On community...

The following was read at the Rise of Meeting on September 8, 2019:

“We all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us to discern the inner teacher’s voice for at least three reasons:

* The journey toward inner truth is too taxing to be made solo; lacking support, the solitary traveler soon becomes weary or fearful and is likely to quit the road.

* The path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company; finding our way involves clues that are subtle and sometimes misleading, requiring the kind of discernment that can happen only in dialogue.

* The destination is too daunting to be achieved alone: we need community to find the courage to venture into the alien lands to which the inner teacher may call us.”

—Parker J. Palmer, 2004

On education...

As a new academic year is about to begin, the following quote was read at the Rise of Meeting on September 1, 2019.

“How is the Inward Teacher known? In joy and health, but also in loneliness and alienation; in the deepest encounters with other people and in dialogue with great ideas and works; in love but also in emptiness; in hunger but also in plenitude; in solitude but also in community. Wherever we are is the starting place for encountering the voice which can speak to our condition. We cannot compel the inner voice to speak, we can only try to practice openness and attention, and when we hear the voice we can only practice minding and answering.” —Paul A. Lacey, 1988

RFM holds all students and educators in the Light and best wishes for an exciting, thought-provoking new year.

On integrity...

The following was read at the Rise of Meeting on Sunday, August 25, 2019, from Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice:

“Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you. Then to the Lord God you will be a sweet savour and blessing.”

—George Fox, 1653

On Caring for One Another

The following quote from Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice was read at the Rise of Meeting on August 18, 2019:

“In addition to its many religious forms, Healing also includes many arts and sciences. There is the art of listening, the art of smiling, the art of empathy, of knowing just what people need, and not rushing in to offer help that is not suitable. Then there is the healing that comes through prayer in its various forms, through the laying on of hands, through music and dance, painting and color, through communion with and understanding of the world of nature, and through friendship.“

Jim Pym, 1990

Quakers & the death penalty

On July 25, 2019, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the federal government will resume executions of death row inmates after a nearly two-decade hiatus, countering a broad national shift away from the death penalty as public support for capital punishment has dwindled. The announcement reversed what had been essentially a moratorium on the federal death penalty since 2003. Five men convicted of murdering children will be executed in December and January at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., Mr. Barr said, and additional executions will be scheduled later.

In response to this, the following minute from Raleigh Friends Meeting was read at the Rise of Meeting on July 28, 2019:

Minutes Details:

Drafted by Raleigh Friends Meeting

The Society of Friends, Quakers, recognizes that there is "that of God" in every person. We believe that all persons are deserving of opportunities for redemption as long as life continues. We assert that all human lives are precious. We renounce violence as a solution to violence, whether in war or in punishment.

Therefore, we hold that the death penalty is wrong in any conceivable circumstance, and we call for its final abolition in the United States.

Contributing to the public debate on abolition, we believe that the following are true.

  • There is racial disparity in capital case indictments, in sentencing, and in the imposition of the death penalty.

  • There is class disparity in capital cases, leaving the poorest people least able to afford legal representation and most likely to face the death penalty.

  • Limits on appeals have left such people even more vulnerable and with even less legal representation.

  • There is growing evidence that innocent people are being sentenced to death and a growing probability that some of them may be or are being executed. The death penalty does not allow for human error. Our sad history in the United States is that innocent persons have been executed, at least 23 in the past century. We are appalled that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted, in cases involving new, post-trial evidence indicating possible innocence, that such evidence does not constitute grounds for retrial or for halting executions.

  • Capital punishment is destructive of the social fabric within which we live.

September 11 -- the 15th Anniversary

A recollection of the message that came to me during Meeting for Worship today which moved me to rise and speak this morning:

I bring tidings of peace from Rockland Friends Meeting in Blauvelt, New York – just 40 minutes north of Manhattan and on the other side of the Hudson, across the Tappan Zee Bridge.  I’m here in Shrewsbury Friends Meeting because I’m on my way home back to Bergen County after celebrating my cousin’s wedding in Freehold.

The Spirit moved me in such a profound way in the past 24 hours to the point that it pulled on my heartstrings – in complete joy and in sadness – to the point that tears filled my eyes.  About 22 hours ago, my big Filipino family was gathered at a church to witness one of my younger cousins marry her best friend whom we’ve all gotten to know over the past five years.  The memory that is forever engrained from the Mass was during the procession when I snapped a picture of my uncle escorting his daughter (my cousin) down the aisle and there was a whole cackle of aunties beaming with pride and joy as evidenced by the big smiles on their faces.  About 15 hours ago, at the evening reception, the memory of my cousins’ toddlers busting out moves on the dance floor is also another memory that will stay with me forever: my cousins formed a circle and we laughed and snapped photos of just how adorable these four 3-4-year-olds were so full of life and how much happiness they have brought to our large extended family.  My heart was brimming with joy just being with all my relatives -- some traveling as far north as Rochester and as far west as Chicago, and as far south as Washington. 

