if you have only one prayer… an Uxbridge Thanksgving

“Sympathized deeply and livingly with the seed in the Monthly Meeting at Uxbridge. Found great relief in watering the thirsty.” – Job Scott, Quaker Minister, November 1790. He had just turned 40, and had two years of life left.

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This day the world calls Thanksgiving, as is often my practice, I attended a worship service at the Uxbridge MA Meetinghouse.  The meetinghouse was filled with about 100 people, travelers and locals, gathered in an ecumenical service reminding us all to give thanks in Love for the day and each other.  We were helpfully reminded in one message “if the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice (Meister Eckhart).”

There was, as is the tradition here, a time of “Quaker silence” – we were asked to listen to the Inner Teacher, and reflect inwardly. And yet… one Friend, a member of nearby Smithfield Meeting, rose and shared a message.  I’m not sure if it was expected, but it was certainly Spirit-led and ministered to us the gathered body.  We had been reminded earlier that folks often had “varying perspectives” in the world, which of course is true – and to hold those opinions in Love.  I heard this Friend’s message as a prophetic answer to that.  Yes, we must always respond in Love, but there is in fact a moral imperative that we not merely assume all perspectives are equal.  Those centered in the Love of our neighbor, not rising from the seeds of war, are in fact weighted as our path in the Kingdom of God.  The Friend quoted briefly from a Yearly Meeting Book of Discipline that he had found when he arrived.

All thoughtful men and women are torn at heart by the present situation. The savage momentum of war drags us all in its wake. We desire a righteous peace….to preserve our sanity, we become apathetic. In such an atmosphere no true peace can be framed; yet before us we see months of increasing terror. Can those who pay heed to moral laws, can those who follow Christ submit to the plea that the only way is that demanded by military necessity? 

Issued by London Yearly Meeting 1943, during the Second World War

It spoke clearly to the condition of the world, then and now, as mired in the seeds of war.  Here we were, celebrating love and peace and being together – and yet in this moment the prophetic call still rose.  It cannot be otherwise if we are listening faithfully.

This particular Meetinghouse has a powerful history.  Abolitionists, ministers, much Holy work in our world.  However, we do not worship the meetinghouse as idol.  It is the Spirit contained within, the Presence experienced then and now that we gather in the service of.

Before I left the celebration, I headed upstairs.  The light was streaming through the windows into the gallery, which in years past would have been filled many times a week with Friends seeking encouragement and strength.  It was empty, and quiet.  The air itself however had a thick quality of the weight of the history there for me.  It was not a place I would want to stay – instead, in gratitude, I reflected on the this helpful stop on the journey.  While no mere building can provide the answers that are needed – I was grateful to have a moment to (as Meister Eckhart suggested) say “Thank You”.



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Travel update – much time on the road in Gratitude

This month I have been many places!  It has been a gift to be able to travel among Friends.  These summaries were my brief reports to the intervistation group of NEYM.  It feels right to also note them here.

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RI-Smithfield Quarterly Meeting, Smithfield, RI

A few weeks ago I visited Smithfield Meeting, and RI-Smithfield QM.

The morning programmed meeting for worship was well attended, boosted by visitors from the QM.  Ron shared a message, as he has been doing about 1-2 times a month now for that meeting.  The end of meeting was opened up to additional prayers and reflections from all gathered (in addition to the silence in the middle of the meeting), and a few powerful messages rose among us – encouragement, hope, and openings.  It reminded me that in any meeting, even the ones we more formally “program” – the Spirit shows up as she will!  The meeting was followed by a hearty potluck and catching up on news.  Smithfield is in a time of challenge and renewal, discerning where they are called in the light of recent losses and decline, and yet they coninue to show up faithfully and love each other as best they can.

The Quarterly Meeting began with a time of sharing prompted by a few queries – how we came to Quakers, why we were still drawn here, etc.  It was a rich time of sharing both inner thoughts and learning from each other.  Meeting representatives than shared news from their meetings – I was surprised and pleased to hear about much “on the ground” various work both in the world, and supporting each other.  Highlights included Worcester Meeting’s “adoption” of a pregnant woman whose incarcerated spouse is to be deported, witness in Ecumenical efforts in worcester, Providence Meeting’s upcoming visit and discussion with Paula Palmer about Indian borarding schools, Westerly’s new website and outreach efforts and weekly “meetings for healing”, and Smithfield’s involvement in the Thanksgiving community service at the Uxbridge Meetinghouse.  All meetings also long for more connection, more helpful communication, and more participation in leadership. They were grateful to hear news (from me) about the next steps of the newly formed Faith in Action Committee.  We also heard an extensive summary of the carbon calculator process and YM’s decision to reduce its carbon footprint.  That news, shared by Mary Bennett (Worcester MM and YM Earthcare committee), was framed in a larger question of who “owns’ the earth, what about the native Americans and slaves who were exploited, and what unity and our witness looks like for all in light of racial concerns as well as enviromental ones.

The QM is now without a clerk and recording clerk – predicted and planned, but no one has yet stepped forward to fill those roles.  The QM gathered was clear to meet next, ask the host meeting to provide a “clerk for the day” – and consider what work is supported by the QM that might be lost without consistent leadership.  Upcoming discernment involves a coninued discussion about chaning the name of the QM, to more helpfully reflect Worcester Meeting’s membership (as it is not a RI Meeting).

