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

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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)

The Kindling Power

Most persons are awakened and set on their new track of life through the quickening and kindling power of some person who becomes for them the instrument of inspiration and of the creation of faith and the vision of a nobler way of life. 
Persons are set on fire by someone who is already aflame.

– Rufus Jones

Dear Friends,

I trace my life through moments when I was able to say “yes,” when I found through the encouragement of others the courage to let go of the shore for the ocean. In countless ways, my life has been shaped by relationship.

Among so many moments, I remember and give thanks for:

  • The face of a Friend across my kitchen table, when I was lost for answers, as she took both my hands in hers and taught me to pray out loud
  • Walking with a Friend on a beach in the predawn darkness before I brought a prepared message for the first time. His advice: “Risk failing in order to be faithful”
  • Just before a workshop out West, a Quaker elder who stopped me with a look, then adjusted my posture with some of the clearest, simplest instruction for ministry I’ve ever received: “Head up, shoulders back, heart open”
  • In the depths of a winter night, advice in a time of discernment about whether to let go of one work that had shaped my life, and say “yes” to another: The voice on the phone said, “Sometimes all choices will bring pain. You still have to choose”
  • The dedication of Friends serving as my ministry oversight committee–and each companion, mentor, and elder–witnessing, waiting, and watching with me over months and years, caring for the quiet work of God unfolding among us, discerning what it is time for
  • The Friend who loved animals, women, poetry, art and God, eyes shining as her life reached its end, embracing the undiscovered country to come, blessing those of us who would remain, challenging me to “go where the Life is”

Every day, the kindling power moving through relationship in Quaker faith community challenges me to say “yes” again. Reaching from Cape Cod to Maine to Connecticut; to Kansas, Ramallah, Cuba, and beyond, each day I’m helped and held by the web of relationships in which I’m blessed to participate.

Relationship is at the heart of Friends practice. It’s carefully woven in our communities through acts of presence, prayer, and participation. The substance of faithful community is formed when we love one another, serve one another, challenge each other to greater faithfulness, and name when and where we see the Spirit at work.

So I wonder:

  • What have been your experiences of being met, seen, and encouraged?
  • Who have been the instruments of this enlivening and mentorship in your life, and do they know it?
  • Where might you be called to offer this care, to share this encouragement, to name the gifts you see?
  • How might you challenge, guide, or affirm the Spirit at work in someone in your meeting?

In this season, communities across the world are waiting and watching together in expectant hope. We share stories of Light coming into the world, comforting and amazing us in the midst of fear and desolation. In the unlikeliest of places, Love is born, the fire of Hope is kindled. Through grace and daily choice, we help this happen together.

This month, let’s take the risk that each person we meet could be the kindling that sets our hearts aflame, that reignites our spirits. Risk the possibility that you could give that gift to others. In small acts of service and accompaniment and presence, risk nurture. Risk encouragement. Risk naming the Life you see at work in someone else. Risk participating in the kindling power.

May we come again and again to the sure knowledge that relationship with God and relationship with each other are truly inseparable. May we meet and welcome the Friend in one another.

In faith and service,

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

P.S.– As a Yearly Meeting, we’re committed to supporting the web of encouragement and mentorship across generations. In February, we’re sponsoring a weekend gathering for Friends who share this yearning. Together, we’ll explore how this happens in our own lives, how we might learn and grow in this service, and how we might help our meeting communities to more fully embrace the ministry of relationship.

Might this opportunity be for you? You can learn more and share your interest in participating here. More information on Partners in Spirit is below.

P.P.S.Affirming the sacredness of relationship means recognizing the Light in each of our neighbors—especially those from whom fear, hatred, and oppression threaten to separate us.

If you haven’t already, please consider how your meeting might support Love Knows No Borders: a moral call for migrant justice sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and partners, December 10-18–next week. See the article below for more information.

Nia Thomas and Hilary Burgin, left; Kristina Keefe-Perry, right

Partners in Spirit: For young adults and aspiring mentors

February 15–18, 2019
Woolman Hill
Deerfield, MA

When you look back on your spiritual growth, who encouraged you?

None of us grows to our full potential without others seeing our inner promise, creating space, and encouraging us along as we move through the hardest stretches.

Mentors are omega-3s for our spiritual growth, increasing vitality and drawing out potential. And yet, many young adult Friends in New England report they struggle to find authentic mentoring relationships.

I do not believe that this problem exists because there is a lack of Friends capable of spiritual nurture; I believe it is (at least in part) due to an awkwardness at starting mentoring conversations and a failure to see ourselves as worthy of this powerful role. 

Read more from Nia Thomas (Northampton, MA, Friends Meeting)
Partners in Spirit is a retreat bringing together aspiring Quaker mentors and emerging adults (ages 18–25) who seek to strengthen their Quaker spiritual practice and to better live their faith daily.

Attendance is by application, and space is limited. Find more information and apply here.

Love Knows No Borders: a moral call for migrant justice

The American Friends Service Committee begins a Week of Action on December 10 (International Human Rights Day), concluding on December 18 (International Migrants Day).  On December 10, more than 200 faith leaders from across the country will take part in an action at the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego, California. Diane Dicranian of Winthrop Center, ME, Friends Church is leaving soon to join this action. Please hold her and all involved in the Light in the coming days.

Here are a few ways you can support this effort, and learn more:

1. Learn more about the action and week’s events at the AFSC Website
2. Watch this week’s teach-in and call to action on Facebook.
3. Follow the NEYM Facebook page for updates and reports from Diane and others, including live-streaming of an interfaith service on Sunday, December 9, at noon EST.

If you or your Friends meeting plan to participate locally or in other ways, please let us know.

