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MAY 2019

The Living Faith of the Dead

Image: Friends Burial Ground, Ballitore, Ireland

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

But there is no gravestone for Job Scott.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in faith and service,
Noah Merrill
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)


Exploring Prayer and Meditation

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

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

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

Called to Nurturing Faithfulness?

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

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

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

Stirring Up the Embers

Are you spiritually aflame, or perhaps feeling more like a smoldering ember ready to be stirred into life? Join Friends June 7–10 as we stoke our spiritual fires and stretch ourselves through communal worship, learning, and fellowship, at this year's Stoking the Fire retreat at the Quaker Hill Conference Center in Richmond, Indiana. Find out more on the Yearly Meeting website. Registration closes May 31st.

Events coming soon 

Upcoming Quarterly Meetings

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Annual Sessions is Coming!

(Photo: Diane Weinholtz)

Call for Workshops

If your committee, work group, project or organization wants to present a workshop at Annual Sessions in August, now is the time to let the Sessions Committee know.

Workshops will be offered on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8 p.m. and from 8:15 to 9:45 p.m. Workshops can be one or two evenings, or can be combined for one long evening session, from 7-9:45 p.m. This change in the schedule is due to the scheduling of business meetings in the afternoon, as well as to the opportunity offered by Living Faith gatherings to also present workshops. 

We invite you to offer a workshop if you are (1) a recent Legacy gift recipient, (2) a committee or workgroup of the Yearly Meeting, (3) have the support of your monthly meeting, or (4) are affiliated with a larger Friends organization. 

Please consider our theme, Provoke One Another to Love (and good works) and submit a proposal to no later than June 14.

Support Families with Young Children

Are you led to support families with young children at Sessions? Volunteers sought for the Family Neighborhood

The Family Neighborhood is a residential & social area at Sessions designed to help meet the particular needs of families with young children. Through a mixture of structured opportunities and informal connection, the Family Neighborhood creates a warm space for caregivers and their families to form peer circles and establish mutually supportive relationships. 

Do you carry a concern for the needs of parents with young children? Do you yearn to make Sessions a more joyful & growthful experience for families? We are seeking Friends who are led to help make the Family Neighborhood a safe, welcoming & nurturing space. If you are interested in contributing in this way, please contact Nia Thomas.

Got Office Skills?

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

Join the Virtual Plenary Experiment

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

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

Come and See! Reflections from the
FWCC Americas Section Meeting

Photo: Minga Claggett-Borne

Dwelling deeply together, and at times living with unsettling questions, New England Friends who took part in the recent gathering of the Section of the Americas of Friends World Committee for Consultation were deeply rewarded. Read their reflections on the Yearly Meeting website.

Finding Grounding in Unfamiliar Territory

Minga Claggett-Borne felt lost at the recent gathering of the Friends Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas. She shares about how she found her way in this essay on

Partners in Spirit: Relationships, Not Structures

Briana Halliwell (Vassalboro, ME, Friends Meeting) shares her experience of the February Partners in Spirit retreat and explores the importance of relationships, inclusivity, and continuing revelation in this essay on

AFSC Eager to Engage with Local Meetings

In the second year of its centennial, the American Friends Service Committee is embarking on a strategic planning process to set the course for the organization following the difficult program cuts made last year. At the annual Corporation meeting, we heard a powerful call to address the painful challenge of being a person of color and a Quaker.

Yearly Meetings were challenged to consider diversity in their appointment of representatives to the Corporation and white Friends were challenged to put aside fears and engage with Friends of color. We were reminded of the importance of making explicit in all reports the fundamental organizational commitment to anti-racist work, putting it front and center. Reflecting the theme of this year’s corporation meeting, “Reclaiming Radical Faith in Action,” Lucy Duncan, Friends Relations staff, shared her vision of all Quakers putting our bodies on the line for a just society.

