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.
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.