Over the past few days, we have all become more attentive to the growing concerns over COVID19. The US Center for Disease Control urges everyone to take standard precautions by washing hands, covering coughs, and staying home when sick.
We hope we will not need to close our programs or limit our celebrations. We will be following the guidelines of our local and state officials in this regard.
As a close community that invites connections, we reach out now to engage all our members in these simple, common-sense steps to ensure a lower risk environment: 1) If you are feeling unwell, even just with a cold, please stay home from Meeting, and other events at PFM. COVID 19 can appear very mild in some people, but the same mild virus in one person can result in a life-threatening problem for someone else. Please make thoughtful choices, keeping in mind the entire PFM community, when deciding if you or your children are healthy enough to attend an event. Stay home and keep others safe if you are unsure.
2) The most effective method to avoid contracting or spreading this virus is HAND WASHING. Please wash your hands well, using soap and water for 20 seconds, and be sure to dry them fully (viruses like wet surfaces more than dry ones). Be sure to cover coughs and sneezes.
3) For the time being, we’ll avoid handshakes and hugs at rise of Meeting and when greeting each other. Please join us in finding fun and creative ways to say hello, good morning and Peace without touching.
4) At events with food, we will be changing our habits to reduce chances of transmission. We ask that anyone preparing or serving food wear gloves.
5) If you are staying home from services or events because of illness, we want to know! Please contact the Clerk, Clerk of Ministry & Counsel or Pastoral Care Committee so we can check in with you and hold you in the Light in healing prayer.
Please reach out to us if you are in need of support in any way. Let’s care for each other with open hearts and covered coughs!
Putney Friends Meetinghouse Photos, Jean Schnell
Dear Putney Friends,
Last summer I photographed Putney Meetinghouse. I have uploaded the best of the photos onto my website, and look forward to getting feedback on them from the people who know the place the best: your members and attenders! . Which ones do you like best, are there any that are not true to what you know and love about your Meetinghouse? At some point, I will cull the photos currently on my website to only the best of the best, so your feedback would be really helpful.
If you go to JeanSchnell.com, find the Meetinghouse gallery in the top menu bar. If you scroll over that, there is a dropdown selection, and you will find your Meetinghouse listed alphabetically. I may also post one or more of these photos on my Facebook page called Framing the Light, and also on my Instagram site call jeanschnellphoto, so keep an eye out in those places!
And I also want you to know that beginning on March 18, some of my photos( tho not of your Meetinghouse) will be exhibited at the Center for the Study of World Religions ( AKA Harvard Divinity School, 42 Francis Ave, Cambridge, MA). The Opening Reception will be on March 26 from 5-6:30. I am very happy to say that Noah Merrill will be with me at the Opening Reception. One of the fears one has with Opening Receptions is that no one will come, so I hope for many Friends, and friends, to join me. Showing these photos in a place where people are interested in spirituality and religion is a wonderful opportunity for outreach. I have attached the info….please let people know!
I loved photographing in your Meetinghouse, and I have appreciated the opportunity you gave to me to do so. Thank you again for making this work possible.
50th Anniversary Monthly Meeting Postponed due to snowstorm!
Due to the impending snowstorm and hazardous traveling conditions forecasted, the Monthly Meeting and 50th anniversary celebration potluck is postponed until January 26th, 2020.
The Stories We LiveOCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019“Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”
“Hush little baby, a story I’ll tell…” – from The Great Storm is Over, by Bob Franke
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,
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
- Oct 27, Deerfield, MA: Open House—Renovated Nelson House
- Nov 2, Orland, ME: Wyalosing: A Model for Building Blessed Community
- Nov 2, Manchester, NH: Spirit of Unity Dinner
- Nov 8–10, New Haven, CT: Junior Yearly Meeting Retreat
- Nov 9, 2019, Boston, MA: Active Hope: The Work that Reconnects
- Nov 9, Burlington, VT: Opening of Abenaki Culture & History Exhibit
- Dec 6-8, Providence: Young Friends December Retreat
Upcoming Quarterly Meetings
- Nov 2, Whiting, ME: Vassalboro Quarter
- Dec 7, TBA: Northwest Quarter
View More Events
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 2019Adrian 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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 LeadershipPhoto: 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 ProjectPhoto: Goodwin ChurchMt. 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. MusteFriends 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
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:
- Quakers from several local meetings were among those demonstrating at the Bow, NH, coal-fired power plant on September 28. The Yearly Meeting Facebook pagehas lots of photos.