I was grateful to attend, hopeful that embers of faith and connection will continue to be blown into a stronger flame as we consider the questions of how a QM is most helpful to our journeys of faith.

Salem Quarterly Meeting, South Shore Preparative Meeting, MA

Recently I attended the Salem QM at South Shore Preparative in Pembroke, MA.  I arrived late for worship – but sat down and joined in the last half hour of gathered worship, with one message of encouragement and lament (just one day after the shooting in Pittsburgh).  South Shore Friends were thrilled to have visitors, and laid out a full potluck.  We decided to arrange the tables in one big table, and the 14 or so of us shared news and conversation.
Kristina  (clerk of SMQ) had intended to do a “world cafe” type of conversation around what could be most helpful from the QM in this time.  Because of our smaller numbers, she wisely opted for us to have one larger conversation.  We heard a joy in fellowship, a deep sense of being part of a Quaker movement (some South Shore attenders have been Quakers for many years!) and a dismay that in our busy lives we seem less connected and able to travel to each other.  On this day, there were 3 visitors (including one child) from Fresh Pond, and two from Framingham Meeting.  There was no one present from Cambridge Meeting (South Shore‘s parent meeting), or Wellesley, Amesbury, Lawrence, North Shore, Beacon Hill.  Despite our QM being fairly close geographically, this is a common occurance at QMs of late (in my experience).  One South Shore Friend exclaimed “where is everyone?” which was sad to me.  They asked questions about Wellesley’s current work about the FUM policy (and the worship group that had split from them) – which I answered as best I could.  They were interested in the work of the YM in the world, in the Poor People’s Campaign.  The QM endorsed my minute of travel, and approved a grant to fund some more robust connections and a QM newsletter – so hopefully we may have the ability to connect electronically even when we cannot be together in person.  The gathering did happen the day after a large Living Faith Gathering in Harftford, and I wondered if that might have affected attendance at the QM in a full weekend.
After the meeting, four of us stopped by the 1706 Pembroke Meetinghouse.  And what joy!  – Joanne H showed up with a key, and we were giving a tour of one of the oldest meetinghouses in MA, which has been carefully maintained, and where South Shore still meets in the summer months.  Joanne delighted in sharing her stories of how she came to Quakers in part becuase of this meetinghouse years ago, and how they still invite school children and other visitors there each year to learn about Quaker history – but from Quakers who are alive now, and in the world.
South Shore is a warm, small, and inviting meeting.  I encourage you to visit there as Way opens.


Vassalboro Quarterly Meeting, Farmington, ME

This past weekend I joined with Friends from Vasslboro QM in Farmington Maine.  It was a warm day of worship and fellowship.  The day began with an hour of meeting for worship – the meeting was filled with messages – but I would not describe it as “popcorn” in any way – each supported each other in a gathered space.  Friends were longing for more and deeper connection in Love, and the messages seemed to encourage us to that place in various ways in a troubled and frustrating divided time.

Business meeting followed, sharing news from each meeting (about 30 Friends present).  My experience of the QM (I have visted them often) is that it serves as a support in a QM that is very large geographically, but longs to stay connected.  We heard of the struggles of missing Ed Snyder’s presence at Acadia, Winthrop’s upcoming discernment around a part time pastor, and their inviting Lianna from Durham to engage in a Courage and Renewal conversation series.  We heard updates about the successful outreach and Quaker presence at the Common Ground fair (a yearly effort of VQM), and the work of the Maine Council of Churches and Moral Movement Maine (Diane Dicranian).  We heard a report about the recent fall gathering, and news from Falmouth QM. We heard about the recent showings of the film Dawnland, and Friend Janet  provided posters and more information about upcoming screenings and work of the Upstander project.  We hear a memorial minute for Lucinda Selkie (Belfast) – treasured member of the QM whose quiet presence encouraged many. Christine Ashley,  from FCNL, also visited and shared news of FCNL and new initiatives.  She started her presentation with the words of Ed Snyder (Acadia).   As the meeting closed, I had noticed that the YM had just issued their recent public statement.  It was a gift to be able to read it out to the QM, and Friends centered into prayer while/after hearing it.  Friends remarked later how appropriate it seemed, and how much of its content seemed to have risen for us in the morning’s worship.  It brought us back into a time of contemplation that Friends were grateful for.

After a hearty and lively potluck lunch (FOUR big soups! They are the meeting for soups) the group gathered to watch a short film, and share ideas about how political action can be effective and Spirit-led in local efforts in Maine.  It was a very full Saturday.


West Epping Preparative Meeting, NH

This Sunday I attended worship with West Epping Friends, as they held their 247th Annual Meeting.  This meeting is advertised each year and a “homecoming” of sorts for the meeting – there is yearly business discerned as needed.  In addition to the 3 current members of the meeting (they meet on first and third Sundays), there were visitors from Gonic (their parent meeting), the community, and Lawrence Meeting.  I note with joy that Lawrence MA Meeting members attend their annual meeting and Christmas eve gatheirng very often.  It’s a way in which I am reminded that sometimes we as Friends have individuals who are called to visit/support  a particular meeting, rather than “general” visiting.  Lawrence is also a small meeting, but they visit each other each year as close “cousins”.  There were two messages offered in worship – a bit unusal for the more quiet meeting of Epping.  One remarked about the Light in that space, and how it seems a refuge of peace always in troubled times.

