The Stories We Live

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019
“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
Secretary
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 neym.org.

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 archives@neym.org.

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 neym.org.

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!

Yoked

SEPTEMBER 2019

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….

The Living Faith of the Dead

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
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

The Purpose of Wings

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
Secretary
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 maggie@neym.org, and Nia at nia@neym.org. As always, I’d also be happy to hear from you at ymsec@neym.org.

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)
Secretary
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 neym.org!

Quilts for Beauty and Comfort

A building renovation leads to a quilt-making project—which leads to another quilt-making project! On neym.org, 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!

The Yet-Unknowable Shore

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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
Secretary
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.

Events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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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!

Living Faith Spring 2019

Dear Friends,

Registration is now open for the next Living Faith gathering, to be held Saturday, April 6, in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts!

Please share the invitation with your networks, including meeting email lists, newsletters, announcements, social media, and word of mouth.

We hope to see you there.

In the Light,

The Living Faith Spring 2019 Planning Team

Hannah Zwirner Forsythe, (Clerk), Elizabeth Hacala (Events Coordinator), Sarah Cushman, Lisa Graustein, Jay O’Hara, Noah Merrill, Jennifer Higgins Newman, Heidi Nortonsmith, Newell Isbell Shinn, NiaDwynwen Thomas

Register Now
You can learn more about Living Faith Gatherings, including links to the Welcome, FAQ, and workshop descriptions here

The Thinking Heart

At night as I lay on my plank bed surrounded by women and girls … who often told me during the day, “we don’t want to think, we don’t want to feel, otherwise we are sure to go out of our minds,” I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness, and lay awake for hours … and I prayed,
“Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.”
—from the diary of Etty Hillesum

Dear Friends,

This week marks the presidential order in 1942 that led to the internment of Japanese Americans. It’s the one-year anniversary of the killings of high school students in Parkland, Florida. In a season of “emergencies” both real and imagined, of walls and separation, of hatred and division, we mourn the suffering and loss of so many to violence, injustice, and the lack of moral imagination. I know I’m not alone in struggling to live faithfully in the face of it all.

Through the gift of a friend, I’ve found guidance and encouragement in A Life Transformed, a biography including the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum. A radiant and challenging voice, Etty was born in a secular Dutch Jewish family, growing up in her twenties in Amsterdam during the Second World War.

Living a self-described life of personal chaos, insecurity and disorder, on the precipice of the Holocaust Etty had a powerful experience of convincement and transformation. Without any formal religious background, she learned to pray through direct spiritual experience. Etty was driven to her knees in prayer on the rough floor of an untidy bathroom. This moment reordered her life toward the ground of reality she discovered within her, a presence she came to call “God.” She came to volunteer as a caregiver—and to bear witness—in a transit camp from which thousands of Jews and those deemed “other” were loaded onto trains for Auschwitz. In time, her whole family was forced to board one of those trains—including Etty.

In the face of terror and dehumanization, Etty chose to cultivate an inward freedom. She dedicated herself to safeguarding deep within the resilient hope beyond despair, grounded in Love. Faced with lies, oppression, and evil, she chose to live as if the Truth is true. She found refuge in that knowing, in the active practice of what she calls the “thinking heart” of God. Her witness calls me to consider how I—how we—might live in ways that more fully bear witness to the truth of Love she discovered and trusted until death and beyond.

In a moment of shattering recognition, she prayed:

Dear God, these are anxious times. … We must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last. There are, it is true, some who, even at this late stage, are putting their vacuum cleaners and silver forks and spoons in safekeeping instead of guarding You, dear God. And there are those who want to put their bodies in safekeeping but who are nothing more now than a shelter for a thousand fears and bitter feelings. And they say, “I shan’t let them get me into their clutches.” But they forget that no one is in their clutches who is in Your arms.

I’m increasingly convinced that one of the greatest gifts we can offer to the condition of our world today is the quality of grounded love that we cultivate and bring into relationship. We can love and feel and hope for those who are unable as yet to love and feel and hope—and we can do this for each other when we’re the ones unable to love and feel and hope. We can strive to protect our cherishing of divine presence within each person—and in ourselves—in the face of the countless voices that would close the ears of our hearts to Grace.

The growing resonance of that loving and feeling and hoping can open the way for new breakthroughs, fresh possibilities, bold emergences in our communities, cultures, and institutions. In Etty’s words: “Somewhere deep inside me is a workshop, in which Titans are forging a new world.”

Etty’s presence and practice as the “thinking heart” of the transit camp barracks calls me me to question my own capacity and commitment to Love. Her testimony challenges me to renew my participation in relationship with fresh intention and initiative. I hear the echo of Etty’s midnight prayer: to be an instrument of presence, to bring forth this radical, witnessing, self-aware, resilient loving even in the midst of unimaginable suffering—and I’m drawn to imagine how that resonance might be more fully expressed in my own life, and in our corporate life as Friends.