- Read more about efforts Mt Toby Friends have joined to restore the Goodwin Memorial Church
Are you aware of Friends or Friends Meetings featured in the media? Email us so that we can share the news!
World Quaker Day, Open Meetinghouse
Curious about Quakers?
Ever wonder what a worship service would feel like without a clergy member? Interested in hearing more about an organization whose social justice activism is rooted in faith?
To celebrate World Quaker Day, Putney Friends Meeting is hosting an Open Meetinghouse:
Sunday, October 6th
17 Bellows Falls Rd.
Please join us for any or all of the day’s activities.
8:30a Meeting for Worship
9:30a Coffee, Tea, and Conversation
10:00a All Ages Singing
10:30a Meeting for Worship
11:45a Fellowship and Free Lunch
1:00p-3:00p Information Sessions
- Understanding Worship and Business
- Structure & History
- Testimonies, Queries, & Social Justice
- Children’s Programming
- Drop-In Worship
The Meetinghouse is wheelchair accessible and we have assisted listening devices available.
More information about The Religious Society of Friends and Putney Friends Meeting can be found at putneyfriendsmeeting.org.
In celebration of World Quaker Day, Putney Friends Meeting at 17 Bellows Falls Road in Putney will host an Open Meetinghouse event on Sunday, October 6th. In addition to the regularly scheduled Meetings for Worship at 8:30am and 10:30am, and All Ages Singing at 10:00am, the Open Meetinghouse event will include a free lunch at 11:45am and offerings from 1:00pm to 3:00pm to include children’s programming, drop-in worship, and information sessions on the following topics: Understanding Worship and Business, Structure and History, and Testimonies, Queries, and Social Justice. Visitors are welcome to participate in any or all of the day’s activities.
Putney Friends Meeting is a community of people who are members of The Religious Society of Friends, nicknamed “Quakers.” The Sunday morning services of unprogrammed Quaker Meetings, such as Putney Friends Meeting, are unique. Friends meet in silent expectant waiting with the possibility that vocal ministry may be shared by anyone. They have no hired clergy, and instead share in the responsibility of being open to the Divine’s promptings and leadings.
Putney Friends Meeting is an open and affirming church, welcoming all. The Meetinghouse is wheelchair accessible and there are assisted listening devices available. Childcare is available during the 10:30am Meeting for Worship each Sunday, and First Day School is offered for children on the first three Sundays of each month. Anyone who is curious and wishing to learn more about Quaker practices, who wants a chance to experience waiting worship, or who is seeking a religious community that is the right fit for them is encouraged to attend the Open Meetinghouse. More information about Putney Friends Meeting and The Religious Society of Friends can be found at putneyfriendsmeeting.org.
Most years, on Indigenous People’s Day (“Columbus Day”) weekend, I go to the Sandwich (NH) Fair. A good old-fashioned fair, this includes gymkhana events; 4-H kids showing off their pigs, sheep and oxen; and lots of fried food. I always migrate to the horse pull, where pairs of draft horses pull a sled with successively heavier weights. At the beginning, usually all horse pairs pull the sled the required 12 feet, most barely breaking a sweat.
As the event goes on, and the sled gets heavier, the horses have to work harder, and gradually teams drop out as they fail to pull the minimum distance. I have on occasion wondered, “What draws me to this event?”
I think it’s that I find some joy in seeing the horses reveal an essential part of their nature. They were bred to pull heavy things and in this event, as they dig in and pull, we are witnesses to their strength, and the satisfaction in using that strength. The best teams are horses that are well-matched in size and style, and that have obviously worked together a lot.