Just about an hour ago, as I was sitting at breakfast in the hotel restaurant, the televisions at the bar area were tuned to the reading of the names of the September 11 victims.  The reading had begun almost an hour ago by that point and they were already reading the names of the victims whose last name began with a “C”.  I noticed that there were a string of 10 victims who perished that day and were the age that I am – in their 30s.  All of a sudden, my heart plummeted and I was actually struggling to hold back tears thinking of that – of my life being unexpectedly ceased at this age.  And just like that, the lives of almost 2,000 innocent people in New York, Washington, and Shanksville were ended on that day….

(At this point of the message, I find myself taking a more pregnant pause as I try to collect myself and try not to cry in front of strangers in this Meetinghouse.  My voice is quivering.)

… I can only imagine the horror and desperation of the people on the airplanes and the people in the impact zones of the Twin Towers and Pentagon…

(I almost break down into a sob at this point.)

…But, as a Quaker, I know I stand here to honor the lives of our fellow humans who unexpectedly died that day from an act of senseless violence… of terrorism.  I’m sure we all remember where we were on that day.  As I stand here and can see through the windows, there is a blue sky today just like there was in New York and Washington 15 years ago.  I remember I was a sophomore at Haverford College when 9/11 happened.  Given that it is a Quaker college, the entire community was invited to Meeting for Worship in the Field House that afternoon.  As soon as the students, faculty, and staff settled into silence in the bleachers and on the floor of the arena, the president of the College stood up, said a few words, and officially opened Meeting.  I vividly remember a fellow student standing up – moved to speak – and shared with the 800 people gathered how she was frustrated, upset, and frightened since she was not able to connect with one of her parents in New York.  She was crying as she expressed this fear.  However, it was at that moment that I could feel the spirit of trust, concern, and respect of the Haverford community surround her, embrace her, and carry her through at that moment.  

I’m sure you will join me and other Friends around the country in holding the victims and their survivors in the Light on this the 15th anniversary.  I also ask you to hold in the Light my cousin and her husband as they embark on married life together; may the Spirit of love and peace imbue their relationship for as long as they live.  And, I also ask you to hold me in the Light as I sit and take my last standardized test this coming Saturday.  It marks the end of a long journey in discerning the next steps in my life, the beginning of what I hope will be an exciting, new chapter of my life.  

May we, as Quakers, always be witnesses of our faith in striving for a world of peace in which every individual’s potential is realized and where we can recognize ‘that of God in everyone.’ May we also continue to stand tall for social justice, especially for those marginalized members of our society whose voices are not being heard.”

When I sat back down, a few moments later, this song entered my mind and I found it staying with me throughout the day: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.  With every breath I take, let this be my solemn vow: To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally, let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”  

Queries for reflection:

1- In what ways has the world changed since that fateful day in U.S. history?

2- In what ways have I changed since that fateful day?

3- What can I do to make the world a better place --starting with my family, circle of friends, and among my colleagues-- so that something like 9/11 never happens again?

4- How do I go beyond tolerating others and fully embracing every person for what he or she brings and contributes to society?

5- How can I let my life speak -- for peace?

Submitted by EMJ.

 

 

be still

My summer, by end of July, had been less than relaxing. So, in search of peace and enlightenment I visited Pendle Hill for a day retreat. It was my first retreat ever. I had no idea whether I would be able to settle the swarm of fears circling in my mind, but I wanted to try.

The day was steamy, which contributed to my mucked-up mind. After a tour of the campus, I found a screened in porch and sat. I sat waiting in meditation for God and it was just lovely. The lush green colors of the leaves outside the porch surrounded and comforted me in my silence; I was truly at peace.

“Be still and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10.

After hours of sitting in silence, I went in to the meeting space and took my time taking in the beauty and serenity of the room around me. I concentrated on the patterns in the quilt on the pew to help me get into a new meditative state. Several minutes later, I gravitated to the area where Pendle Hill displays their famous pamphlets. Consensus of the nearing end of my retreat, I quickly scanned the titles and my focus rested on a pamphlet titled ‘Dancing with God Through the Storm’.

Reading it, I felt a strong sense of connection to the author, Jennifer Elam, a Quaker and practicing psychologist. Her words felt like truths I had long held in my spirit but had never heard from another soul. Her essay was healing and I felt enlightened. I held her in the light with gratitude for her spiritual witness!

 I needed direction and my God, this little time away from my everyday life had led me to this moment, to her essay.  I was being guided!