Afterwards, we all formed a Quaker caravan and headed to Will’s house (clerk) for snacks and fellowship.  We all had much to share about the wider Quaker world, immigration witness in New Hampshire, upcoming election concerns.  Epping Friends asked much about Friends in Dover, Gonic, and other places.  West Epping is a small meeting, content to just be where they are called – although they have had two new regular attenders join of late.  They have few needs in their historic building, and spend much time in the world in their own ways, supported clearly by their quaker faith and the silence they gather in every few weeks.  It seems like a simple house meeting, that has been given the care of a building and its history and link to the town.  As someone who is always very concerned about outreach and presence, it’s a good reminder for me that clarity of what you are called to be and to do is in itself a faithful endeavor, regardless of is it seems “small”.  I was glad to witness on this day the deep relationships among these Friends.


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A game of chance or Spirit led ministry? How do we get “picked” and why does it matter so much?

Seth Godin offered a great podcast this week called “You’re it” – all about getting picked for things, random happenings, how luck and chance play into what we see as opportunities (and fame and fortune).

I listened to this podcast while in the shower (where I do my best thinking) after getting my kiddo off to school.  This morning’s conversation with her involved me explaining her recently arrived MCAS scores.  Why they were important, why they were NOT important – and what “really matters”.  My kid is a hard worker, a good student, does well on tests.  I found myself sharing the disclaimer however that standardized tests value and assess certain things, but not others.  The comparisons among “average” students, and what school is doing “well” is also problematic.  I didn’t want to discount her high scores, but I found myself wondering what exactly those numbers meant in our “real world experience.”  Those questions are often on my heart as I walk through the world.

I’m in a strange place in my life right now.  I have very few specific, timed commitments.  The obligations I do have (mostly raising our child, being home and available) are clear and regular.  I left a career in teaching that didn’t fit rightly after becoming a mom.  I did paid work for my faith community that was appreciated and good, but restricted me in ways that were eventually too challenging.  I now do part time contract odd jobs, and am looking for employment that is not “career” focused.

I’m still feeling somehow I am in “searching” mode.  I’m called to travel among Friends, primarily in NE and NY Yearly Meetings.  Those visits are often on Sundays, during regularly scheduled meeting for worship (not called meetings or other special events).  I’ve recently been given more messages in worship as I travel – and also as often they words given are to be shared around the edges of worship – with a specific new visitor, a struggling Friend who needs a bit of support, many situations I could not predict.  I am often overwhelmed with the “right place at the right time” feeling.

So what’s my role in this?  Am I the one working to find the “right place” and “right time” – or is that just luck too?  How much agency shall I claim as my own in this direction?  Last year, after a year of waiting per my support committee, I intended to apply to a formal traveling ministry program.  I was crushed to learn it was (for the upcoming year) intended for Young Adult Friends only.  I was told “apply in 2019” – and that was just not even remotely a possibility for me.  Later on, when the deadline was extended, and it was opened to folks “my age” – I’d already met with my support committee about other situations, made alternate arrangements, and I just couldn’t put it back on my plate again (no matter how rightly it had felt for the past two years).  I didn’t get “picked”.  I still wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had been involved in that particular traveling ministry program.  During that year, I was also named by a nominating committee to be asked to serve in a specific way that I had hoped for.  The committee never called to ask me to serve.  My support committee assumed I was simply not their choice.  It turns out they just never got around to calling me.  I’d already discerned that I should approach them and say “yes”, but Way seemed to close.   I didn’t get “picked” then either.  

I’m still in many ways that kid on the sidelines, hoping to get picked” for the team of “ministers who know what they are doing”.  I’m not sure what team that actually is most of the time.  I’m not even sure what we are all playing at…..

Seth Godin brings up a very good point in his podcast – opportunities present themselves in very different ways now in our secular, connected world.  You often don’t need a high level degree, specific training, or complicated qualifications to participate in the work.  Early Friends seem to have gotten this message sooner than most perhaps – rather than years of study and a seminary degree, it was quiet faithfulness and listening to being guided and well used in one’s gifts that was THE important factor.  They went viral before the internet.

And yet… we test those gifts, and our service, in community.  The community is responsible for the listening to our call.  I am asked to trust that I am hearing clearly, and that my support committee, my meeting, and my faith community are as well.

As I look today to so many others I know in faithful ministry – traveling, pastoring, doing Work in “big ways” that seem to fit their gifts so well, I’m not sure where that sweet spot of service and longing and call is for me.

I’ve done a lot of work in the field of creativity.  I know that much of the time, we follow a very twisted path and end up where we are well used.  Maybe it doesn’t really matter what we do, but how we do it.  Maybe we are exactly where we are “supposed” to be – and it doesn’t make logical sense in our limited brain space.  I’m hoping every day to give myself the joy and space and understanding that I hope for my daughter, as she walks through he world not defined by her test scores, or the notion that she needs to be “picked”.