The setup which allows the horses to do this work is a complicated arrangement of straps and padding, at the heart of which is the yoke, a padded ring that goes around the base of the horse’s neck. This is the piece the horse leans into, pulling enormous weights without hurting itself. One could argue that the yoke helps the horse to realize what God intended for him.
As someone who often thinks in visual images, I’ve always liked the metaphor of leaning into the yoke when I have some challenging piece of work to do, whether it’s actually physical labor or not. Some heavy “sled” that I have to pull for a required distance.
Jesus used the image,“My yoke is easy and the burden is light,” to describe following his path. I’ve been told that in this context “easy” doesn’t mean”not difficult,” but more like well-fit or “comfortable.” Which makes more sense, as following Jesus’ path is not what I would call easy, but during periods when I am more diligent in my retirement and open to the encouragement of the Lord, I recognize that I will not be given anything I can’t handle, no sled I cannot pull.
I expect most of you reading this have some experience of being yoked to some work, whether this is committee work at your local meeting, caring for an ailing family member, working in prisons or for immigrant rights. Sometimes the call comes in the familiar voice of a Friend on nominating committee, sometimes by the unsettling but powerful voice of the Divine. Sometimes we end up taking on roles out of a sense of duty, only to find some joy and satisfaction in the work. I also like the expression “well-used.”
When there is a sense that my gifts have fit well with a need, and that it was indeed my work to do, even if the work is hard, there is some satisfaction in serving the Lord. I think the horses must feel something like that, after engaging with their full selves in a bit of physical labor. Some of this work can be scary, but if the Divine has called you to it, there’s usually a sense of being carried, of being supported through the work. As you lean into it, you find that, against expectations, the yoke actually fits!
This reflection on yoked service is a lead-in to publicly expressing my own appreciation, and the Yearly Meeting’s appreciation, for two individuals who have just taken the yoke off, after a long pull of 4 years. Fritz Weiss (Hanover, NH, Friends Meeting) has just stepped down as our presiding clerk, serving his expected term of 3 years plus an extra year. In addition to the very public role of clerking business at Sessions, the presiding clerk is charged with clerking Coordinating and Advisory Committee and staying on top of myriad issues facing the Yearly Meeting, Yearly Meeting committees, the quarterly meetings, sometimes issues at monthly meetings, and occasionally interpersonal kerfuffles. Fritz took on this work with deep spiritual grounding, commitment to NEYM and the Quaker way, a warm and friendly manner, and a sense of humor. And a nice fedora.
Through this same four-year period, Sarah Gant (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) served as clerk of Permanent Board. This, too, is a big job, shepherding a variety of concerns and projects through the year, with six meetings every year. The Permanent Board clerk must stay on top of all the big issues that affect the Yearly Meeting, participates in Coordinating and Advisory, and must be diligent and patient, coordinating the various subcommittees and ad-hoc committees that report to Permanent Board. Sarah engaged in this work with great competence, an obvious love of NEYM, and an infectious joy.
We owe both these Friends a debt of gratitude for serving us and the Divine with such love and open heartedness. I suggest that each of you thank them for their service when next you see them.
Leslie Manning (Durham, ME, Friends Meeting) and I will be donning the yokes that Sarah and Fritz have doffed, and I expect it will take a little while for the fit to work quite as well as it did with these Friends. Please forgive us our minor transgressions, and accept our apologies if and when we fail spectacularly! Know that we, too, love our Yearly Meeting and have an abiding faith in the potential of the Quaker path to transform our lives. We welcome your prayers.
Fresh Pond Friends Meeting (Cambridge, MA)
Presiding Clerk, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends
Pastoral Letter from the Poor People’s Campaign: Please Consider Sharing
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,
Secretary, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends
Annual Sessions Registration Open Now!
For 359 years, Quakers in New England have gathered for worship, spiritual nurture, fellowship and discernment of our shared calling.
Online Registration for Annual Sessions 2019 is now open!