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 Eric Jiménez, RFM Member.

 

 

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 

Check us out on Facebook and Instagram.  

 

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.   

 

A Wedding in the Manner of Friends

On July 31, 2016, Friends gathered at RFM to celebrate a wedding in the manner of Friends.  The couple was married in a civil ceremony in France three years ago, however there was no religious ceremony here in the United States... until now.  The groom is a member of the Meeting, and his parents informed the Meeting earlier this summer of the young couple's intention to celebrate the marriage in the manner of Friends.  Since the couple had already gone through discernment by convening a clearness committee years ago, the Meeting enthusiastically welcomed the notion of celebrating the occasion here at RFM.  

Upon entering the Meetinghouse, the community room where post-Meeting fellowship is held was decorated in orange splendor with each table and place setting having some shade of the vibrant color -- the bride's favorite color.  The groom's parents had decorated the room in such a way that it invited Light.  Inside the Meeting Room, the air conditioning was humming away quietly and created an atmosphere conducive to reflecting in silence without the cumbersome and oppressive humidity to distract us from our thoughts.  There was a gorgeous flower arrangement at the front of the Meeting Room, again designed by the groom's mother.  The setting was set for the joyous occasion.  

Approximately 30 Friends and guests gathered in the Meeting Room and settled into silence.  Our clerk welcomed everyone, explained to those unfamiliar with Quaker wedding and Meeting for Worship how the next 60 minutes were to proceed, and invited everyone at the conclusion of the Meeting to sign the marriage certificate.  

Shortly thereafter, the couple stood up and recommitted themselves to each other with their marriage vows and a kiss.  And that's the marriage!  As one Friend said, "There was no pricking of fingers and mixing of blood, no tying of a cord that encircles the couple.  They married each other with their words.  It's simple as that... words convey so much power, just as much as silence is an act in of itself."  

It was certainly a "gathered" Meeting as the Spirit of love made its way through many Friends, and many of them were moved to speak and stood up to offer messages of love, support, observation, and advice.  One can only imagine how the couple was feeling as each person stood to address the couple. One Friend was so moved by the experience that she said, "I want to embrace you both with so much love."  When she sat down, Friends encouraged her to stand back up and approach the couple and actually embrace them.... and embrace them she did, along with a gentle kiss.  The mother and father of the groom stood up and delivered messages that only parents know how to in such occasions -- imbued with a lifetime of love.  It was quite easy for us to see how each of them was beaming with pride in seeing their son marry the woman of his dreams, and to welcome their daughter-in-law into the Quaker fold.  The bride and groom each stood up separately to poingantly acknowledge their gratitude and appreciation to each other and to the Meeting for their support.  This Meeting for Worship ended with all those present to sign their names on the marriage certificate, which will be framed and displayed prominently in the young couple's home.  

After the ceremony, we gathered in the Community Room.  While guests were queuing to greet and congratulate the couple, members of the Meeting worked expeditiously to set up the buffet luncheon by taking food out of the ovens and prepare the drinks.  The meal was delicious -- typical of when Friends gather, it was wholesome.  Given the sheer magnitude of guests, the meal was catered, however, the wedding cake was something to definitely write home to about: the groom's mother had prepared a stunning homemade, made-from-scratch cake with butterscotch icing topped with five vibrant fresh-cut orange flowers (orange, again, being the favorite color of the bride). 

All in all, it was a joyous time for RFM, and we extend our best wishes to Evan and Christelle for a lifetime of love and joy with the occasional moments of silence to reflect and marvel at the love each has for the other.  

 

 

New York Yearly Meeting: On the killings in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas

Dear Friends,  
Last Wednesday, Yearly Meeting staff sent out the following press release, reflecting on the recent killings in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas.  Given the press of work preparing for summer sessions, and the desire to not overwhelm your inboxes, we did not send out a global to share that message with you, which is our usual practice. Given subsequent events, it seems best to send this to you now, as we have heard from the Priorities process that Friends wish for us to be more proactive in giving voice to Friends principles and how we apply our faith in the world.

                                                                         FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            July 13, 2016

CONTACT: Christopher Sammond, General Secretary

917-613-6314

nyym.gensec@gmail.com

Quakers speak out about the killings in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas

An open letter to Communities of Faith in the United States encouraging peaceful discourse, nonviolent action, and unity

My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed. . . . Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?                                                                       

Lamentations 2:11-13 (New International Version)

 

Each time there is another death, it shatters the numbness that all is well in our land.

Each time another innocent black man is killed by our police, it shatters the illusion that all is well, that we as a society do not live in the middle of an ongoing nightmare.

Each time another black man is killed by police, we respond with vigils, with prayer, with statements, giving vent to our grief. But with each killing, the next seems more inevitable. So, far too often, we do what we have done far too many times before, grieving the violence and injustice while feeling helpless to prevent either.

This is not enough. Grief upon grief upon grief all too easily can turn to impotent rage.

This is not just our police. And this is not one enraged and violent man seeking vengeance. This is all of us. We are all of us embroiled in a system that has to change. How many more will have to die before we have the courage to change it? How many must die before we do something other than grieve, make memorials, hold vigils, or rage?