“Most of us are not raised to actively encounter our destiny. We may not know that we have one. As children, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others, that we will (or should) find our satisfactions as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are schooled to ask others. We are, in effect, trained to listen to others’ versions of ourselves. We are brought up in our life as told to us by someone else! When we survey our lives, seeking to fulfill our creativity, we often see we had a dream that went glimmering because we believed, and those around us believed, that the dream was beyond our reach. Many of us would have been, or at least might have been, done, tried something, if…

If we had known who we really were.” – Julia Cameron



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For those that have gone down to the sea in ships – New Bedford Meeting

Some of you set sail in big ships;
    you put to sea to do business in faraway ports.
Out at sea you saw God in action,
    saw his breathtaking ways with the ocean:
With a word he called up the wind—
    an ocean storm, towering waves!
You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out;
    your hearts were stuck in your throats.
You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk,
    you didn’t know which end was up.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
    he got you out in the nick of time.
He quieted the wind down to a whisper,
    put a muzzle on all the big waves.
And you were so glad when the storm died down,
    and he led you safely back to harbor.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
    for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
Lift high your praises when the people assemble,
    shout Hallelujah when the elders meet! – Psalm 107

My visit to New Bedford Meeting was deeply blessed.

This meeting has had a huge history among New England Friends – seat of the whaling industry, Quaker abolitionist movement, so many faithful motions in this place. The Meetinghouse itself can hold hundreds of Friends. At one time in our history, it did.

Today we were less in number, but deep in Spirit.  I arrived early, and since the door was not yet open, I walked around the block.  I took in the house where Frederick Douglass had lived, looked at the first meetinghouse, that had been moved, and later was home to the Quaker “New Lights” movement.  I saw the initial clearing for construction of “Abolitionist Row Park” on the corner.   This whole area is steeped in history and goodness and struggle and witness in the Light.

As the Friend with the key had not yet arrived, I found myself sitting on the stoop in front of the meetinghouse.  Three folks walked up, looking around, trying to figure out access.  They were newcomers – seekers local to the area, who had heard of the Quakers, and decided today was the day they would visit for the first time.  Perhaps otherwise I’d have been concerned that the meetinghouse was not yet open – but they had questions, and I was grateful for the time to chat about Quakers, both our history and where we are today.  I told them I was a traveler among Friends, and I had felt called to visit on this day, in this place – traveling as some of us do.  They had just watched “Friendly Persuasion“.  They had read about Friends.  They had great questions, and had done their homework!  A good lesson for any of us – visitors often arrive eager to learn more.   I was grateful to know I had a brief history of Friends, and common general knowledge about Friends in New England, at my fingertips.  I also had a business card, and the URL for Quakers in New England.  Margaret Fell would have had the same in this circumstance I am sure!

We moved to the back of the building, and a few more Friends slowly trickled in (still no key).  Yet ANOTHER visitor showed up, not related to me or the other group.  This tiny meeting was suddenly a very popular spot on this sleepy summer morning!  A birthright Friend from the meeting had arrived by then – and she took over with her deep knowledge of the history of this meeting, and Friends in the area.  She spoke not as though this was an ancient time and witness – but just an extension of the People she knew, and loved, and told us how she followed their example today.

The key arrived and in we went!  Worship took place in the front rows of the expansive meeting room.  Our group of twelve might have seemed dwarfed by the large room – but I sensed we filled the space as required of us.  There was a long, inspiring, prophetic message for us.  There was a quieter, comforting message of hope in troubled times and a broken world.  Through it all there was a deep silence that surrounded us, newcomers and old timers alike.  The meeting broke with hearty handshakes shared by all.

Fellowship was sweet and informative.  Newcomers were given copies of faith and practice, and answers to their questions with tea and cookies.  There was news about the Quaker way, local community farming and events, and wider Quaker work shared among us all.

I was especially eager to hear news of the Meeting’s relationship to the Ramallah Friends School.  That has risen as a keen interest for me.  I was invited to return to learn more.  I was also told about the city initiatives to extend the historic district into the meetinghouse’s footprint and area.  While the conversations were about the past – they seemed rooted in the present, as I heard about the work of the individuals in this meeting in the greater community and the wider world (Quaker and beyond).

I have heard this tiny meeting, sometimes in the recent past with just 2-3 worshippers present on First Day, as “dying” or floundering.  Perhaps that is true, perhaps it is not mine to say.  But this particular day, this particular group of Friends was deeply faithful to the moment, to where they were asked to be.

I’m not sure if the massive meetinghouse is a blessing or curse for this group.  I think it might in fact be neither.  I have not had a sense it is our Quaker call to “fill the space to the rafters” as it had done in previous years.  On this day, it was a home for the prophetic voice among us, the Holy Presence that calls when two or more (maybe many more) are gathered.  I left remembering the eager conversations about Work in the world.  Perhaps a different “mission field” is rising for Quakers of New Bedford and beyond in this time.  And perhaps it is not limited to those on the Quaker Path – but those seeking a relationship with the Divine, with our neighbors, with the earth that sustains us in the kingdom on both sides of the hedge.

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How we are prepared – being my father’s daughter

This is part two of my explanations regarding the things that have led me here to ministry.

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”  ― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

To this day, there are people in my life who compare me to my dad.  As I’ve gotten older – a lot of the things i knew about him make more sense in my own context.

My dad passed away after a long battle with congestive heart failure on July 17, 2007.  I attended my first Quaker meeting on July 18, 2008 – more on that later but it’s an important “coincidence”.

