacred rules in this episode of “Curveball,” which you can watch here (Emily’s story begins at 17:57).

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

Are you aware of Friends or Friends Meetings featured in the media? Email us so that we can share the news!

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Quakers logo
MARCH 2019

The Yet-Unknowable Shore

La Loma de La Cruz, Holguin, Cuba. Photo: Noah Merrill
“But you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live.” And the LORD continued, “See there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

– Exodus 33:20-23

Dear Friends,

We stood at the top of the mountain, and we looked back.

My dear Friend and I had made the long climb, countless steps up the steep hillside, reflecting on our lives in the past seven years since we’d last been together there. Only when we reached the top did we turn to consider the Cuban city of Holguin spreading out in the sunlit valley below.

The last time we climbed that mountain, with several other Friends, it was the summer of 2012. Since then, both of our lives have changed dramatically. We’ve each had our share of suffering and loss. And yet, there has been great joy. We’ve wrestled with being called to ministry, with seeking to be faithful, each in our own context. We’ve grown through this service, and we’ve learned to trust that while we can’t always see where the path before us leads, we’re never—in the deepest sense—alone. We’ve encouraged each other in lonely places, and reminded each other of what is most true.

Seven years ago, we couldn’t have imagined how our journeys would intertwine, how our seeking to be faithful would bind us together, across the Americas. We couldn’t have known, and that was a gift. Had we been able to see what was coming then—the blessings and the struggles—we might not have had the courage to take the first step.

In our conversation, we reflected on stories from the Bible that have been meaningful to us, finding in them—as Friends have for generations—a language for the inward landscape of our lives in the Spirit. The passage above from Exodus is still with me as I return home. In the story as it’s told here, the prophet Moses has climbed a mountain to pray, to bring down guidance for how the people might live in a new way—practicing justice, staying free, and serving as a blessing for the whole world. There, in the presence of God, Moses asks to see the fullness of God’s power. The response he receives is that he can be there in the Presence, but it’s only as God is passing away that he will be able to see God—to understand the fullness of God directly in the moment would be more than he could bear.

As I return to this old story, I feel it resonating with my own experience. It’s not possible for me to be fully aware of the consequence and potential that is present in each moment of my life, of every life. We can understand what our experiences have meant, and the fruits they have borne in the world, only as we look back.

And yet, that potential is always with us. The choices we make in the present are part of a sacred continuity, carried forward on the cresting wave of time. Often faithfulness means acting without seeing fully, trusting that even this step can be part of Love’s unfolding. With each step we take today, we set off toward a yet-unknowable shore.

Standing on the mountain with my Friend, my heart was filled with thanks for the journey, and for this companionship in that which is Eternal. And then, together, we turned to take the next step down the mountain, into a future beyond knowing.

My own experience of this friendship is only possible because of the faithful step–and all the steps since—taken by Friends who came before us to imagine a yet-unknowable future of relationship, a bridge of Love between our divided societies. In Cuba and New England, countless Friends can testify to lives changed, faith stretched and strengthened, hearts opened through the power of the Spirit moving between us.

A Cuban Friend has created a new expression of this testimony—and Friends in his meeting have asked me to share it with you.

For those among us who don’t understand Spanish, this song tells the “birth story” of the Puente de Amigos (Bridge of Friends), and the calling to continue to build—and to be—bridges in a world where so many are building walls. It testifies to the lived experience of so many in our two yearly meetings that when people are bound together by this Love, nothing—not governments, nor oceans, nor walls, nor embargos, nor the threat of war, nor hatred, nor fear—can separate us.

In 1991, when the Puente de Amigos was born, Friends couldn’t have known that saying “Yes!” to the invitation that they heard to be in relationship would bear such life-changing fruit. Looking back with gratitude for the example of those Friends, and for the transformative power of that “Yes!” in my own life, I wonder:

What invitation might I—might we—be called to accept in this moment, not knowing what fruit it might bear?

What next step might we be called to take toward that yet-unknowable shore? 

In possibility,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Register Now for Living Faith

Photo: Lisa Graustein
Living Faith is a day-long gathering of Friends from across New England, a chance for Friends to worship together, get to know each other, share the different ways we experience and live our faith, and build community. The next Living Faith Gathering will be in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on April 6, 2019.