 How would I have come to this epiphany I was experiencing without Elam’s essay? As a Quaker I know the beauty and healing of being in silence, but I didn’t know that doing so for an entire day would help the swirling questions about some of my dilemmas virtually disappear.

 It’s amazing how God, will reveal himself/herself to us if we just stop, be still and allow our spirit to connect with the Divine Spirit. God speaks to us in the most mysterious ways. For me that day, the Divine spoke through watching leaves dressed in their multi-shades of green; the pretty patterns in the quilt in the meeting house and especially through Jennifer Elam’s spiritual witness.

 I am planning another day retreat soon and I encourage anyone who hasn’t been to Pendle Hill in awhile, or ever, to go. Go for a day, a personal retreat, sojourn or extended stay. 

by Anissa New-Walker, RFM member

RFM in all its verdant glory

Sitting in expectant silence and discerning the Divine during Meeting for Worship yesterday and while gazing out of the windows (what we like to call our "Quaker stained glass"), one can appreciate the intricate beauty of nature throughout the four seasons.  At the height of summer and on the eve of the harvest season, the greenery of the tall trees that surround our Meetinghouse  floods into the Meeting Room yet gently invites all to contemplate the wonders of life. 

There were just over a dozen of us gathered, but the Spirit was running amok among the Friends as many were moved to speak; it was another "gathered meeting".  Members spoke of birthdays of loved ones, the vibrant colors of the season especially at farmers markets, and the genuine love and hope for those close to our hearts but who may be embarking on new journeys in far away lands or who are currently away and returning home soon.  (Ironically, one of those who was mentioned will be returning from Paris.... you know, "The City of Light.")  

What was clear from yesterday's Meeting is that there is a genuine sense of community here at RFM.  The Spirit moved a few in such profound ways that when those people stood up and paused to collect their thoughts and wipe away tears, there was a palpable desire among the rest of us to embrace their spirit tightly and to hold them in the Light.  Our Quaker community here in Rockland may be small compared to other Monthly Meetings, but we do our best to treat each one with the same love and care that we would expect from our own families.  This is RFM's manifestation of the Quaker Testimony of COMMUNITY.  Being present to one another is such a simple yet profound act that speaks to the core of our human condition.  That warmth continued during Afterthoughts and at the rise of Meeting while were noshing on some wholesome food during the potluck fellowship in the community room.  

We welcome all who seek a connection with the Spirit.  Swing by and gaze out our Quaker stained glass with us on Sundays at 11am.  Or, visit our table at the Nyack Street Fair on Sunday, September 11.  There, you can meet members of our community and learn more about the Religious Society of Friends... because we are so much more than the guy on the box of oatmeal.  So much more.  #IAmAQuaker 

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Two Videos Worthy of Our Attention

Video #1:  At yesterday's Meeting for Worship and afterthoughts, the Spirit ran rampant among the dozen or so that sat in expectant silence, to the point that the Member who closed Meeting yesterday noted an extraordinary general calm and peace and actually allowed Meeting to go over by a few minutes.  This is what is known as a "gathered Meeting."  Many of yesterday's messages revolved around a willingness and openness to allow the Light to permeate our lives, especially in times when it is most needed.  That willingness and openness are essential, but it also requires a great sense of vulnerability.  Vulnerability is scary, but as Prof. Brené Brown at the University of Houston has articulated in her 2010 TED Talk (one of the top 10 TED Talks ever, with over 25 million views), it's a good kind of vulnerability since through leaning into the discomfort of an uncomfortable situation, that exposure is actually edifying -- not destructive.  Many of yesterday's messages revolved around the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, and Stewardship of Spirit. 

Video #2: A few weeks ago, a member of our Meeting shared with us a Call to Action.  Here is a quick video prepared by Fusion and another video by Democracy Now on the situation.  The Driscoll's corporation is a main source of berry (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc) cultivation and distribution throughout the United States, and they have been cited for its alleged unfair treatment of its workers, especially on the West Coast and Mexico.  As such, the workers have called a boycott on Driscoll products.  As Quakers, the behavior of Driscoll's towards its workers is a concern for us as the workers suffer unfair conditions in 1- wage compensation, 2- inadequate access to health care, 3- a lack basic amenities at the workplace like breaks and access to water and the bathrooms during working hours, and 4- the employment of children in the fields. This is back-breaking work. Many of the local supermarkets around RFM sell Driscoll products in the produce section, so the next time you want berries ('tis the season), we would like to bring this to your attention and offer as an alternative that you support your local farmers market.  (Anyway, Jersey blueberries are so delicious as the flavor is not lost during transport to local markets since the distance is much shorter compared to cross-country.)  As Quakers, we strive for a world of peace and the individual is respected; Driscoll's behaviors are inconsistent with Quaker values and the Testimonies of Peace, Integrity, Community, and EQUALITY.