Kenneth Joseph Walsh Jr. was a traveler.  He didn’t have a lot of means or money – but as a traveling electronics/radio salesman in New England, he visited many and held their stories close.

When dad was young, his first introduction to communication was as a HAM radio operator – W1FBT (I still remember it).  He attempted to drill a hole in his childhood bedroom ceiling to stick out an antenna.  It would be the first of many “outside the box” attempts at changing the shape of his world. He got a part time job at radio shack, and rose to the level of manager very soon.  

Dad attended college for a few years – Wentworth Institute of Technology.  He dropped out to work and never went back.  I’m not surprised – he was really smart but hated classroom learning. Dad met my mom during this time – she was a student at Boston State, and he saw her at a local gas station.  After asking a friend on the police force to run her plates, he got her number and gave her a call.  That relationship – between an Irish Catholic and an Italian Catholic (belonging to the parishes around the corner from each other) , and a graduate of Quincy High and North Quincy High, flourished despite the obvious concerns.  They moved to Scituate Ma – “the Irish Riviera” to start a family in the suburbs.  Yes, that’s me and dad – the early years!


What stands out for me now, in terms of my own life path, is dad’s insatiable curiosity.  Yes, he had a quite mundane job, and average friends and family experiences.  However, he was also always living to learn new things, and well beyond the level of mere interest or “hobbies”.

In his life dad did the following:

He was an accomplished scuba diver, and was on the dive team that searched for bodies with the Quincy PD in the quarries (this was a lovely fact he shared with my middle school friends!).  He trained others in dive safety and dove off the coast often.

He was a sailor – he often owned a boat, and worked on it in our yard in the winters, and sailed it out of Scituate Harbor in the summer.  For a few years he owned the KANNBE – a tuna fishing charter boat, with a crew, that he sent out on fishing day trips with paying customers.

He repaired radios – often ones others would not touch. We were especially glad when he repaired those boat radios of a lobsterman friend, who would pay dad in bags of fresh caught lobsters.

He was a classical music expert. While dad never played an instrument himself, he was an avid listener of classical radio.  He even did a college radio show in his early years with Robert J Lurtzimer (of Boston Classical Music radio fame).  He had specific musicians he really liked, and orchestral versions of pieces, and would always recommend to me certain composers and recordings.  Dad was also a huge collector of music – we would take trips to Tower records in Boston for recordings of my classical pieces for college.  Dad was especially fond of Sousa marches, and had a whole collection of different versions.  He loved it when my performances ended with a good Sousa march!

He was a devotee of Chinese traditional medicine.  As someone who had multiple health issues, Dad had an acupuncturist he met with regularly, as well as a herbalist in Boston.  For someone so rooted in Western ways of communication, he had a strong belief in the powers of Eastern medicine.  It was a gift to me when he helped me find my own acupuncturist who helped with my health issues.  Dad was thrilled when I minored in Mandarin Chinese in college – he was always asking me to read the labels on his medicine bottles (I couldn’t – too complicated!)

Dad loved trying new foods.  He was raised on my grandmother’s homemade pasta and meatballs, but would meet me at college and we would go to a chinese restaurant where he would try all the “weirdest” things on the menu.  He appreciated the stories and culture around the food.

He flew planes.  Dad was a lisenced private pilot – and a proud member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).  He was a member of the local fly club at the Cranland airport, and volunteered to train kids in flying.  He built a plane with friends.  The plane started in pieces in our garage, hidden from my mom.  Dad helped found a “fly in breakfast” at the airport, where folks would fly in from all over for pancakes and conversation.

Dad traveled.  As a traveling sales rep in New England, he went all over.  Every place had a story.  He would eagerly connect with all these folks every year when he visited.  He knew the best diner in every town,and quirky places to stop and learn about new things special in the area.

I share those specific stories and traits, because of how much they remind me now of how I see the world.  Dad never knew me as a Quaker – but he knew me as an eager student with many interests, a hard worker with many jobs and roles, and a person who loved to learn about other cultures and people and their lives.  The fact that I do this now, when I visit Quaker meetings, is no surprise to me.

That curiosity dad carried is what takes the lead when I travel among Friends.  Every meeting has a story, a way in which Friends are being faithful, and being in community, and holding struggles of life tenderly and with concern.  As my dad would share stories of the people he met, I share those stories myself as I travel.  I have a clear feeling that dad wold be proud of his daughter, a “traveling minister” among Friends.  He had his peculiar people,  I now have found mine.






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How we are prepared – part one (chronic illness)

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

As I encounter some new shapes of ministry and relationship among Friends, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how our past experiences shape who we have become, and how we can be most well-used.

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 4.  After a few weeks of a virulent flu at age 3, i never quite recovered.  Watching home movies of me around this time show me limping, even though no one really noticed it at first.  I was also diagnosed with a large (benign) bone tumor on my left leg, which had to be removed, making sure I missed most of nursery school that year.  That was my first big loss for illness.  The pain I was feeling was attributed to the tumor – but the joint pain stayed.