Might we find the courage to be thinking hearts of the voyage on which our own desperate, divided society is sailing? Might we discipline ourselves to be the thinking heart of a demonstration; of a workplace, of a family crisis; of a chance encounter on our daily commute; an intervention with an addicted friend, neighbor or stranger; a vigil at a detention center or a bedside? Through patience and dedication, might we be the thinking heart in the worship of our local meeting, radiating love and witnessing presence to all who surround us?

I give thanks for all the ways members of our Quaker communities are working alongside so many others in this powerful practice of presence, and I give thanks for the Spirit provoking us to deeper Love. Wherever we might encounter God in ourselves and one another—may we remember Etty, and her witness to the power of the thinking heart. And may we, like her, be filled and freed by the infinite tenderness that is stronger than death.

In faith and service,

Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

P.S.: Again this year, New England Friends are partnering with New York Yearly Meeting for a weekend retreat, March 29-31. It’s an opportunity to gather with Friends from across the northeastern United States who are called to nurture the wholeness of the local meeting community, cultivating this resonance of resilient love.

If it sounds like this opportunity might be right for you or someone in your local meeting, contact Honor Woodrow, clerk of NEYM Ministry & Counsel, to explore participating, or speak to your local meeting’s Ministry & Counsel/Worship, who have received more information.

P.P.S.: I hope you had a chance last month to watch the invitation to the “video plenary” series from Lisa Graustein. This month—with links later in this newsletter—Lisa offers three more short videos with different ways of engaging with New England Quakers’ repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.

Whether you plan to attend Annual Sessions this August or not, these videos are intended to help us all engage with the ways the Spirit is working among Quakers in New England, inviting us to grow in Love and carry that Love into the world. 

Transforming Racism and White Supremacy

Noticing Patterns of Oppression—and Faithfulness

In 2018 the Yearly Meeting in Sessions charged the NEYM Committee on Ministry & Counsel (M&C) with creating a process to name people to help New England Friends see when and how we are enacting patterns of oppression. As the work unfolds, it has become clear that we need time together to build the skills of noticing and sharing awareness of these patterns in ways that invite people in, build community, and help us become more God-centered and just.

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

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

To register, click 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, the event is free and open to all.

Other events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

View More Events

Join the Virtual Plenary Experiment

In the January newsletter we shared an invitation from Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) for Friends to participate in 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 three videos this month include some reflection-and-discussion questions at the end. 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 repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery
Video 2- Noticing and understanding patterns related to the Doctrine of Discovery
Video 3- Spiritual practices to support our work related to the Doctrine of Discovery

Legacy Grant Application Deadline:
March 1, 2019

Do you or someone you know have a ministry that could use some financial support? The deadline is fast approaching to apply for grants from the Yearly Meeting Witness and Ministry Fund and the Future Fund.

Ministries which already have an oversight committee and the support of their meeting will be given preference. Click here for details.

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.

Join the NH Council of Churches in opposition of the death penalty

In 2012, New England Quakers joined fellow member churches on the NH Council of Churches in approving a statement opposing the death penalty. New Hampshire again has a death penalty repeal bill in the 2019 legislative session. That bill has just been made public as HB 455. The Council encourages congregations to join them in preaching, praying, teaching and acting for the repeal of the death penalty in the state of New Hampshire on February 24 as part of “Death Penalty Repeal Sunday”.

Click here for more information and resources

Accompanying Migrants in Tijuana

Em McManamy (Amesbury, MA, Friends Meeting) and members of her family spent a week in Tijuana, accompanying migrants waiting to present their cases for asylum in the U.S. Read about Em’s experience here.

Friends Camp: Lasting Impacts

“Going to camp is a challenge. You are living in (quite close) community with many other young people. You have to leave your cell phone at home. You might not have a good friend you already know at camp. Facing this challenge and having an amazing time at camp can make a camper more willing to take on the next challenge that comes their way, whether it is starting at a new school, trying out a new sport, or even going off to college.”

This is just one of the impacts that Friends Camp Director Anna Hopkins writes about in her most recent blog post about the lifetime effects of attending Friends Camp.  Read more from Anna’s blog here.

Opportunities to Serve

There are many employment, and service opportunities listed on the New England Yearly Meeting website. Click here for details.

Work with the Friends Committee on National Legislation

If you are under 35 or work with young adults, come to Washington, DC on March 23-26, 2019 to lobby on immigration issues at Spring Lobby Weekend.

Registration is open!

If you are about to graduate college, apply for the Young Fellows program. Deadline is February 18, 2019.

If you are looking for an internship this summer, apply for the Summer Internship program. Deadline is March 29, 2019.

Quaker Center Continues Search for Directors

The Ben Lomond Quaker Center (Ben Lomond, CA) is now accepting applications for a Director to begin work during the summer of 2019.  The Director provides spiritual leadership, develops workshops; manages staff, finances and facilities; fundraising; and works closely with the Board in support of the mission of Quaker Center. The Center is also accepting applications for an Associate Director.

Click here for more details.

Discounts for Friends General Conference  Gathering

Thanks to a generous donation, FGC is offering discounts for the 2019 Gathering!

  • Children and teen’s program fees are waived
  • 50% of children and teen’s meals are covered
  • More scholarships are available to families and teens
  • The fee for young adult Friends is reduced

Click here to find out more about the 2019 FGC Gathering in Grinnell, Iowa.

