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

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is why I need you.

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

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

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

So what is the story our lives are telling? 

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

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

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

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

I hear stories are contagious.

in faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

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

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

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

Events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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A Challenge from Bolivia

(Photo: Emma Condori)

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

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

From Ramallah: A Reflection on Sessions 2019

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

Yearly Meeting Seeks Outreach Archivist

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

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

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

Smith Neck Friends Support
Quaker Records Project

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

Racism: Let’s Talk About It

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

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

QuakerSpeak: Faith and Art

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

Missing Anything?

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

Photographing Worship as Ministry

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

Friends Camp: Developing Leadership

Photo: Friends Camp

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

Growing Relationships Lead to
Restoration Project

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

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

Rediscovering A.J. Muste

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

Video: Friends and Climate Witness

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

Video: This is Friends Camp!

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

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

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

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

Secretary, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

Image: Friends Burial Ground, Ballitore, Ireland

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

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

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

But there is no gravestone for Job Scott.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more of Kathleen’s blog here.

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

in faith and service,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Explore Quaker Discernment & Decision-Making

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

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

Click here for more details.

Exploring Prayer and Meditation

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

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

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

Events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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Join the Virtual Plenary Experiment

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

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

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

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

Sharing—And Celebrating—New Shapes of Service

From Yearly Meeting Secretary Noah Merrill:

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

Maggie Nelson

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

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

Nia Thomas

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

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

Responding to Continuing Revelation

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

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

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

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

in the Love that makes us Friends,

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

Supporting Our Muslim Neighbors

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

Maine Friends Support Maine Native Tribes

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

Support for Our Immigrant Neighbors

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

Called to Nurturing Faithfulness?

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

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

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

Got Office Skills?

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

Speaking Out Against the Death Penalty

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

Read Margaret Hawthorn’s testimony here.

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

Friends Camp Has Adopted Art Camp!

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

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

Quilts for Beauty and Comfort

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

Preserving Your Meeting’s History

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

Friends Celebrating Pete Seeger

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

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

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

Apply for a Prejudice & Poverty Grant

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

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

Emily Savin on PBS

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

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

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

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
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

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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,


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,


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!


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
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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You are receiving this email because you expressed interest in the life and ministry of New England Quakers.

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New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Quakers logo
JUNE 2018

In the Space Between

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago I was with a group of Friends sharing insights from our spiritual journeys. One person reflected on exploring the distinction between “believing” and “knowing.” This kindled a spark in me, and it continues to burn.

There are many things I believe–ideas, principles, concepts, values. I try to live in ways consistent with these beliefs. But they’re constantly changing, falling away, proving incomplete, being reshaped. I’ve learned this countless times. And yet I find myself striving for certainty, rightness, resolution, even (sometimes) purity.

And then there are those few, simple things that I know—inevitable as gravity, inescapable as grace. I taste them sometimes, even in this blessed, broken world filled with desperation, despair and distraction. In these moments, it’s as if the Truth of these knowings is living through me. I rediscover my place in God’s vision of right relationship and liberation for us all.

And yet it seems most of the experiences that bring me alive happen somewhere beyond belief, and before knowing. They need my participation. They flare up, moment by moment, on the unmarked, wonder-drenched, fear-filled way home. Finding the Way on this shadowy pilgrimage–and losing and finding the Way again–my faith continues to be born.

For me, faithfulness happens in the space between, where willfulness becomes willingness. May each of us–if we choose–find ourselves more and more in this unknown country, at the limits of our longing. May we find each other there, more fully alive.

Hand in hand,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Families enjoying sunshine and conversation at Sessions, August 2017

Annual Sessions is Coming!

August 4–9, 2018
Castleton University
Castleton, Vermont

Register Now
Find out more about Annual Sessions

Other events coming soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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Living a Life Centered in Spirit

Fran Brokaw (Hanover, NH) writes about her Quaker faith, following a call, and finding herself in an unexpected place. “God did not just give me a leading, God showed me an opening, and kicked me in the butt to make sure I knew that I was supposed to go that way.” Read Fran’s story.

The Thunder of Silence

Louis Cox (Burlington, VT, Friends Meeting) writes: “…I wasn’t looking for some kind of weekly meditation…to counter the stresses of a busy and noisy world. I was intrigued by the opening silence in Quaker worship…as an important tool in my lifelong quest for wisdom and Truth…”
Read more from Louis’ essay.
Photo: Jean Schell

Your Input Needed:
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.orgthe website of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

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

Bringing the Work of Parker Palmer to
New England Friends

Liana Thompson Knight (Durham, ME, Friends Meeting) has been studying with Parker Palmer’s Center for Courage and Renewal and is now a “Facilitator-in-Preparation.” Liana is eager to share her learning with New England Quakers, and invites conversations about how she might help encourage the life of local meetings and other Friends communities. Read her invitation here.