Elementary school was pretty tough.  I was on multiple medications – I remember Christmas (my favorite holiday of the year) being “ruined” when I had to be rushed to Boston Children’s hospital in the middle of the night for vomiting blood.  Of course, I was taking almost a full bottle of St Joseph’s baby aspirin every day.  I didn’t realize it was not normal to buy this product in bulk!  That school year I had to come home every day after school and wear two large full-leg casts until dinner, and then sleep in them every night – to keep my legs growing straight.  I couldn’t go out with friends, or play int he yard, or anything else.  I read a lot – and luckily I loved to read, so I did have an escape.

The chronic pain was especially difficult in high school.  My greatest longing was to be in our award winning school marching band.  My doctors made an unbelievable compromise with my parents – I would attend all rehearsals, watch from  the sidelines, and get ONE run through with the drill at the end of the day with the band.  I had to hyper concentrate, and learn and take notes from the sidelines to focus on my ONE run-through.  That taught me a lot about immediate focus. During that time, I was waking up every 3 hours for pain medications.  The meds would last about 2.5 hours, in the day, and I’d have a half hour of mounting joint stiffness and pain 4-5 times a day.  I couldn’t concentrate, and couldn’t participate in most school activities.  Luckily (???) it was not at that time, hand pain.

My doctors told me to make sure I attended an accessable college – they were concerned I might be in a wheelchair by the time I graduated.  I ended up at Umass, and after two years as a clarinet major (which I loved) – the joint pain in my hands was became constant and unbearable.  Soaking my hands in hot wax was the only way to reliably get them to move so I could play.  I could no longer handle the daily practice routine.  In a few weeks, I sold my clarinet, changed my major, and started essentially a whole new kind of existence at my college.  My whole life had been framed by music classes and concerts – suddenly all my friends were in practice rooms and concert halls, and I was out on my own reinventing myself all over again (and dealing still with chronic pain).  That first Saturday morning, sitting in the campus center – clarinet gone, friends all engaged in rehearsals, was terrible.

Luckily, lots of experimental medications, and many acupuncture appointments put me in some sort of remission.  After a time of working in the Amherst area as a store manager, and other odd jobs, I was able to return to music school for a last year and finish up my classes.  I would go on to teach music in New York State, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

The birth of our dear daughter brought some new health challenges for me – my autoimmune challenges, which had been mostly manifested in arthritis, now spread to my thyroid.  After a few years of real struggle and missed diagnosis, I finally found doctors who figured out that I all my weird debilitating symptoms were a result of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  I am under the care of a whole new set of doctors – but my day-to-day health is always tricky.  Weird temperature fluctuations, exhaustion, brain fog, general aches and pains are common.  I need 12 hours of sleep a day.  I have to avoid stress if possible.  Self care has never really been easy for me – and as I age, it is even more important!

These struggles have shaped who I am.  I have a sense of urgency around completing tasks – I wonder if that comes from never knowing if my body will no longer support finishing a project or job in the future.  I often have to cancel events and plans.  I have come to use the “spoon theory” to explain to others how I often live my life.  In that context – I have to be careful not to commit to things that take more “spoons” (energy) than I have to give.  Prioritizing becomes a necessity.  My family and  being home has become a priority.

How does this affect the ministry I am called to?  This struggle has often put my in the place where I feel I cannot “get to” the table, or be part of the process.  I can’t often stand for long periods of time on a street corner, or walk in a justice march,  when even just too much time in the sun or cold can make me ill.  Day long meetings, in places with temperature fluctuations or uncomfortable seating, can be hard.

Last summer I was called to be present in Boston, in witness against a proposed hate rally that had been given space on the Boston Common.  Many Quakers attended, and there was a staging area at the Beacon Hill Friends House. I chose to go – but stayed there, in the house, with others for the day.  That room was filled with folks that also couldn’t walk far, or be outside, or simply be in crowds for one reason or another.  They were there in prayer, and making food, and supporting in ways they could.  It did seem hard – often the “rock stars” of the witness (to me) seem to be those on the stage, sharing the strong messages, being present and getting in the way for justice.  I simply do not have that option or ability.

Learning how to hear clearly where I am called, and do that thing, has been important for me.  My call to travel among Friends often does not involve bringing a powerful message, or a specific program.  More often, it’s simply listening to the quiet stories that we share, and the many ways we are invited to be faithful.  It doesn’t often seem to fit in a particular “program” of travel.  While that is mostly alright with me – it does seem hard sometimes not to fit into the “to do” plans and actions the world seems to require of others.

I can’t separate these experiences from my current work and call – nor do I need to.  I think incorporating these experiences, and seeing them in others, is part of the deeper work for me in this time.


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Copyright and Fair Use. Part one – images

The internet has made things easy to find, and easy to take and use without permission.  As a matter of legal right, and Quakerly integrity, it’s important to think about copyright and fair use concerns when creating media for your own use.  This has become more complicated as everyone now seems to have an easy way to click on a picture or song, and download and use.

Here’s a good basic summary of how and why this applies.  When in doubt, assume the image you want to use (unless you took it yourself) does NOT belong to you, and you need a permission.  “I found it on the internet – it must be free for me to take and use” is NOT fair, or legal.  Also note some photos can be used without altering, others are free to edit and alter, some you may use with attribution, some do not need it.

30 great sites for free public domain photos 

Sources of Stock Photos

(I tend to use Pixabay and Unsplash for my Quaker work)

How do I do this at New England Meeting of Friends?  A number of ways.

