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A Ministry of the Whole: Quaker News Around New England
As spring comes to New England and we prepare to gather in Vermont for our 354th Annual Sessions, signs of new life are everywhere.
Empowering Local Meetings
There is new energy springing up in our meetings grounded in the New England Quaker pastoral tradition. A recent gathering of pastoral meetings from our yearly meeting and neighbouring New York Yearly Meeting sent an epistle to Friends:
They wrote: “…we were led to look anew at what we are doing here…we return to our home meetings with a sense of fresh empowerment, equipped with practical tools and resources to support a vital ministry of the whole.”
In three of these meetings, Friends are embracing the opportunities presented by pastoral leadership transitions to envision together their meetings' future, and how they are called to shared ministry as a Quaker faith community.
Welcoming & Reaching Out
Friends are also experimenting with new forms of outreach, sharing the gifts of our living tradition with our surrounding communities, and with people seeking an authentic, relevant spirituality for our time. At Midcoast Meeting in Damariscotta (ME) Friends have launched an energetic outreach program, hiring a coordinator to support programming and helping the meetinghouse serve as a resource to the whole surrounding community. Friends Meeting at Cambridge (MA) has redesigned their staffing and outreach work to further nourish the vitality of their large and thriving urban meeting.
In March at Woolman Hill Quaker Center, more than forty Friends gathered in worship for Climate Spring, exploring the spiritual implications of human-caused climate disruption and how our Quaker faith and practice can sustain and nourish hope, faith and resilience in these changing times. Responding to the leading of a faithful group of Friends, NEYM’s Friends Camp is continuing a pilot project called “One Child At A Time,” providing the children of incarcerated parents with the opportunity to attend a Quaker summer camp in Maine. And through the faithfulness of many Friends, especially the involvement of the surrounding meetings, the young dynamic Friends School of Portland is on the verge of building a new, green center for Quaker education in Northern New England.
Listening & Learning
We are learning to connect and support each other at the local level in new ways. Facilitated by the NEYM Finance Committee, Hartford (CT) Friends hosted a day-long gathering entitled “Money & Spirit,” gathering monthly meeting treasurers and members of finance committees to worship, share experiences and best practices, and reflect together on the shared ministry of financial stewardship in a Quaker context. Friends serving in the leadership of our quarterly meetings have begun meeting through the NEYM videoconference system to share their challenges and the work before them. In partnership with NEYM Ministry & Counsel, our quarterly meetings have helped us engage in real and life-giving communication about our financial relationship with the wider body of Friends United Meeting (FUM). In May, Friends gathered at Moses Brown Friends School in Providence for “Friends and the Internet Day,” an in-depth training on how online tools — including our new dynamic NEYM website — can help us strengthen our meetings, stay informed, share our message and welcome newcomers. Carrying forward the work Friends committed to at last year's Sessions, meetings including Concord (NH) are participating in the RSEJ Committee's Journey of Healing workshops, stepping forward in faith to face the truth of our relationships with Native peoples, opening ourselves to the transformation and healing this journey could bring.
Sharing Gifts, Strengthening Witness
New England Friends have been active in the wider world this year — coordinating and participating in four gatherings of Friends from throughout the Americas through Friends World Committee for Consultation, strengthening Quaker advocacy in Washington through Friends Committee on National Legislation, attending the FUM Triennial and leading the translation and publishing of two works previously unavailable to Spanish-speaking Friends: Thomas Kelly’s Testament of Devotion, and “Faith and Play,” a Godly Play curriculum for Quaker stories, bringing the stories of early Friends to a rising generation of Spanish-speaking Quaker youth.
All of this and so much more is part of our “ministry of the whole.”
What Will We Do at Sessions?
Yearly Meeting Sessions is just one week out of the year; the work, worship and relationship-building we participate in during this time help sustain Friends throughout the year and throughout New England. We gather at Sessions to celebrate, to seek the Light’s guidance as we continue this journey together. We gather to discern how we might more fully support and liberate this “ministry of the whole.” This year, may we return home to our local meetings from this vibrant gathering strengthened and inspired to live our faith in the world throughout the other 51 weeks — come help it all happen!