Quaker Religious Education Collaborative:
You’re Invited!

Image: Beth Collea
You’re invited to the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative’s 5th Annual Conference & Retreat, August 17–19, 2018, at Powell House, in Old Chatham, NY. First Day School teachers, Friends working on Adult Religious Education, Quaker parents and others are warmly invited!

Religious Education in Action: Activism, Outreach and Parenting

  • How do we take the lessons of Quaker religious education beyond the meetinghouse?
  • Where do life-long spiritual formation and activism, outreach, and Quaker parenting intersect?
The Yearly Meeting is offering four half-scholarships! Ask your local meeting to invest in the ministry of Quaker religious education by supporting your attendance, too.

Announcing Spring Legacy Grant Awards

The NEYM Legacy Gift Committee has announced the spring round of grant awards for both the Future Fund and the Witness & Ministry Fund. Find out what exciting projects we’re funding in this cycle.

FCNL Advocacy Corps: A Reflection

This month, Steven Whinfield (New Haven, CT, Friends Meeting), NEYM representative to Friends Committee on National Legislation, shares his experience of the gifts of getting to know a member of the FCNL Advocacy Corps from a different generation than his own. Read his story.

Digital Ministry? What’s That?

Sponsored by an NEYM Legacy grant, Kathleen Wooten writes an email newsletter, ePublishers of Truth–with lots of information and resources for Friends meetings. Read the latest issue of Kathleen’s newsletter or contact Kathleen to learn more about her exploration of digital ministry.

Podcast: On Carrying a Concern

If you haven’t heard an episode yet, Callid and Kristina Keefe-Perry (Fresh Pond, MA Friends Meeting) are hosting a regular podcast, On Carrying A Concern, sharing stories of New England Friends in public ministry, funded in part by a Legacy grant from New England Yearly Meeting. New episodes released weekly–listen here.

Video: Supporting Ministry and Ministers

Two dozen Friends met at Mt. Toby Meeting in Leverett, MA on June 2nd to explore supporting ministers and ministry in local meetings.

Couldn’t attend the workshop? Watch video from the day including the plenary panel and discussion on the Yearly Meeting’s YouTube channel, thanks to Kathleen Wooten.

Celebrate, Visit, Worship with Cuban Friends

Image: Friends United Meeting
Friends United Meeting has opened registration for the Living Letters: Cuba Yearly Meeting 118th Anniversary Trip planned for November 10–19, 2018. Every year Cuban Friends celebrate the 1900 arrival of Friends on the island. But remember—registration closes June 13!

Note: This exciting event is distinct from NEYM-sponsored travel. For information about the Puente de Amigos (Bridge of Friends), New England Yearly Meeting’s ongoing ministry of relationship and visitation with Cuba Yearly Meeting, click here.

Got Crafts?

The General Bookstore at Annual Sessions is looking for consignments! The consignment area sells greeting cards, music CDs, handcrafts, clothing, and other items produced by New England Friends. If you have merchandise to sell, please contact the Consignments Coordinator.

Video: Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse

Christine Green (Amesbury, MA, Friends Meeting) produced this short video for the “Amesbury Treasures Tour,” part of Amesbury’s 350th Anniversary celebrations.

Invitation from Baltimore Friends

Baltimore Yearly Meeting has extended a warm invitation to Friends who would like to attend their annual sessions as part of BYM’s Intervisitation Program, July 30–August 5, 2018. Financial assistance is available! Read more details here.
James Varner (Orono, ME, Friends Meeting) at the Poor People’s Campaign rally in Augusta, Maine, on May 14.

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!

Sessions Anchor Group Facilitators Needed

If you’re planning to attend Annual Sessions in August, we need volunteer Anchor Group facilitators. Anchor Groups gather daily for small group conversations about the theme and experience of Sessions. If you have served before, or would like to try—perhaps with a more seasoned co-facilitator—please contact Leslie Manning, Clerk of Sessions Committee, at sessions@neym.org.

There are lots more opportunities to volunteer at Sessions. When you registeryou’ll be asked whether you wish to volunteer and what kinds of jobs you’re available for.

Beacon Hill Friends House Seeks Full-Time
Quaker Action Program Manager

Beacon Hill Friends House seeks a Quaker Action Program Manager to lead the expansion and day-to-day management of our programming to advance social justice and the traditional Quaker values of peace, integrity, faith, community, and social responsibility. Includes residency in a 22-member community, salary, and generous benefits. Details are available here. Applications requested by Friday, June 15!
Copyright © 2018 New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers), All rights reserved.