I ask for photo permissions all the time!  I see candid snapshots taken by Friends at Quaker events, and we love to show them in NEYM newsletters and media.  “May I use this for NEYM print and online publications, with attribution?” is what I usually ask.  Pro tip: just ask for a general permission.  You may want to use a photo in two years, when you have a new media platform that didn’t exist when you asked for permission!  I then save the photo in google drive, named with the person who gave the permission.

Some Quaker photographers are happy to allow us to use their photos for free – and they watermark their own photos so each one has their name/website right on the photo.  For others, we make sure we assign an “image credit” – our NEYM website will not let you upload a photo without including a credit (safety measure).

Here’s a watermarked photo from Skip Schiel, at http://teeksaphoto.org/ – I can’t just “use it” because it has his name on it (lower left corner) – I still need permission to repost (I have it for NEYM purposes).  He links on his website to a slideshow of mine – he reposted it, didn’t alter the work, and linked from the public posting (our NEYM youtube account) – that is also just fine!

Skip Schiel, teeksaphoto.org

Here’s a different example.  In this case, Arnie Alpert, of AFSC New Hampshire, has given me permission to use the photos he posts online from various NH witness and events.  Note in this case I credit him in the image.  I also use the “NEYM” logo as part of the graphic (made with Canva) so when it is shared more widely, we (NEYM) is the creator of the work – and sharing is under our creative commons policy.  That is my work for the YM and our agreement – they “own” that work.  NEYM has given me their various logos and watermarks for this paid work.

A third example I often use is our very popular “quotation posts” – sometimes it’s easier and quicker (and more appropriate) to use a general photograph.  These are the photos I select from Unsplash and other sites for this purpose.  Be careful!  You may see that photo in other places, used in other ways.  They are not unique to you (that’s ok for me).

Our Current New England Yearly Meeting Photography Policy

On Facebook and other social media platforms, there is an even easier way to share photos and news.  On our NEYM Facebook page, I will often simply “reshare” the original public post from another page or person.  It is assumed that the person who made the original post has permissions.  If they are asked to delete it for any reason, (or Facebook deletes it due to copyright violation) it will automatically “disappear” from our NEYM Facebook page as well.

Videos about Copyright concerns for all ages

What questions have arisen for you around this important issue?  Share them in the comments!

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What’s a Quaker look like? – a new project is born

I have returned this week from our Yearly Meeting sessions.  This year my shape of work changed enough to give me space to embark on a new experiment – and I hope it will continue after initial successes.

I wanted to have a way to take pictures of Friends at an event that told a story, was easy to manage, and invited others to learn together.

Here’s what I learned:

People loved this!  I’ve never done a “photo booth” at an event before, and I was surprised at the way folks enjoyed it.  Only one person seemed to know what I was doing without explanation – this was not my target audience for this kind of thing.

The frame being big enough for two or more invited folks to share.  Sometimes a person who didn’t know anyone in the immediate area would invite a “stranger” to be in the picture with them. I was hesitant to make it this size, but I would recommend it.

It caught attention.  People started to ask for permission for me to take a picture.  I asked in the moment for permissions to share widely (especially children).  Some kids wanted me o tak their picture, and then a guardian would catch my eye and say “I don;t think you will have p[permission to share this”.  I took the photo anyways, for fun in the moment, and then immediately deleted it.  Young kids shouldn’t be on social media themselves anyways – they might never know I didn’t share it but they got to still “pose” with their friends.

The frame was pretty light, and easy to carry.  In the future, I might make it more sturdy so it can be left in a “photo studio” standing area for people to use themselves

I made this a standard print with a general message – so i can use it at multiple events.  At NEYM we have used the hashtag #NEYM2018 for the whole year (another experiment).  I would like to use this for events in 2018.

I used the message “I’m a Quaker in New England” with our logo.  That is consistent with our messaging for New England Friends on social media channels – we do not use NEYM or New England Yearly Meeting as often as we use “Quaker in New England (region)”

I created the graphic in Canva – on a standard poster size that I knew could be printed at my local print shop (I send it online).  I then glued the poster to a large piece of cardboard, and cut out the inside with an x-acto knife.  I may experiment next time with attaching it to a large piece of plastic (used for temporary lawn signs) to make the whole thing more sturdy.  I wanted to make it easy to recreate in case I needed to make another quickly.  I’m happy to share the template!  I may create a simpler one for meetings as well.

I used Animoto to create a fun sharable video!  I was clear in my sharing that these photos are just who I managed to meet – they are not representative of ALL the Quakers in New England…. yet!

Update:  This is easily replicable in other YMs.  Here’s an updated example Friends in NYYM may see soon….


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Wherein the minster reflects on returning to home.

This has been quite a full week, at the 358th Annual Sessions of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers).  This particular post is a direct reflection on how support has worked for me this year from Fresh Pond Meeting.  I carry a minute of travel from my meeting, and am supported with a specific support committee, and much prayerful help from the wider meeting body.

Here is a video of some of our Fresh Pond Friends – not at Annual Sessions (from our Facebook Page).

I can’t completely cover how our meeting members were used at Annual Sessions.  I saw them all over the place.  For example:

Friend Kristina shepherding and facilitating the plenary sessions.  Her framing lead us into the deeper worship that allowed us to be opened and to listen.