Other events coming soon

View More Events

Giving Thanks, Celebrating New Service

From Young Adult Engagement Coordinator Hilary Burgin:

Dear Friends,

As some Friends may have heard recently, I have some bittersweet news: I have accepted the position as Executive Director of Quaker Voluntary Service, and I will be concluding my staff work with New England Yearly Meeting in December (yes, this month).

My own calling to faithfulness has deepened and grown through my work with young adult Friends and with you all around welcoming and outreach. I see tremendous love, care, and opportunity among Friends in New England. I see young adults hungry for spiritual nurture, some being fed by their relationship with local meetings, some through young adult Friends events—and some still seeking their homes. I see meetings seeking ways to welcome young adults. I see individuals faithful to their gifts and leadings, in community with others also seeking to be faithful. I’m excited to see how our Yearly Meeting will explore new edges, take risks, and continue the important conversations and growth that are happening.

As I shift jobs, I will be staying in New England, still living in Boston and worshipping with Beacon Hill Friends Meeting. I look forward to continuing to be with you as a member of our yearly meeting!

To stay in touch, you can write me at hilary@quakervoluntaryservice.org.

In Peace, with gratitude,

Hilary


From Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Merrill:

I want to celebrate Hilary’s service as staff of New England Yearly Meeting these past few years, and share my joy and encouragement as she takes these next steps. Like so many of us who have worked to help Quaker Voluntary Service grow in recent years—from its founding, to bringing a QVS house to Boston, to now supporting the transition to a new executive director for this start-up Quaker organization—I’m excited to see Hilary bring her gifts and commitment to servant leadership to QVS.

We will miss working with her as part of the Yearly Meeting staff team, but New England Friends will continue to benefit from what Hilary and many other Friends have done as part of a three-year, grant-funded partnership between New York and New England Yearly Meetings for fostering multigenerational Friends meetings.

This winter and spring, as we conclude the final year of this project, we’ll be integrating lessons learned in the work Hilary has led. We look forward to sharing learning and resources, and to continuing the conversation about outreach, inclusion, and welcome. We’re planning and preparing in-person events, written articles, and tools to support Friends as we continue to do this vital work in our local meetings. Watch this newsletter for more news and next steps in the coming months.

There will be more opportunities soon for Hilary to share her gifts with New England Quakers: at February’s Partners in Spirit retreat, in another opportunity in March at New York Yearly Meeting’s Powell House still in development, and beginning next fall as Hilary serves as co-teacher for the Nurturing Faithfulness program—a partnership of Marcelle Martin, Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center, and New England Yearly Meeting.

Hilary is an inspiring example among the many Friends in New England who are supporting the Spirit’s work through the Quaker movement in these times. I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for Hilary’s work, and holding her in the Light in this time of newness and transition.

in faith and service,

Noah

Boston QVS welcomes Kristina Keefe-Perry

Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) will step into Hilary Burgin’s former role as the Boston Coordinator for Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS). Kristina was a founding board member of QVS, and is active in public ministry in New England and beyond.

You can read more about Kristina here.

Friends Responding to Hate and Violence

Image: Callum Taylor
Friends in New England and beyond continue to respond to the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life temple in Pittsburgh. Framingham Friends Meeting (MA) sent a letter to the rabbis of temples in their area which you can read here.  Monadnock (NH) Friends published an open letter to the Tree of Life Synagogue which you can read on their Facebook page.

Pittsburgh Friends expressed gratitude for the support they have received in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting, and approved a minute responding to gun violence.

Framingham Friends also sent a letter to Islamic groups and the principal of Hemenway Elementary School, expressing their distress at the hateful messages sent to a 10-year-old student at the school.

Santa Fe (New Mexico) Monthly Meeting approved a minute supporting the rights of refugees.

Friends Peace House: Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities

The Listening Room at Friends Peace House (photo: Anneke Hohl)

Anneke Hohl (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting) visited Friends Peace House (FPH) in Rwanda earlier this year. Read about the work of FPH, including Alternatives to Violence and a campaign to bring mediation into Rwandan prisons, here.

Nurturing Relationship with the “Praying Indians”

Chief Caring Hands and Wellesley Friend Sue Webb (Photo: Roland Stern)
Wellesley Friends recently met to share a meal and watch the film Praying Indianswith guests Zadi Zokou, the filmmaker; and Chief Caring Hands of the Natick Praying Indian TownPraying Town tells the story of the first Praying Indian village, founded in 1651 in South Natick, Massachusetts. On August 11, 2012, for the first time after almost 300 years, members of the tribe again began worshiping at the Eliot Church, South Natick.

Online Course: Building a Nonviolent Campaign

In the face of hatred, injustice, and environmental destruction, are you tired of being told simply to call your elected officials? Do you feel ready for bolder, more creative action on the issues you care about?

Beginning January 7, an online course (4 lessons) will teach you the basics of nonviolent, direct-action campaigning. Eileen Flanagan, the instructor, is a former clerk of the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and a member of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Learn more and register here

Racial Justice and the Beloved Community

Heather Denkmire (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting) is a participant in the course “Racial Justice and the Beloved Community” led by Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) and funded in part by a grant from the Legacy Fund of New England Yearly Meeting.

Heather writes for the blog Black Girl in Maine about some of what she’s learning.

The Power of Civil Disobedience

Lewis Randa (Wellesley, MA, Friends Meeting) recently spoke to his meeting about the power of civil disobedience. Lewis is the founder of the Life Experience School and the Pacifist Memorial in Sherborn, Mass. The first student at the Life Experience School, Courty, joined Lewis for the “Second Hour” presentation.

An act of civil disobedience that led to the arrest of Courty contributed to produce change: In 2009, the Department of Mental Retardation changed its name to the Department of Developmental Services.

Quakers Sue New York Prisons

Friends in New York Yearly Meeting, which includes several Friends meetings in prisons, have joined in a lawsuit against the Green Haven prison and the New York Department of Corrections. The suit alleges several instances of denial of freedom of religion.

Read more

New Book: Exploring Prophetic Ministry

In Walk Humbly, Serve Boldly: Modern Quakers as Everyday ProphetsMargery Post Abbott of Multnomah (OR) Friends Meeting explores the understanding and practice of prophetic ministry among Friends today.

In this book, Marge lays out one vision of what a prophetic community might look like among Friends, recognizing fully how often we fall short and how our visions differ. Yet she has hope that in reaching far we might at least in part demonstrate what it means to live in the city of God.

Her work is enriched by the many Friends from around the world who responded to queries about their experience of the prophetic ministry, focusing on how they know and respond to the guidance of the Inward Light and looking to what underpins their witness. Marge hopes this work might be useful for opening conversations and encouraging others to pay attention to those often gentle nudges that can bring us to awareness of our callings and help reshape our lives.

Each chapter contains queries for use by groups. The final query reads:

“Can you imagine Friends as a band of everyday prophets? What does this look like in your imagination? What are the preconditions that would allow this to happen? What might be your first step in becoming part of this band?”

Read more and order the book here

Got photos?

We always need compelling photographs for the website, newsletter, and other publications for New England Friends.

If you have photos from Annual Sessions, events at your local meeting, or other activities of Quakers in New England, please send them to office@neym.org, including the names of the person(s) in the photo, the date taken, the event, and the full name of the photographer.

Thanks in advance!

News of New England Friends sharing and acting from their faith in the past month:

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

With Our Whole Hearts

Dear Friends,

I’ve been ill for the past few weeks, so I hope you’ll forgive my not sharing a longer reflection this month.

Last week, with support from many Friends, our presiding clerk and I published a public statement on behalf of Quakers in New England, “The Love that Overcomes.” You can read the letter here.

I hope the stories of faithful living and opportunities for engagement featured in this month’s newsletter will bring you encouragement and nourish your spirit. My prayer is that in these turbulent days, each of us might find space—even if only for a few moments—for the refuge, rest, and renewal that will allow us to be who we are called to be.

May we help each other to discern and do just what is ours to do—what only we can do—and to do it with our whole hearts.

In faith and service,

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

Partners in Spirit matches young adults and aspiring mentors

February 15–18, 2019
Woolman Hill
Deerfield, MA

Hilary Burgin (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) and Nia Thomas (Northampton, MA, Friends Meeting) will be joined by guest teacher Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) to lead this weekend retreat bringing together two cohorts: emerging adults (ages 18–25) seeking to strengthen their understanding and experience of Quaker spiritual practices and more experienced Friends seeking to grow in their gifts as mentors and spiritual nurturers.

Attendance is by application. For more information, click here.

At the Well

A gathering for Friends in public ministry who identify as women (cisgender and trans), trans men, genderqueer, non-binary, and all gender expansive identities, December 6–9, 2018.

At the Well aspires to witness to the particularity of callings laid upon participants’ hearts by providing a venue for Spirit to knit together a blessed community of connection, support, mentoring, restoration, and passion.

The weekend will include times of worship, worship-sharing in small groups, workshops, multiple participant-led offerings, socialization, rest, and renewal. We intend to follow a hybrid model of structured planned program time and some time for Open Space/Unconference exploration.

An optional 24-hour pre-gathering will offer participants space for self-led sabbatical time or guided discernment program facilitated by Jennie Isbell Shinn (Mt. Toby, MA, Friends Meeting).

Attendance at the gathering and pre-gathering will be open to any Quaker in public ministry whose gender identity is targeted by any form of gender-based discrimination.

Learn more about At the Well and register.

Other events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

Upcoming Youth Retreats

View More Events

Dawnland film streaming on PBS this month

Dawnland, the acclaimed documentary chronicling the work of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission in Maine, is now available to stream in the United States on the PBS website and apps through the end of November in recognition of National Native American Heritage month. The Upstander Project team, Dawnlandfilm participants, and their partners at Maine-Wabanaki REACH are available for teacher workshops and to join conversations at all screenings of the film.

Click here to book a speaker. For more about the film, visit the Dawnland website.

Faith & Practice Revision Committee invites
your insights

This year at Annual Sessions, the committee charged with leading the revision of Faith and Practice, our Yearly Meeting’s book of discipline, brought two additional papers to NEYM for Friends’ consideration; one on Pastoral Care and one on Dying, Death and Bereavement. In addition, the Faith and Practice Revision Committee is continuing to work on the papers on Personal Spiritual Disciplines and Membership. Friends can find all of these papers here.

The committee is asking Friends to engage with these papers corporately, in each of our local meetings, and to share our advices and responses. The Faith and Practice Revision Committee is particularly interested in responses to the two new chapters: Pastoral Care and Dying, Death and Bereavement. Responses can be sent to the Committee’s email address, preferably no later than February 1, 2019.

These Friends have been doing careful and deeply discerning work in bringing forward a new book of discipline for New England Yearly Meeting. The invitation to read this material and to engage with it together is an invitation to consider corporately who we are and how we are called to live into our faith.

Song, prayer, and fellowship gather Friends at Living Faith

Photos: (top, lower left) Maggie Nelson, (lower right) Lisa Graustein

More than 125 Friends gathered for a day of community-building, worship, workshops, and fellowship on Saturday, October 27th at The 224 EcoSpace in Hartford, Connecticut. We began the day with a game, and closed the day with worship and song. Read more voices of Friends sharing about the day here.

“Provoke one another to Love” Chosen as Theme for 2019 Annual Sessions

The theme for the 2019 Annual Sessions has been discerned: “Provoke one another to Love.” The phrase comes from a 1656 epistle from Margaret Fell, and was quoted in the Yearly Meeting 2018 Epistle.

Read a message about this theme from Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerk Fritz Weiss

Responding to Climate Change

Measuring your carbon footprint

As many Friends are aware, the Yearly Meeting gathered in August committed to assessing New England Quakers’ current impact on the climate and taking concrete steps to reduce our carbon footprint—both for individuals and our local meetings—by December 20, 2019.

An online carbon calculator developed by Friend Steve Gates (West Falmouth, MA, Friends Meeting) can be used by individuals and groups to estimate your carbon footprint. Steve and Rebecca MacKenzie (Quaker City/Unity, NH, Friends Meeting) from the NEYM Earthcare Ministries Committee would love to visit your meeting to listen and share with you about the calculator, to explore the transformations required of us, and to support your meeting in taking steps forward.

Contact Steve by email or call 508-564-2761. Rebecca can also be reached by email or by telephone at 603-504-2851.

Taking action

Middlebury (VT) Friends expressed their gratitude to the local Jewish community by purchasing solar panels for Havurah House, the building where Middlebury Friends meet. These Friends have been thinking for some years about how to help Havurah make the building more environmentally friendly. Once electricity begins flowing from these solar panels, Havurah will get a credit on its electric bill that will offset most or all of the building’s electricity expense.

More resources and inspiration

Andy Burt (Midcoast, ME, Friends Meeting) has created a full-length documentary that tells how 13 Maine activists started their journey of activism for climate justice, and where they find support and hope. The film is free for downloading and streaming at downtoearthstories.org.

Traveling Ministry: Art & Spirituality

Maggie Nelson, of Portland Friends Meeting (ME), is beginning a traveling ministry this year (through May 31, 2019) offering workshops for New England Friends of all ages to explore art as an expression of faith. Additionally, there is an open call for work from Quaker artists exploring this topic. The project will culminate in a collection of artwork that illustrates and illuminates Quaker testimony. Are you an artist with work to share? Would you like Maggie to visit your meeting, retreat, or school? Contact her at maggie@neym.org.
Maggie also served as artist in residence at Friends Camp, in China, Maine, this past June. Read about her experience here.

Friends Camp Registration is Open!

Friends Camp offers 2-week overnight camp programs for children and teens ages 7 to17 in South China, Maine. Campers ages 7 to 12 can try camp for just one week. Check out the Camp’s Instagram photos here and watch a video from this past summer. Visit the Friends Camp website for more information and to register your child.
Learn More and Register

Following Where Faith Leads

An unexpected leading to visit Friends in New Bedford led Martha Mangelsdorf in surprising new directions—with significant implications. Read about her journey here.

Wellesley Friends Join Area Clergy to Support Transgender Rights

June 6, 2018, Needham Community Conversation about Transgender Equality, First Parish UU Church. Cynthia Ganung is at the far left.

Wellesley (MA) Friends Meeting, represented by Cynthia Ganung, joined area clergy in a letter supporting Question 3 on transgender rights in Massachusetts. The faith-based statement was read at the Needham Transgender Equality Coalition program on October 22, “Why Yes on 3? A conversation on preserving transgender rights in MA.” (The photo above is from an earlier event supporting transgender equality.)Cynthia reports “I was proud to be part of this group and to speak out as a Quaker who supports transgender equality. At the end of the program, a woman who is transgender told me she was moved to tears during this reading and is beginning to feel that she might be able to reclaim her faith.”

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is November 20.

New Quaker Action Program Manager at
Beacon Hill Friends House

The Beacon Hill Friends House (Boston, MA) is excited to announce that Emily Savin has joined the staff and residential community as the organization’s first full-time Program Manager. Emily is a Friend, a writer, and a community-builder, coming to the Friends House from Northampton, MA. A former staff member and resident at Pendle Hill, Emily also brings many years of experience as a grassroots organizer at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and in several U.S. congressional campaigns. Her work will center on stewarding and expanding the Friends House’s educational and action-focused programming on Quaker and social justice topics—both those designed in-house and those hosted by outside individuals and groups.

The addition of the Program Manager—who joins three existing staff and 18 other residents—is the latest step in living into the Friends House’s 2017 strategic plan to grow its role as a center for learning, witness, and action for Friends and others in the Boston area and beyond. Learn more about Emily and the plans for her work in this post on the Beacon Hill Friends House website.

Collaborating for Religious Education

The Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) is a grassroots network of Friends holding a sense of stewardship for life-long Quaker faith formation. Friends from all branches involved in religious education are welcome to join. The collaborative is a community of practice to share resources, skills, gifts, questions, and insights, and to support one another in this vital ministry. QREC hosts monthly online conversation circles on relevant topics.This month’s theme is Friendly Resources for the Holiday Season. For more information on the collaborative and to sign up for the conversation circles, visit the QREC website.

Explore Quaker Parenting

The Quaker Parenting Initiative, with leadership from Harriet Heath of Schoodic (ME) Friends Meeting, offers online parenting discussion series. During a series, parents share their experiences and explore how their Quaker beliefs, the testimonies and practices guide and support their parenting. As one parent wrote:

Online makes it accessible. It was amazing to connect to the community this way!! It has been so lovely to feel part of something with like-minded people, each with their own challenges. It is difficult to commit to a weekly time slot for a number of consecutive weeks, but I am so glad that I did.

She continued by noting how she and her partner now approach each situation using their values, beliefs, and the cognitive development of their children.

Two new series of five sessions of parenting discussions will start in January 2019, one on the 9th and the second on the 10th. For more information or to register, contact Harriet Heath at 413-230-6568 or email her.

In 2019 Friends Peace Teams will be offering opportunities for training in peacebuilding and healing and rebuilding communities. The 6th Annual International Peace Training will happen in Indonesia, January 10 through 23, 2019. Two sessions of “Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities” will be offered, February 3–23, 2019; and July 7–27, 2019; both in Rwanda. For more information on their work, visit the Friends Peace Teams website.

News of New England Friends sharing and acting from their faith in the past month:

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

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Copyright © 2018 New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers), All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you expressed interest in the life and ministry of New England Quakers.Our mailing address is:

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

901 Pleasant St

Worcester, MA 01602

The Love That Overcomes

November 3, 2018
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God –Romans 8:38-39
This week, Quaker communities of faith across the six New England states are mourning with our Jewish neighbors the deadliest act of violence against Jews in this country’s history.  We mourn with all who are targeted by hate.  We join our hearts in grief with the grieving.  We search for ways to respond to the corrosive evils of anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and the persecution of those labeled as “other,” even as we acknowledge our own complicity in these sins.  We yearn for justice, for healing, for refuge for those most at risk.  In town squares, in places of worship, in living rooms, in legislative offices and detention centers, we unite with countless others to protect people from further violence, violence fueled by false prophets preaching fear.
Each day brings further anxiety, violence, and vitriol, while some charged to be leaders incite the worst in us as human beings.  We are surrounded by stories of hatred, division, and despair.  And yet, we know this: The story of Love will endure.
This week, in the face of the mass murder of Jews at prayer, Jewish doctors and nurses treated the man who opened fire in the Tree of Life Synagogue.  A stranger in a parking lot cradled the 12-year-old boy whose grandfather was one of two black people shot and killed by a white man outside Louisville, Kentucky.  As some deny the basic humanity of transgender people and people seeking asylum, communities respond with acts of radical love, inclusion, and sanctuary. In these and so many unnamed acts, amidst such suffering, we see the infinite Love of God.
It is the testimony of the Religious Society of Friends that God is at work healing the brokenness of the world and the brokenness within each of us.  Nothing can hold back the unshakeable power of Love in this time, and throughout all time.  What matters in this moment–in every moment–is how we choose to participate in this eternal story.  Our lives must proclaim that this Love is stronger than all fear.
We commit to live today trusting in this Truth.  The words we say and the choices we make in the coming days and weeks must bear witness to Love in concrete acts of connection and care, in our homes and neighborhoods, in our schools and workplaces, in the coming elections, as communities of faith, as people who call this country home, as those seeking refuge and those offering it.  We must waste no opportunity to love.
We must seek the grace to keep free from the politics of rage, division, numbness and dehumanization, even toward those we may perceive as enemies.  We must nurture in each other the courage to come together across difference, to resist hopelessness, to renounce a worldview that treats anyone as disposable, to affirm that the Spirit of God dwells in everyone.  With each person, in each moment, each place—this movement grows.
This is the time for a politics of presence, of radical relationship, of mutual aid and reconciliation.  It’s a time to be witnesses, storytellers of the broken-hearted Love that overcomes the powers of fear.  Let the walls of separation come crashing down.
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)
Fritz Weiss, Presiding Clerk
Noah Merrill, Secretary

Three Days Left to Give

Three Days Left to Give

Here we have a prospect of one common interest from which our own is inseparable, that to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives… 
                                                                            – John Woolman, 1763
Dear Friends,

We have just three days to go before the end of the fiscal year for New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (NEYM)—and we need your help.

Thanks to Friends’ generous support, here’s a snapshot of some of what we’ve been able to do together in the past year:

  • Publish 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;
  • Partner with local meetings to help foster multigenerational relationships, and integrate young adults & families more fully in our faith communities;
  • Offer workshops and opportunities for connection among those whose service sustains our local meetings, from clerks and treasurers to members of ministry & counsel committees;
  • Remove barriers to participation and offer a wider welcome through the use of the Pay-As-Led approach to event fees;
  • Host events that nurtured Quaker faith and practice, including Annual Sessions, Living Faith gatherings, youth retreats, spiritual nurture workshops, and more;
  • Support those who work with our youngest Friends, providing training and background screenings for youth workers, and implementing our newly-approved child safety policy;
  • Consult with Friends and local meetings to imagine new and better ways to support the spiritual health and life of children and their families throughout New England;
  • Through time-sensitive public statements, ecumenical engagement, and organizing, raise a more powerful voice on behalf of Friends in our wider region on vital issues of our times.

Meeting our financial goals means we’ll be able to continue this work.

Contribute Now
Here’s some good news: We’re almost there–with a total goal of $200,000, and with committed intentions, we’ve raised more than $195,000 in gifts by generous Friends, from Connecticut to Maine.

If we can raise $5000 in the next three days, we’ll have exceeded our budgeted goal this year, and taken another important step toward financial sustainability and the thriving of New England Friends.

The work of Love–of which our shared ministries are a part–is the business of our lives. May all the treasures we are able to share help it thrive, now and in the coming months.

If you have given in the past year, thank you. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll consider contributing now in whatever amount you can afford.

Regardless of your ability to contribute financially, thank you for all of the ways you share your gifts with the world through our Quaker communities of faith.

In faith and service,

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

P.S.: All online contributions or checks dated September 30, 2018 or before will count toward our annual fundraising goal. 

P.P.S.: Don’t forget to check out the upcoming Living Faith gatherings to be held this year in Hartford, Connecticut on October 27, and in Southeastern New England in April—hope to see you there!

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New England Yearly Meeting 2018 State of Society Report

Dear Friends,

This year the 32 members of New England Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel read all 35 of the State of Society reports that were sent to us from local meetings across New England.

At our meeting in May we walked around the room and drew pictures and wrote phrases about “what had life” in each of the geographical regions we call “Quarters.” Out of worship we shared what rose for us as we considered the overall state of our Religious Society, in this corner of the world. Our discernment was informed by the State of Society reports that you shared, the news we have been reading each month in the monthly e-mail newsletter, and by our travel in Ministry among Friends in the past year.
The prayerful reflection at this meeting as well as the work of a smaller group of Friends nominated to carry forward the work of putting the sense of the meeting into words, led us to the final document which was read at Annual Sessions, and which is being shared with you now (attached). We hope your meeting both sees itself reflected in this report, and is able to recognize the ways in which the meeting is a part of a larger whole, which may or may not share the exact same condition.
This report is an imperfect effort at capturing how Truth prospers among us. We continue to hold your meeting in our prayers and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the year, with joys and concerns, and particularly if there are ways that our committee can support the thriving of your local meeting community of Friends.

In the abundant Love that holds us all,

Honor Woodrow (Framingham, MA, Friends Meeting)
Clerk of New England Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel

2018 State of Society Report

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. Amos 8:11

The words of the Lord are justice, love, mercy, patience, service, comfort and
joy. We find them inscribed deep in our yearnings, suffering, hope, and imagination, often unaware they are a sacred gift. Through them we enact our lives, inhabit our bodies, and work with the materials of the world and of culture. Reminders echo around us in the wordless language of the land, the creatures, and the rhythms of the cosmos. Some of us are reached in one way, some of us in another; at bottom the hunger is the same—to be available, filled up, transformed so as more and more to speak, act, and live as children of the Light. We feel the words as divine intention and a call to follow where it will lead in this time of fear—and hope.

As we have reflected and prayed about the spiritual condition of our Yearly Meeting, we have heard in visits, meeting reports, newsletters, minutes of concern, and prophetic witness that Friends are seeking to live more fully according to the gifts of the Spirit that we are given. The hunger for knowledge and for better access to the wisdom of our community are leading to a widespread desire for adult religious education. The recognition of this need, or desire, in turn is calling out gifts of teaching, writing, and organizing in many meetings. The results take many forms—book groups, forums, retreat attendance, and more. Groups of Friends called to ministry are gathering more frequently for mutual encouragement and guidance to better service. The gift of eldership, which can liberate the life and service of individuals and of meetings, is more widely understood, encouraged, and put into action. We rejoice in the freshness of the life that rises. It stands in bold contrast to the tenor of our times that leaves us at times cold and lost.

The longing for justice, for right living, and for peace that is more than the absence of war is bearing fruit in acts of witness. Friends reach for the commonwealth of God when we stand with the earth in a time of climate change, stand with refugees, immigrants, and Native Americans in a time of xenophobia, and stand with those who bear the burdens of the economic and social systems in which we are all embedded. One Friend’s gift of money to every meeting in New England stimulated the power of

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imagination, and enabled many meetings to take steps to strengthen their work or presence in the community.

There are, in truth, as many challenges before us as ever. Some meetings feel themselves in decline; some Friends feel isolated in meetings which have not taken the risk of seeing and encouraging the gifts of their members. A number of meetings have made an effort to increase their connectedness within their meeting community and thereby reduce the sense of isolation that some may feel. This has often been coupled with outreach to the communities which surround them. The work to know and see each other more deeply, and to reach out to non-Quakers has resulted in a clearer sense of who we are as Friends. It has also been important when meetings have actively shared resources with each other within their quarters and beyond.

There is a constant pressure from the culture and society around us to live individualistically. We feel the invitation to judge, separate, and make distinctions within our communities. Friends struggle to turn the invitation aside and claim instead the blessing of true community so that the common life can flow freely. We are learning that when we allow the Spirit to keep our individualism in check, fuller life and vitality in the meeting are unleashed. Investing in the common life brings blessings that are for some surprising and unfamiliar. In true community, the individual’s uniqueness, voice, agency, and gifts, are affirmed and refreshed with new meaning.

We have been led as a people to walk further and further out on the limb of faith. Taking risks in our commitment to address the seeds and practices of white supremacy within us, and to respond prophetically and actively to the climate crisis. We see that taking a risk, even a small one- encourages more risk-taking, and as we have read all the news of the yearly Meeting, a risky question arises: What is the foundation of our hope? How can we speak with confidence about the springs from which our witness, our endurance, our experiments and our joy take their strength? We see that where we are alive to the springs of life, are willing to be foolish in the eyes of the world, to be children in the Spirit, our faith takes us into hard places. In these hard places we see our true condition more clearly. This demands of us both deep inner work and deep outer work. Where will we find courage and capacity to tell that story, and to share what wonders we have found?

Ministry and Counsel Committee

New England Yearly Meeting

A Deeper Hope

SEPTEMBER 2018

A Deeper Hope

Dear Friends,

In my morning devotional time since Annual Sessions, I’ve been reading Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, a foundational reflection by Thurman, the Black theologian, preacher, professor, activist and mystic whose work helped inspire the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and who was a student and friend of Maine Quaker Rufus Jones.

This writing, first published in 1949, wrestles with the question, “What is the word of the religion of Jesus to those who stand with their backs against the wall?”

My own experience and identity shape the way I receive his message. Reading his work, I feel far from the condition of the radical Jesus he describes. I’m shaken, yet comforted. And I’m challenged. I’m particularly struck–even convicted–by one challenging word Thurman uses again and again to describe people in all times and places “with their backs against the wall”–disinherited.

Because to be disinherited, one first has to already be an heir.

Much secular activism in which I participate focuses on a vision of progress toward the realization and expansion of universal rights for all. A central premise is that, together, we are building a better world. Painfully, often slowly, history moves forward. We can and do make things better. Step by step, through skillful organizing and advocacy, sound policy, better institutions, enlightened leadership, and greater inclusion, we (hopefully an ever-widening “we”) make progress. We struggle and strive to build with human hands the structures of a more perfect world. This is powerful, essential, and often life-saving work, to which many Friends for generations have dedicated themselves, understanding this as an expression of Quaker ethics shaped by our faith.

But this isn’t the whole story. Thurman’s challenge brings me back to the ground truth.

Infinite worth permeates Creation. Absolute, unconditional Love is the organizing principle of the Universe. At the heart of things, every person is a being of incalculable value, filled with an unshakeable dignity, beloved beyond all measure.

What I understand from the testimony of our faith tradition as Friends is that, at the heart of things, we are not constructing a better world. From the beginning, Friends have been animated by the understanding that we are helping to reclaim, restore, and remember what has always been true from the foundation of the world. And in this world founded on this unshakeable truth of belovedness, some of the beloved have been disinherited by one another, and by the powerful forces and structures of separation, confusion, hatred and fear that have been built and sustained across generations–but never disinherited by God.

As I begin to remember, it becomes clear that the rock bottom reality is this: nothing in all Creation can change the fact that every person is an infinitely beloved child of God. And yet, in countless ways, we live our lives in ways that seem to deny it.

So for me, the central challenge is: Will I live today as if this Truth is true? Can I recognize this essential belovedness, both in myself and in my neighbor? When I am anchored in this recognition, I am opened to see more clearly–and help to transform–the patterns, prejudices, and powers that deny this Truth.

Recently I shared an unexpected quiet moment with a Friend as we both made our way to a common destination. As we walked together, we reflected on the condition of our Quaker faith community in New England, and the condition of our wider society. She shared her concern for a loved one who–like so many among us–has been pouring energy into the upcoming elections, desperate to bring about a political change that, this person so deeply hopes, could open a way toward greater compassion, justice, and moral courage.

We affirmed the necessity and profound importance of each of us doing the work before us, of laboring together with all the means available to build the world we seek.

And yet she feared for her loved one, for herself, and for all of us. She worried about what could happen if the election or the political process doesn’t bring about the redemption that so many of us yearn for, if the political arena in which so many of us have placed our hope proves unable to respond to the depth of the hatred, division, distraction, and violence that has been unmasked and unleashed in these times. She worries about the cost–and the fruits–of a shattering despair. Secular political action is vital and needed. But it will not, by itself, bring the healing the world needs.

“We need a deeper Hope,” she said.

Thurman’s challenge lights a path for me toward that deeper Hope–a Hope that is not at risk.

What is at risk–and what is being decided in every moment–is whether we will trust that Hope, turn toward it, abide in it, and let it guide our living.

May we find that essential belovedness–both within ourselves and in our neighbor–and know that it is unshakeable. From this ground, may our actions spring. 

In faith and service,

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

Photo: Friends Couple Enrichment

Couple Enrichment with John and Debbie Humphries

September 21–23, 2018
Powell House
Chatham, NY

A Couple Enrichment Workshop is an opportunity for a couple to focus on their relationship, enhance communication skills, and deepen their appreciation of each other. This couples weekend will be facilitated by Debbie and John Humphries (Hartford, CT, Friends Meeting). Couple enrichment workshops help couples celebrate their relationship’s joys and strengths, and develop skills to deepen and improve them. A Couple Enrichment program is not therapy; it is a way to make good relationships even better. Find more information at the Powell House website.

Other events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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Highlights from 2018 Annual Sessions

Photo: Diane Weinholtz

Curious what Annual Sessions was like this year? Interested in revisiting the experience? Want to share what happened with your meeting?

You can see video from Bible Half-Hours, the plenary panel, slide shows and more on the Yearly Meeting YouTube channel.

These “talking points” give highlights of the week’s events to post and share with your local meeting. Minutes from business sessions will be posted on the Yearly Meeting website soon!

Lost and Found at Sessions

Several items left behind at Castleton are in the Yearly Meeting office. If you lost a travel mug, water bottle, hat, shirt, or umbrella, call or email Sara Hubner to see if it’s among these items.

Racial Justice Course for Friends,
small groups, and local meetings

Image: Hartford Friends

Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) is leading an on-line course to explore how we perpetuate racism and white supremacy as individuals and as a Religious Society. We will also practice skills for interrupting racism and deepen our capacity to work for racial justice within ourselves, our meetings, and our wider communities. More information about the course, including a syllabus and options for participation, can be found here.

Witnessing for Immigrants

Photo: Monadnock Quaker Meeting
Many New England Friends participated in the Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice, which began August 22 at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester, NH. Four days and forty miles later, they ended at the Strafford County jail in Dover, NH, where ICE incarcerates people. The march was covered by the Associated Press, NH Public Radio, the Seacoast Online and Manchester Ink Link websites, WMUR-TV, and Foster’s Daily Democrat, among other outlets. You can find photographs taken along the way on the Facebook event page.

Concern for Palestinians in Gaza

A group of concerned New England Friends has written a Minute of Concern for Palestinians in Gaza which they are sharing for monthly meetings to consider. Read the minute here.

Making the Experience of Palestinians Visible

Skip Schiel (Cambridge, MA, Friends Meeting) returns to Israel in September, hoping to enter Gaza with the Alternatives to Violence Project to witness and photograph conditions for Palestinian refugees. Learn more on Skip’s website.

Living Faith: Fresh Changes This Fall

On October 27, Friends from across New England and beyond will again gather for Living Faith, a daylong, multigenerational celebration of Quaker spirituality, community, ministry, and witness.

As we enter the third year of our experiments with Living Faith, we will be hosted in Hartford, Connecticut by the dynamic community at The 224 EcoSpace, a social enterprise of the Conference of Churches and FaithWorks CT.

This beautiful new space offers exciting possibilities for interaction with the diverse community groups that share in the center’s life, and with this ministry of creativity, creation and renewal in the heart of the city.

We’re trying something new, which will bring some changes. We’ll share some parts of the facility with other groups, and have an opportunity to meet and learn from local leadership about this thriving ministry and the context in which they work. Based on requests and continuing feedback, there will be shifts in styles and attention to worship, a smaller number of more curated workshops, and programming placing greater emphasis on supporting the life of local meetings, living our faith in our daily lives, and creating connections beyond Living Faith.

Living Faith seeks to be especially welcoming to those just beginning to explore Quaker spirituality, to New England Quakers who are venturing into Quaker activities beyond their local meetings for the first time, and to families with young children.

Questions? Contact livingfaith@neym.org. Save the date for October 27, and watch for a registration announcement later this month!

Ministry in Mongolia

Sas Carey (Middlebury, VT, Friends Meeting) has traveled among Mongolia nomadic herders for 24 years. Sas shares about her work here.

New Video: Becoming a Quaker Minister

What is Quaker ministry? What does it mean to be recorded as a Quaker minister? Stephanie Crumley-Effinger (Earlham School of Religion) speaks from her experience.

Upcoming Grant Application Opportunities

  • Did you know New England Yearly Meeting gives grants to support the thriving of local meetings and Friends ministry and witness? The deadline for the next round of grants from the NEYM Future Fund is October 1, 2018.

    For more information and to apply, visit neym.org/legacy-gift.

    If you have questions about applying please contact Suzanna Schell (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) & Jean McCandless (Burlington, VT, Friends Meeting) co-clerks at legacy@neym.org.

    A list of recent grant recipients can be found here. A slideshow of the many ways in which the Funds are supporting the ministry of New England Quakers in the areas of racial justice, climate change, outreach, religious education and more, is coming soon to the NEYM YouTube channel.

  • The Forum for Theological Exploration offers grants to congregations and church-related ministries interested in providing young adults with leadership opportunities within pastoral ministry. The deadline for the current round of grants is September 15, but even if you can’t meet the deadline, Friends might want to keep the grants in mind for the future.  Learn more here.

What is a “Living Epistle”?

What is one of the oldest Quaker practices, now being renewed? Friends World Committee for ConsultationSection of the Americas is sending Friends to travel within the Religious Society of Friends, across difference.  FWCC hopes that these “living epistles” will help knit us together, and encourage Friends in their faith.  It’s called the Travelling Ministry Corps. Read more about the program here.

Interested in joining the Traveling Ministry Corps? Visit the FWCC website for more information.

Quakers in Print

Andrew Grannell (Portland, ME, Friends Meeting) has published a memoir of his journey as a husband, father, and public Friend. A Lifetime of Good Beginnings is available for sale at your local bookstore or online …

… Kathleen Wooten (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) has an article in Friends Journal, “Simple, Relevant, Amusing,” about sharing the Quaker message via social media …

… And Jeffrey Schmalz (Allen’s Neck, MA, Friends Meeting) published a letter to the editor in the Standard Times.

Celebrate Friends Everywhere

Are you passionate about creating connections and building relationship within your meeting and between Friends? Seeking to connect seekers and long-time Friends with our diverse Quaker traditions? Yearning to gather in worship?

Consider joining Friends around the world on October 7, 2018, in celebration of the Quaker faith on World Quaker Day (WQD). Find out what it’s all about at neym.org.

Sharing about World Quaker Day on your social media platforms?  Kathleen Wooten (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting) NEYM Social Media Manager, is creating some graphic posts for New England meetings. You can find them posted on our Facebook page.

Help Design Our New Website!

In order to better lift up the life and ministry of Quakers in our region, we’re working with a team of web developers to create a new, more focused, functional, connecting and inspiring neym.org—the website of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

This is an important chance to make your voice heard, and we’d love to hear from you.

Have an experience to share about using the current website? Your answers to three questions on this user survey would be a great help. And thank you!

Take the survey

Got Images?

We need photographs for the website, newsletter, and other publications for New England Friends.

If you have photos from Annual Sessions, events at your local meeting, or other activities of Quakers in New England, please send them to office@neym.org, including the names of the person(s) in the photo, the date taken, the event, and the full name of the photographer.

Thanks in advance!

News of New England Friends sharing and acting from their faith in the past month:

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

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Quaker Youth Opportunities

Dear local meetings & worship groups of New England,

Hello! My name is Nia Thomas and I serve as NEYM’s Young Friends Coordinator.

In my role, I strive to make as many teens and families as possible aware of the Young Friends retreat program. Did you know that we offer six retreats a year for high school age Quaker youth? We also maintain an email list for youth, parents, and others interested in regular updates about retreat registration as well as  other opportunities for Quaker teens. If someone you know would like to subscribe to this list, they can do so here.

The purpose of Young Friends retreats is not to duplicate the efforts of local meetings but rather to compliment them by creating joyous youth-centered Quaker spaces where participants can experience community and connect with a wider group of Quaker peers. You can learn about upcoming retreats on the Young Friends section of the NEYM website.

Beyond encouraging youth to attend retreats, I also love to hear about what is going on at your meeting that engages youth. If you are a Quaker teen or you work with the teens in your meeting, I’d love to talk with you and hear what’s alive for you in your meeting.

With excitement and gratitude,



Nia Thomas
Young Friends Coordinator
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

Upcoming Young Friends Events
September 14-16–Young Friends Leadership & Learning Weekend–Framingham
September 15–New Young Friends Welcome Dinner–Framingham, MA 6-8PM
October 12-14–Young Friends Retreat–Mt Toby (Leverett, MA)

Want to make sure YF retreats are on your calendar? More retreat dates are listed here.  Registration opens about a month before a given retreat (we’ll send a reminder out on this list).

Register for Retreats
To contact the Young Friends Coordinator: 

yf.yafcoord@neym.org