We, the people of New York Yearly Meeting, grieve the loss of so many black men, now at least 144* in this year alone, killed by our police. We lift up the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, remembering these most recent deaths among too, too many deaths. And we decry the killing of our police in Dallas— Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa—and the hatred that lies behind that violence. We reject the simplistic answers that lead to blame, hatred, and violence. We seek instead to better understand and to root out the seeds of racism within ourselves, to understand how we are all, every one of us, a part of the problem of systemic structural racism in this country, of which the killing of black men and the Dallas police are the most painful and immediate symptoms.

We invite all people of faith to join us in looking in the mirror that these killings hold up before us. We invite all people of faith to grieve, and to mourn, not just these killings, but for our broken, torn, and bleeding country. And then we invite people of faith to seek repentance for our collective sin of structural racism, to learn its roots in each of our lives, and to pray for Divine guidance as to how to act to heal our broken nation.

We know that violence begets more violence, creating a never-ending cycle of violence and retribution. We reject all justifications for violence, and support all those who strive non-violently for social justice, and who exercise non-violent freedom of speech and civil disobedience. We know the power of love to heal our brokenness. In this time of heightening tensions, we call on all people of faith to actively promote peaceful discourse, non-violent responses to violence, unity in our communities, justice, and peace.

We urge all people of faith to work constructively with their local police, promoting justice and encouraging the retraining of our police so that lethal force is not the first recourse to a perceived threat.

May God have mercy on us.

Lucinda Antrim, Clerk

Christopher Sammond, General Secretary

New York Yearly Meeting Of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Guardian, July 13, 2016: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database.

 

                                                                       – END –

RFM hosts Helping Hands of Rockland

RFM joins other houses of worship in Rockland County to house a few members of our larger community who seek a safe place to sleep and a warm meal through the organization, Helping Hands of Rockland.  When we host guests from Helping Hands, an average of 40 individuals seek shelter in our Meetinghouse and are provided a nutritious meal in accordance with the Quaker tenets of COMMUNITY and STEWARDSHIP.  

Earlier this winter, Eric answered the call to serve dinner one evening.  Unbeknownst to him (he had just started attending Meeting with us), he didn't know that we host up to 40 guests.  He thought he could just prepare a few roast chickens and vegetables... for, like, 10 guests.  Thankfully, he found out that he had to prepare for 40, so he took the initiative to raise funds through a GoFundMe page, with the goal of raising $350 to cater a meal with prepared food purchased from Costco.  Well, he raised over $600 through a targeted and successful campaign on his social media platforms; that's enough to cater TWO meals.  (The next meal will be sometime this Fall when Helping Hands returns to RFM for a few days.)  

Menu: 20 rotisserie chickens (carved by Eric's parents and separated between dark and white meats), kale salad, sauteed broccoli and sauteed haricot vert, macaroni & cheese, and to sweeten the meal at the end, trays of fresh fruit and an assortment of cookies.  (Keeping with the tenet of Stewardship of environment, we saved the carcasses of the rotisserie chickens and offered them to the members and attenders of RFM to use to make chicken broth.  All 20 were claimed!)

Here are some pictures of the dinner Eric catered, with the assistance of Kara, Ethan, and Karl.  Many of the guests expressed their gratitude for the wholesome meal.   

 

RFM Responds to Orlando Massacre #LoveThyNeighbor

As Quakers, two of our central Tenets are PEACE and COMMUNITY.  In conjunction with the Friends Council on National Legislation, we have decided to join other Friends Meetings around the country to show our love and support to Orlando and hold them in the Light during this very dark time in our nation's history.  This violence against the LGBTQ community in Orlando saddens us deeply and we stand in solidarity with them.  #LoveThyNeighbor

Refections on Thanksgiving. Thankful for what? Part 1

Thanksgiving, what a strange holiday it is for me. What a strange holiday it is for our country.  

In elementary school, I was taught that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the Pilgrims' first bountiful harvest. They invited the Native Americans who taught them how to grow corn and farm the land. They even established a peace treaty. It wasn't lost on me even at a young age that the very people the Pilgrims celebrated their bounty with were the same people other Englishmen would persecute and kill only a few years later. 

As a high school student, I was still upset by the contradictions of Thanksgiving.  I partook in the festivities, but not until I gave my parents speeches about all the broken peace treaties between the newcomers and Indigenous Americans.

Years later after my daughter's first grade Thanksgiving play romanticized the holiday, I knew I had to tell both my kids the truth.  I told them how the Puritans followed after the Pilgrims when they learned of the bountiful crops and  peace treaties with the Native Americans. I told them of the bloodshed and subsequent stealing of native lands that followed soon after the first and last peaceful Thanksgiving. Incorporated in our discussion was how First Americans probably feel about the holiday now. 

After years on my soap box, I got off of it. I tried focusing more on praising God for my blessings and working to help bestow God's blessing on those who were most in need. I was comfortable with my new outlook for a short period. For so many in our country, Thanksgiving seemed to be an excuse to be anything but grateful. Thanksgiving for so many marked the start of the season of greed. 

In my estimation, greed is the perfect connection between modern day Thanksgiving and historical Puritan Thanksgivings. For one fleeting moment, America's newcomers were thankful for what God had blessed them with. Almost immediately, they wanted more. They wanted more land and more control of the lands through enslavement and killing Native Americans. They were not thankful at all, they were covetous.  In present day, many Americans rush eating their Thanksgiving dinner, some even skip the meal all together, because what they have been blessed with isn't nearly enough. Blessings forgotten, the insatiable appetite for more takes over and they leave for the sales at the mall.