Friend Bruce was approved as rising clerk – with an intense two days of wrestling and concern – not for Bruce’s skills and faithfulness to the leading, but with the continuing questions of how we can both so deeply feel a rightness in this moment of naming a white cisgender man to this place of leadership – and yet be so deeply committed to the work of naming the white supremacy that does not allow us to see gifts equally and support them fully in our community and the wider world.  He handled this with quite a bit of grounded prayer and presence and grace that I will use as example in the future. Actually, I’m not sure how he “kept his cool” but I think God figured it out for him.  😉 Here’s a calmer moment of current presiding clerk and rising clerk.  Bruce will now begin following Fritz around all year.  Keep him hydrated please.

Friend Phil served as a fine example to our youngest and newest Friends in child care (lots of them!) and shared their epistle with the body with grace and humor grounded in much Love.

Friends Laura and Lynn once again joined with the JYM program, a faithful example of nurture and some really tough behind the scenes work that has contributed for years to our youth feeling loved and listened to.

Friend Will spoke to concerns in meeting for business and Permanent Board, also in his new role as internal nominating clerk.  This will be a steep learning curve I suspect even for a seasoned Friend with those gifts – in a time of many shifting changes and lenses in our body of Friends.

Friend Robert was all over the place in small conversations, in openings of support, sharing his wider background with work with the AFSC and committing to bring back this work of connecting and witness among Friends to our meeting, the Boston area, and beyond.

Friend Christopher serves on our Sessions Committee – the planning takes place all year.  I didn’t get a chance to do much more than say hello in passing to him, but every time I saw him he was in conversation with folks that seemed like it was being fruitful.  That has been my experience of this Friend as I have known him through the years.  His commitment to Earthcare witness as an imperative on his heart is a key piece of our need.

Friend Nancy brought news of AVP work to us all.  In a report, in a workshop, and in many conversations and meetings in the dining hall about next steps.  Our broken world needs her gifts with AVP and she was networking them this week.

Friend Mary brought immigration news – how we are attending to this work in our own meeting communities, and how we might better connect that work so we are all lifted up and helped.  Her report (with Friend Judy from Beacon Hill) was so wonderful – they asked us in the gathered body to stand if we were in a meeting that did various kinds of work.  As we stood up and sat down, and looked around and saw all the Friends who were involved in varied ways (knowing they represented so many more not in the room) we made the work visible.  We will need this care going forward as we unite further in such challenging work that requires community.

Friends Maille and Nahar contributed to youth programs.  Nahar read an epistle to the gathered body!  I would be nervous about that.  I cannot really claim to know enough to share their stories.  Ask them please.

“New to Friends” Paula also attended!  Hooray!  When I spoke with her she was enjoying her experience.  I hope we continue to give her the support she needs to learn and love us in our community.

So there’s the first half of my story.  I apologize for leaving out some stories – these are highlights, and we will hear this more fully in meeting for business from our designated representatives to Sessions.  Below is a video I made with lots of Friends’ photos – including some folks from Fresh Pond Meeting.

Here’s the second half.  Yes, these particular Friends were in this particular geographic place.  But they all carry the support of the meeting.  And where were others who were not there at Sessions?

A few years ago, when I was in the midst of working as NEYM staff at sessions, and was new to Fresh Pond Meeting, I received a reminder of great encouragement.  I was told that as we gathered for opening worship on Sunday at Sessions, Friend Erica would be at home at our meeting, holding care of worship, as she often feels led to do on that particular day.  That year I could strongly feel her presence miles away in that work.  Every time something got hard for me, I remembered that another Friend on “Team Fresh Pond” was caring for worship somewhere else geographically, while with us ALL spiritually.  It was of great comfort and hope to me, and I have shared that story as I travel among meetings.  That is how I feel when traveling – carrying my travel minute from Fresh Pond.

BUT WAIT!  Even more good news!  Just now I have learned of an addition to my story – Friend Cathryn also traditionally shares the care of worship, and logistics of setting up during that worship day when many of us are at Annual Sessions.  I’m glad I wrote this story.  I’m not at all surprised that Friend is on that team on that day (and many other days as well).

So what I hope we consider, is that perhaps we were ALL in our places, as we are called to be faithful.  Some of us in this particular year were away at the gathering we call Annual Sessions.  Some of us were at Fresh Pond Meeting doing the work of listening in worship there.  Some of us were not at worship anywhere on that morning – because we know we can always access the Divine wherever we are, and we might have had to sleep in to prepare for more work later in the day, or recover from caring for a family member or working the night shift.

In out tradition as Friends we do not “keep days” for a reason.  Every day is sacred.  But more than that, every YOU is sacred too – and that of the One who calls you to work and rest in whatever season it is time for.

I was so happy to be here this week, and share my stories of travel and love and support for and from Fresh Pond Meeting.  I’m more grateful simply to be a part of a messy, faithful community that is growing into getting things as faithful as we can be.  We still (and always will) have much work to do in being welcoming, in seeing that of God in others that come to our meeting, and lifting up the gifts and ministries we are given through individuals to hold as a body.  But it feels like the Invitation to do this is being heard by many, and still being offered to others.  In my tenth year of being a Friend, it is good to have felt this perspective and a clear sense of “home”in this place.  Thank you Friends!

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