AFSC is eager to engage with monthly meetings and offers directly applicable resources through its Friends Relations program ( 

~ Melissa Foster, Framingham, MA, Friends Meeting; Yearly Meeting Representative to AFSC

New Book from John Calvi

Quaker healer John Calvi (Putney, VT, Friends Meeting) has released a new book, "How Far Have You Traveled?"

From the introduction:

I’ve been watching the people in the places I work. I watch very carefully to see something in particular. Who is serving long term in a crisis situation and not becoming a victim of burnout? How is it that one can witness ongoing pain and suffering and continue to offer their best? How does that work?

The core of this book is about goodness and knowing your goodness. I am suggesting that knowing your goodness offers strength and balance for hard work, specifically the hard work of healing one’s self and others. While my first book, The Dance Between Hope & Fear, speaks to healing trauma, this second book describes an underlying dynamic that makes the path smoother.

So there it is. I’ve seen something I want to show you. It’s about goodness and knowing it yourself. Seeking how things become is great work. I hope this will be part of your seeking.

John Calvi

Learn more about the book and John's work at

Call for Articles for Freedom and Justice Crier

Each summer the Racial, Social, and Economic Justice Committee prepares The Freedom and Justice Crier, a news, reflection, and opinion magazine, to be available at the Annual Sessions of New England Yearly Meeting in August.

We are looking for articles of 600 to 900 words (more or less) on how Friends and others are faithfully living out our testimonies for freedom, justice, integrity, peace, et al.

Deadline for submissions is July 1, 2019. Please send them to Jonathan Vogel-Borne, editor.

Cuban Friends Sign Joint Statement
Protesting U.S. Actions

The Cuban Council of Churches, of which Cuba Yearly Meeting (our sister yearly meeting) is a member, has issued a joint statement with the National Council of Churches (US) opposing the Trump Administration's new restrictions on travel and family remittances and its decision to enforce a controversial section of the Helms-Burton Act.

Read the statement on the National Council's website.

Join the Immigration Justice Working Group

Photo: Arnie Alpert

Friends who care about justice for immigrants in their communities are invited to join the Immigration Justice Working Group (IJWG). Find out more about this new informal working group supported by the Yearly Meeting here.

Finding the Words

Finding the words to describe our spiritual experiences isn't easy, but Peter Crysdale (Allen's Neck, MA, Friends Meeting) has written a poem about the stuff that happens in worship:
Sometimes silent worship is communion.
Other times the washing-machine mind thumps and spins—
There are sabbath times when silence pours like heavy cream.

Read all of Peter's poem on the Yearly Meeting website

Carl Williams (Plainfield, VT, Friends Meeting) muses on Robert Frost's "After Apple Picking" and considers what it means to work in the orchard and share the fruit of our experience in his essay, "Orchard Work," published here on

I'm so glad to share the latest issue of Friends Peace Teams PeaceWays. I am the New England Yearly Meeting Representative on the FPT Council, wearing several other hats, too—one of which is to try to spread the word. Please read, be inspired in your own peace-building and share as widely as possible.

It was wonderful to be in Honduras in January to meet partners from there, Guatemala and El Salvador, just three out of the 14 countries where we work. You can sign up to receive Latest Stories at the bottom of the FPT home page:

Please also be in touch if I can be helpful in learning more.

Nancy Shippen (Fresh Pond, MA, Friends Meeting)

Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T.

The subject of "White Women's Tears" in racial justice movements and "diversity workshops" is an important topic. Lisa Graustein (Beacon Hill, MA, Friends Meeting) and Amanda Kemp discuss tears as a form of "power over" and as an expression of our deep humanity. They've also got some suggestions on how to handle tears in a way that respects and honors people.

Bivocational Ministry Program at ESR

Earlham School of Religion (Richmond, Indiana) has launched a new Bivocational Ministry Certificate Program for pastors who work outside of their pastoral roles—either by choice or necessity. Read the announcement here.

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

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