The day will consist of worship, conversation, lunch, and workshops. A schedule of the daycan be found on the NEYM website and the registration form is also now available. In keeping with our commitment to removing barriers to participation for Friends regardless of financial means, the Living Faith Gatherings will continue our practice of the Pay-As-Led approach to event fees.

Please share the word among your Friends and meeting, especially with Friends who may not have participated in an event beyond their local meeting before. One of our primary goals for the Living Faith Gatherings is that we create a warm, welcoming space to help grow and strengthen our vibrant regional Quaker community—with a particular focus on welcoming new Friends.

After the close of Living Faith there will be additional opportunities to gather with Friends: a 4:30 p.m. walking tour of the historic “Abolition Row” neighborhood near the New Bedford meetinghouse and a 5:30 p.m. potluck at the meetinghouse hosted in collaboration with Friends across Sandwich Quarter and young adult Friends participating in an NEYM-sponsored retreat coinciding with Living Faith.

We hope you will join us on April 6!

Money & Spirit: Integrating Faith and Finances

Treasurers, meeting clerks, finance committee members, and other interested Friends will gather at Gonic (NH) Friends Meeting on March 30 for a day of conversation about local meeting finances, best practices and challenges, and a presentation by Lyle Miller from Everence (a faith-based financial services and mutual aid organization that is partnering with NEYM) on practical ways to support faithful financial stewardship in our meetings.

Find out more about how Friends from your meeting can benefit from this event here.

Waking up White

Debby Irving, author of Waking Up White, will speak on the issues of racism and white privilege explored in her books at the First Unitarian Church, 90 Main St, Worcester, MA, on March 31, 2019. Sponsored by Worcester Friends Meeting (MA), the event is free and open to all.

Diane Randall Speaks on Vital Quaker Witness

Diane Randall (Hartford, CT, Friends Meeting) Executive Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation, will address the need for Quaker voices to be raised in witness in her 2019 Stephen G. Cary Memorial Lecture, “Turmoil, Tumult, and Truth—Vital Quaker Witness Today,” April 1, 2019, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. at Pendle Hill.

Register now for livestreaming of this event.

Explore Quaker Discernment & Decision-Making

NEYM Presiding Clerk Fritz Weiss (Hanover, NH, Friends Meeting) and former Presiding Clerk Jackie Stillwell (Monadnock, NH, Friends Meeting) will lead a two-part workshop to explore clerking basics on April 13 at Beacon Hill Friends House. The morning session is designed for Friends with little or no experience with clerking; the afternoon session will provide experience in facilitating Quaker decision-making process. Friends may choose to attend one or both sessions.

Click here for more details.

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Join the Virtual Plenary Experiment

In the February newsletter we shared three videos by Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) for  a “Virtual Plenary” to deepen engagement with the theme for 2019 Annual Sessions, “Provoke One Another to Love.” This is an opportunity for meetings and individual Friends—whether or not they are planning to attend Annual Sessions—to take part in exploring these important issues that we face as Friends today.

The videos were designed to be viewed on your own and can also be used to shape an adult religious education session, using the reflection questions for discussion. If you want support or ideas for how to use them in First Day School or for adult programming, contact Lisa Graustein.

Click here or on the images below to watch.

Video 1 – Exploring New England Yearly Meeting’s Minute on Challenging White Supremacy
Video 2 – Noticing and Understanding Patterns of White Supremacy
Video 3 – Challenging White Supremacy: Spiritual Practice

Noticing Patterns of Oppression & Faithfulness: A Report

Fifty Friends from around the Yearly Meeting, and from several generations, gathered in Wellesley, MA, for a day-long workshop on “Noticing Patterns of Oppression & Faithfulness.” A working group of the Yearly Meeting Ministry & Counsel committee organized the workshop in response to concerns minuted at Sessions 2018.

Read a summary of the day and responses from Friends who attended here.

The New Yearly Meeting Directory is Here!

The 2019 NEYM Directory, which includes contact and statistical information about local Friends meetings in New England, Yearly Meeting Committee rosters, and other useful information, is in transition. The Office is not printing and mailing the Directory this year, but you can download your copy on the Yearly Meeting website.