Friends General Conference is a North American association of Quaker groups of which New England Yearly Meeting of Friends is a member. 

Come and See! Friends World Committee for Consultation

Friends World Committee on Consultation Section of the Amercas (FWCC-SOA) will gather in Kansas City, MO, March 21–24, 2018, with the theme ¡Come and See! (John 1:46). There will be daily worship, Bible study, and workshops including:

  • “Come and See: An Examination of Earthkeeping Through the Lens of Quaker Conviction” with Adrian Halverstadt, Director, Evangelical Friends Church – North America; Shelley Tanenbaum, General Secretary, Quaker Earthcare Witness; and Cherice Bock, co-clerk, Sierra-Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends
  • “Who is my neighbor? Welcoming the stranger, being a Friend” with Judy Goldberger (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting)

Find out more about the gathering here.

Howard Thurman on PBS

PBS is offering an hour-long documentary about the life of activist, mystic and theologian Howard Thurman in Backs Against The Wall: The Howard Thurman Story, which you can view online. Friends who have benefitted from reading his work may appreciate the chance to learn more about his story. You can see a collection of his work here in the Friends United Press bookstore or in their print catalog.

Updated Quaker Resources for Newcomers

Are you looking to update your meeting’s printed materials about Quakers? Do you wonder what to include in welcome packets for new attenders? The Friends United Meeting (FUM) Communications Department is in the process of updating their pamphlet series. Three titles have been updated so far: The Gospel According to FriendsGeorge Fox and the Early Quakers, and A Quaker View of Ministry. Each one gives, in a quick and readable style, an introduction to one aspect of the Quaker faith. Perhaps one will be right for your meeting.

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!

Always Coming Home

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In faith and service,

Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Friends Decision-Making and Clerking, 2019

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

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

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

Nurturing Faithfulness: An Informational Webinar

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

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

Join Zoom Meeting online:  https://zoom.us/j/192119140

One tap mobile:  16465588656,,192119140# US

Dial in: 1 646 558 8656 US

Meeting ID: 192 119 140

Training on “Noticing Patterns”

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

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

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

Other events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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Speakers Announced for August Sessions

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

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

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

Read more about Colin and Lisa.

Virtual Plenary: An Invitation from Lisa Graustein

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

Legacy Gift Fall Awards Announced

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

Application Deadlines

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

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

Time-Sensitive Requests

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

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

Love Knows No Borders

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

Portland Friends Host Families Experiencing Homelessness

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

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

Confronting the Past with Faith

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

Epistle from “At the Well” Gathering

Photo credit: Jennie Isbell Shinn

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

Read the epistle here.

What Canst Thou Tweet?

Image: Kathleen Wooten

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating the Light

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

Finding the Path

Photo credit: Eric Muhr

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

Nurturing Faithful Ministry

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

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

Maine Quakers Speak Out Against Skowhegan Mascot

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

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

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

A Moment to Give Thanks

A Moment to Give Thanks

Artwork: Maggie Nelson, Portland (ME) Friends Meeting
Dear Friends,

Before something new begins, it’s important to pause to give thanks.

Here’s some good financial news: Thanks to you and hundreds of Friends like you from Connecticut to Maine, in the recently-ended fiscal year New England Yearly Meeting of Friends met and exceeded our overall fundraising goals, continuing five years of patient progress toward financial sustainability in support of the ministries of New England Quakers. That’s a statement about stewardship, and about how we support what matters to us as a regional faith community. 

We ended the fiscal year with a smaller-than-anticipated deficit. If we all come together, we’re on track to balance our yearly meeting’s budget in the coming year.

And there’s so much more to be thankful for. With your help, countless Friends worked diligently to nourish the Quaker movement in New England in 2018.

Together we:

  • Published a monthly newsletter lifting up the life and ministry of New England Quakers—sharing Friends’ stories, and amplifying our shared witness on the climate crisis and work for racial justice;
  • Raised a more powerful voice on behalf of Friends in our wider region on vital issues of our times through time-sensitive public statements, ecumenical engagement, and organizing;
  • Partnered with local meetings to help foster multigenerational relationships, and integrate young adults & families more fully in our faith communities;
  • Offered workshops and opportunities for connection among those whose service sustains our local meetings, from clerks and treasurers to members of ministry & counsel committees;
  • Removed barriers to participation and offered a wider welcome through the use of the Pay-As-Led approach to event fees;
  • Hosted events that nurtured faith and Quaker practice, including Annual Sessions, Living Faith gatherings, youth retreats, spiritual nurture workshops, and more;
  • Supported those who work with our youngest Friends, providing training and background screenings for youth workers, and implementing our newly-approved child safety policy;
  • Consulted with Friends and local meetings to imagine new and better ways to support the spiritual health and life of children and families throughout New England
As we look to a new year, may we continue to grow in faith, in trust, in relationship, and in grounded joy. From this Center, may we listen, love, and serve boldly as we take up the work before us.

For the opportunity to share this journey with you, I give thanks.

with prayers for our world in 2019,

Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)