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Image: Eric Muhr


Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched—but not because
she grudged the water,

only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,

it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.

–The Fountain, by Denise Levertov

Dear Friends,

When I get tired or discouraged in my work supporting the life and ministry of Friends, I return to our local meetings, to the solace of worship, to courageous conversations with people seeking to be faithful in these times. And despite my sometimes-lack-of-faith, again and again I find—fresh and clear as ever—the springs of living water that I first discovered as a child in meeting for worship, and that have kept me coming home to our faith communities again and again as an adult.

In what feel like times of “dryness,” this poem—which first came to me through a Quaker traveling minister years ago—becomes a daily affirmation, a walking practice, a pilgrim’s prayer.

This month I’ve been blessed to share with Friends in conversations that I think get to the heart of the challenge and invitation before us. I was recently reminded that sharing the places where we see Life helps that Life to grow.

So here are some places where I’ve tasted this water in the past few weeks:

  • In an impromptu conversation—after a nourishing Living Faith gathering—with several Friends from across our Yearly Meeting finding joy in the new life emerging in the Quaker movement, and discovering how Friends called to deeper risks in ministry can support, encourage, and journey with one another;
  • Accompanying a local meeting exploring its yearnings, its history, its stumbling blocks and growing edges, and its relationship with money and power, as together they seek Guidance for the future of their meeting and its presence and witness in their context and their wider community;
  • In a weekend with more than 30 Friends from New York and New England Yearly Meetings, who gathered to encourage one another in supporting the life of our whole meetings, and exploring how naming and nurturing spiritual gifts can awaken us to the Spirit’s invitations through our communities of faith;
  • In the release of the first few episodes of On Carrying a Concern, a podcast hosted by Callid and Kristina Keefe-Perry of Fresh Pond (MA) Meeting, supported in part by a Legacy Grant from New England Yearly Meeting. I hope you’ll take the time to listen with the ear of your heart to even one of these deeply personal interviews with Friends testifying to their experience of carrying a concern for spiritual service;
  • In James Cone’s book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, speaking so powerfully to African American Christians’ unearthing in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion a prophetic, liberatory critique and upending of the brutal legacy of lynching—this particularly American incarnation of white supremacy, injustice, and trauma. As we mourn Cone’s passing this past week, his call to the healing—and reckoning—still needed for our society and our spiritual communities is more timely than ever, a challenge to live the radical hope that, as Cone writes, “our beauty is more enduring than our brutality.”

So I wonder, Friends:

  • Where have you found living water in a dry place this month?
  • Where have you been surprised by newness, quickened by a moment of “coming home,” encouraged by a companion on the journey?
  • Where can you sense this enlivening waiting to emerge in your meeting, or in your own heart?
  • How might you be led to share what you have found?
Still there, and always there. What strange power, indeed.
In faith and service,
Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)
In This Issue:

March 1, 2018


Dear Friends,

Again, our hearts are broken by news of a school shooting. pexels-photo-256395.jpeg

Galen Hamann of Providence (RI) Meeting, Director of Friends Education at Moses Brown School, writes to us asking: “What do we say to our children who ask why schools aren’t safe places?”

She shares the first query raised by the students in the school’s Letting Our Lives Speak group: “How many kids have to die before we take action?”

Each tragic episode challenges our faith and calls us to live it ever more deeply. We mourn with communities who have recently lost children to gun violence. We mourn with communities—especially communities of color—who have been losing children to gun violence for many years and whose decades of work to end it have gone unrecognized by those in power.

New England Friend Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation, calls us to move beyond “thoughts and prayers” to bold action.

Participants in our Young Friends program—teenagers from across New England who had planned to be on retreat in March in Hartford—have chosen to join the nationwide, youth-led “March for Our Lives.”

This is not a time to restate facts or to make new arguments about the need to prevent gun violence. We are called to testify to Truth, even when it may seem impractical or unpopular. William Penn reminds us, “Truth will not lose ground by being tried.”

As Quaker faith communities across New England, can we still proclaim as Friends did in 1660, “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world…”?

New England Friends are deeply engaged in the education and nurture of youth.  In our youth ministries retreats, at Friends Camp in Maine, Moses Brown School and Lincoln School in Providence, Friends School of Portland, Cambridge Friends School, Friends Center for Children in New Haven, and at Quaker gatherings large and small, children and youth are cherished. In our local meetings and in our families we strive to create communities where all are safe, where all are loved and where all belong

But our testimony as Friends is not that we can create safe harbors in an otherwise dangerous world. Our testimony is that, wherever we are, we can hear and heed the promise of the voice that speaks in Isaiah 11:9, “They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain… .”

