Our Common Life

Our Common Life New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

One of the most enlivening aspects of my work is visiting local meetings across New England, connecting with Friends and encouraging the Life of the Spirit in the Quaker Movement.

In my travels in recent years—in meetings small and large, pastoral and unprogrammed, urban and rural, with meetinghouses and without—I’ve noticed similarities that seem to underlie our diversity. Though we organize and express our common life as Friends in myriad ways, at the root of our life together are several ways of being and doing that to me seem essential.

I’ve been searching for ways to describe these qualities, and want to ask for your experience and perspective.

In our meetings, when we’re thriving, I see us:

  • worshipping together
  • learning to love one another
  • engaging and exploring Friends’ tradition and how it’s relevant today
  • supporting one another to live our faith in our daily lives
  • making decisions together—with Divine guidance—and acting on those decisions
I’d love to hear about your experience of these aspects of our common life as together we continue to share, learn, nourish and encourage the thriving of our local meetings, which are the heart of the Quaker Movement.

You can email me here; I look forward to hearing from you.

In this issue, you’ll find news of how Friends are doing this work throughout our region. I hope you find these stories and opportunities enlivening.

In faith and service,

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

In This Issue:

H.308 (Racal Justice Reform) ACT NOW!

H.308 (Racal Justice Reform) unnamed.jpg

Friends, we are almost there. We need Governor Scott to sign H. 308 as soon as he receives it. There is a legislative rule that says that the Governor must sign a bill passed by the Legislature within 5 days or it beomes law automatically UNLESS the legislative session ends within that period. Then, if the Governor does not sign it, the bill fails automatically. We are in that period, the Legislature is scheduled to convene by this Saturday; we do not know when the Governor received it and the clock started ticking. There have been some indications from the Scott Administration that they wanted to derail the bill. This does not necessarily mean that the Governor will let the bill fail or will veto it, but it does raise grave concerns. Therefore the Racial Justice Coalition and Justice for All, the main organizer for this bill (and on whose board I sit), and I personally, ask you to contact the Governer by email, see below, or by phone at 802-828-3333. Please help the governor understand that by signing H.308 he declares that our State motto “Freedom and Unity” is more than rhetoric; that we will not just pay lip service to “liberty and justice for all,” but we in Vermont will establish legal mechanisms to make those high values real and a living part of our common life. Thank you, Joseph
Joseph Gainza

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www.wgdr.org live streaming & archive

Yearly Meeting Consultation on Climate Change

Dear Friends,
At last year’s Annual Sessions, New England Yearly Meeting affirmed a Divine call to the witness of addressing climate change, and encouraged all local meetings to consider how they might further respond.IMG_1063

On April 22 Friends will gather at Friends Meeting at Cambridge (MA) for a Yearly Meeting Consultation on Climate Change. This will be an opportunity to connect with other Friends, share news, and offer input on next steps for the Yearly Meeting.

From 9:30 to 12 we will gather in worship and then share how each of our meetings has been responding to the call. We will have lunch together, and then from 1 to 3:30 we will discern together about possible future directions for NEYM around this concern. Feel free to come for the whole day, or just the morning or afternoon.

We are expecting a small gathering, but we think there may be people coming who haven’t yet registered. It’s not too late! Click here for more information on the consultation and to register.
If you are not able to come on Saturday, and you want to share your news or thoughts, please email witness@neym.org.
For more information, contact Katherine Fisher: kath.fisher@gmail.com.

Faithfully,

Sara Hubner

This is an Uprising

Toward the end of This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, coauthors Mark and Paul Engler argue that Quakers have often acted powerfully as a “prophetic minority” in U.S. history—sometimes to great practical effect. According to the Englers, “Quakers served as the backbone of the movement against slavery in both the United States and Great Britain.” They also note that, “Later on, Quakers would play important roles in the women’s suffrage, civil rights, antiwar, and antinuclear movements.”   …

Book review by Steve Chase

To read more click here:

This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First CenturyBy Mark Engler and Paul Engler. Nation Books, 2016. 368 pages. $26.99/hardcover; $15.99/eBook. Toward the end of This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revoltfriendsjournal.org

Faith Beyond Walls

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In faith and service,


Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

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

In This Issue

Faith Communities Oppose the Muslim Ban

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

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

New England Friends at the Women’s Marches

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

“Say the Wrong Thing” at Woolman Hill

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

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

Read the rest of Maureen’s reflection from the workshop

Order the book

Report & Resources from
Quaker Organizing and Preparation Day

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of Susan’s message here

Friends Camp Seeks Resident Fellows

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

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

Stipend and travel funds provided.

Click here to download the job description.

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

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

New UMass Exhibit Features
Friends Archives

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

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

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

Read more about the exhibit

New Spiritual Nurture Program
Welcoming New England Friends

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

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

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

Update: Spring Living Faith Gathering 

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

The daylong gathering will include:

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

We are planning workshops on topics such as:

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

Online registration will open in early March.

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

Updates on Yearly Meeting Commitments

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

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

Friends in the News

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

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

Service Opportunities

Seeking Key Position for 2016 Annual Sessions
image of hand

  • Childcare Coordinator
    • View the position description here

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

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

Other Annual Sessions position postings coming soon.

View More Service Opportunities

Quaker Events

Coming Soon

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

Save the Date

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

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

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

View More Events 

A Last Word

Our Increased Compassion, Not Our Hardened Hearts

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

In faith and service,

Noah Merrill
Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

“Our Increased Compassion, Not Our Hardened Hearts”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joint Resolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

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

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

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