Eden Grace Speaks to Southeastern Yearly Meeting

Photo: Jared Silvia
Eden Grace (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) spoke from her long experience in Quaker mission work and ministry to Friends gathered at the Orlando, FL, Friends meetinghouse for the 2019 Michener Lecture and Seminar. Her talk acknowledged the complicated history of Quaker missions and included the characteristics of distinctive Quaker missions and the spiritual practices necessary to Spirit-led work. Her published lecture will be available for purchase soon.

Nurturing Faithfulness

Informational video about the upcoming Nurturing Faithfulness Program at Woolman Hill Retreat Center (Deerfield, MA)
Might you be led to participate in a multi-generational faith and leadership program designed to help Friends 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 your local meetings and beyond?

Consider joining the Nurturing Faithfulness program beginning in August 2019 co-led by Hilary Burgin (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) and Marcelle Martin.

Click here for more information, and decide if this is the program for you or someone you know.

Preserving Friends History in Cuba

Image: Puerto Padre Friends Meeting, Cuba

Gina Nortonsmith and Macci Schmidt (Northampton, MA, Friends Meeting) traveled to Cuba in January to help Friends churches in our sister yearly meeting curate and preserve important records. Read more about their trip.

Preserving History for Your Own Meeting

The present life of your meeting will be history before you know it! Preserve important records by submitting them to the Yearly Meeting Archives at UMass Amherst. Wondering what to send? How to send it? Click here for answers to frequently asked questions or contact the Archives Committee.

¡Vamos a Cuba!

Image: Holguin Friends Meeting, Cuba

The Yearly Meeting Puente de Amigos Committee is gathering ideas and interest for intervisitation to Cuba over the next two years. We want to hear from you! Do you sense a leading to travel to Cuba, perhaps with other members of your monthly meeting? Are you interested in a delegation focused on Friends’ ministry with Alternatives to Violence? Perhaps an intergenerational delegation or a Young Adult Friends delegation?

Our visits to Cuba are as important as ever for nurturing and sustaining our bridge of love with Cuban Friends, especially as in recent years they have been unable to travel to the U.S.

Please give this some thought, and send your ideas and questions to Maggie Fogarty or Em McManamy, co-clerks of the Puente de Amigos Committee.

Supporting Immigrants

Judy Goldberger (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) will be among those giving workshops at the Friend World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) Section of the Americas meeting, which begins March 21. Judy carries a concern for immigrant justice. Together with Karla Moran de Jay, a Friend who is a Guatemalan immigrant, Judy will lead a workshop on how Friends can “welcome the stranger.”

Mini-Grants for Earthcare

Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) has grants available for Quaker projects that have the primary purpose of benefiting the environment and/or promoting environmental awareness and education. All ideas that support QEW values will be considered, but we especially encourage projects that directly address climate change, especially those that engage and include young people. Click here for more information.

Why Work at Friends Camp?

Looking for a summer job? Wondering if you should apply to Friends Camp? Read last year’s staff members top 10 reasons to serve and click here to apply.

You’re Invited to the Atlantic Friends Gathering!

The new Atlantic (Canada) Half-Yearly Meeting is gathering May 17 to 20, 2019 at a seaside camp, Camp Geddie, near Merigomish, Nova Scotia, right on the Northumberland Strait. Friends from New England are invited to attend.

The Theme of the Gathering is: “That of God in Everyone and Every Thing: A Call to Quakers for Environmental Action.”

We have an exciting program, including speakers on Ecology, Nature and sustainable Food.  As well, we have sessions on Fun Activities, and in the evenings a Family and Friends night and a Meeting for Readings.

More information and the registration fees may be found at the Atlantic Friends website.

Friends Peace Teams: Building Cultures of Peace

Photo: Friends Peace Teams
Friends Peace Teams (FPT) works around the world to help create programs for peace-building, healing, and reconciliation in communities in conflict. Nancy Shippen (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) is our Yearly Meeting representative to FPT and would love to tell your meeting more about this inspiring work. Contact Nancy and click here for more information about Friends Peace Teams.

Friends on Community Television

Cheryl Mitchell (Middlebury, VT, Friends Meeting) interviews people who are making a difference in the community in a show on Middblebury Community TV called “Grounded Leadership.” In this episode she talks with Erin Ruble and Barbara Clearbridge (both also from Middlebury Friends Meeting) about Restorative Justice.

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

Are you aware of Friends or Friends Meetings featured in the media? Email us so that we can share the news!