We affirm that the whole world is the Holy Mountain. As a people called to faithfulness, we strive for a prophetic life that lives as if the Truth is true, that God’s Reign is here, now. Children and youth deserve to be safe in every part of their lives.

Friends, let those of us who are adults tell the children and youth in our lives what we will do to witness to this today—and let our words become actions.

Let us keep writing letters, making calls, joining demonstrations, and standing up. Let us counter the lie that violence is best met with more violence. Let us risk for love what some so readily risk for hate. Let us advocate for effective laws and regulations to prevent gun violence. Let us join our neighbors and rise with the fierce faith that inspires bold action.

In a blog post, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a Friend from the Pacific Northwest who has lost family to gun violence, writes:

We can … take small but powerful steps to usher in ripples of justice, love, and action. While they may seem small, such actions carried out boldly, consistently, and over time can disrupt a system that has become overly passive about violence and … overly permissive about guns. I must believe that each of us, small and insignificant as we may seem or feel, have a part to play in creating a country and a world where the love of self and other reigns. Where we are willing to stand up for the rights of our neighbors and children to feel and be safe. Where we are willing to have difficult discussions and to listen and to be open to being moved. Where we can communicate effectively about our values, thoughts, and feelings and have the skills to handle the strong emotions of anger and rage. Where we feel capable of handling conflicts within us or between us with our words rather than with weapons.

The foundation of our witness is knowing where to stand—in the Life and Power of God’s Love—and to stand there together; with strength and courage, not giving up.

Fritz Weiss, Presiding Clerk

Noah Merrill, Secretary

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Dear Friends,NEYM-web
Have you ever had the experience of being in meeting for worship, wondering whether a message that’s rising within you in the stillness is for you to speak, and then hearing the same message—maybe in different words—given through the voice of another Friend?

I had an experience like that this week, and I wanted to share that message with you, in the words in which I heard it expressed.

This ministry comes to us through the Puente de Amigos, our yearly meeting’s decades-long “Bridge of Love” between Friends in New England and Cuba.

In the past year, the denial by the U.S. government of visas for religious visitation has barred Cuban Friends from being able to attend New England Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions. In the current political climate of anti-immigrant sentiment, hatred, and fear, this is just one glimpse of the ways that so many members of our human family are disconnected from one another and denied full recognition of their worth and dignity as children of God. I’m mindful that many of you receiving this message have your own very personal stories to share, either of your own experience with this disconnection and denial, or in accompanying those most vulnerable in these times. May the “single star of Hope” this message carries shine for all of us.

Cuban Friend and pastoral minister Kirenia Criado of Havana Friends Meeting—whom many Friends may remember from her visit and message to Annual Sessions—offers a prayer for this season in our world (English translation follows the original Spanish).

As Friends in both our yearly meetings seek ways to re-open the doors of visitation between us, and as our presiding clerk Fritz Weiss (Hanover [NH] Meeting) and several other New England Friends prepare to travel to Cuba Yearly Meeting in February, I am grateful that the ministry of this Cuban Friend reaches out to us in spirit, though we cannot be together in person.

Y pensar que en Tus brazos soy así como vuelves: criatura frágil y expuesta, abrazada por el misterio de un Amor inexplicable.

Y pensar que en Tu mundo también me le asemejo: vivir de cara al vacío inmenso prendiendo la esperanza de una solita estrella es, sin dudas, mi signo.

Y pensar que a pesar de toda esta precariedad que somos, de tanto mundo roto e incompleto, no nos faltas…

regresas cada vez al vulnerable espacio de esta Vida, renaces para hacernos creer que sí es posible que el Amor aparezca, se haga carne y presencia, por ese Amor que das y eres Tú mismo.

Que el Misterio de la Vida que renace en los lugares más inesperados nos inunde de bien…
Abrazo a cada quien, en la Esperanza…

– Kirenia


And to think that in Your arms I am as you are when you return to us: a fragile and vulnerable child, embraced by the mystery of an inexplicable Love.

And to think that in Your world I also resemble You: facing the immense emptiness by lighting a single star of Hope, which is, without doubt, my sign.

And to think that in spite of all the precariousness of our broken and incomplete world, you never fail us …

You return each time to this Life, you are reborn to make us believe that, yes, it is possible for Love to appear, to become flesh and presence, because of your great Love for us, you who are Love itself.

May the Mystery of Life that is reborn in the most unexpected places fill us with good.

I embrace you all, in Hope…


In that same Hope,

Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

In This Issue: