Monday, December 14, 2015

WHY WE SHOULD WELCOME SYRIAN REFUGEES

Members of Midcoast Friends Meeting urge Americans to welcome Syrian refugees into our country, communities, and homes.

We have been impressed by the caring, humanitarian response, and courage of countries willing to take in nearly 1,000,000 refugees this year. One quarter of these refugees fled the misery of camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey where 4,000,000 still languish.

We need to respond with the same care, courage, and commitment.

Two months ago Americans were shocked by the photo of a drowned two-year-old boy on a beach in Turkey. Today compassion has given way to sweeping fears that terrorists will be embedded among refugees coming to the U.S.  Remember that apart from one terrorist in the Paris attacks those killers were French and Belgian citizens.  Their terrorism was born in depressed and disaffected urban communities in Paris and Brussels and fueled by ethnic and sectarian inequities.

We know that fear will lead to serious moral and political failures and dangerous misunderstandings.  We fail to remember that U.S. military interventions have devastated so many lives and communities in Iraq and Afghanistan, enhancing the rise of virulent anti-American jihadi groups such as ISIL. The more we treat Syrian refugees as security threats, the more we reinforce Jihadi assertions of the West's indifference to Muslim suffering, indeed the claim that the West is at war with the whole Islamic world.  Fear-based attitudes also alienate American Muslims in our communities. Such alienation breeds violent responses.

Current anti-refugee and anti-Muslim attitudes underlie the Congressional attempt to block the entry of Syrian refugees as well as Governor LePage's pledge to do everything in his power to prevent relocation of refugees to Maine.

We urge our Governor, legislators, and fellow citizens of Maine to look beyond their fears and to support a full humanitarian response to Syrian refugees.


Midcoast Friends Meeting (Quakers)
Damariscotta

This statement was composed at the direction of Midcoast Friends Business Meeting, November 2015. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fall Activities

October was a busy month. Here's some of what we've been up to:
We celebrated our building's 20th anniversary
with a pot luck and the installation of a peace pole.
Steve Gorry working on the lettering of
"May Peace Prevail on Earth" in many languages.



Installation
Checking to see if it looks straight!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sharing, Worship, and a Query

In the late 1950s, Rachel DuBois began leading “Quaker Dialogues” to deepen communication among members of over 300 meetings in Friends General Conference. In the decades that followed what she began was continued, borrowed from, and modified.  It seems likely that her group dialogues were the precursor to many “creative listening” and “worship sharing” practices of today.[i]

“Worship sharing” is still evolving among Quakers. Various groups have developed guidelines and resources.[ii] Culling through several resources I find these common characteristics:  
  • ·         a small group
  • ·         holding a topic or query
  • ·         using some structure to create a safe space for listeners and speakers
  • ·         Silent Worship
  • ·         not a conversation (but it can lead to deepened understanding among those in the group) 

We plan to hold worship sharing sessions periodically.  One Friend, in particular, wants to connect with others over her concerns around today’s challenges to peace.  I’ve been thinking about what the specific query might be. It is a good exercise and I look forward to the session.




[i] Check out “When did Quakers start worship sharing?” and the resources listed in the comments for more.

[ii] Friends General Conference offers resources here   Worship sharing sessions occur regularly at PhiladelphiaYearly Meeting. I particularly enjoyed Clearwater Friends Meeting’s definition and example.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Faith and Kite Flying in September


Our next potluck and family program falls on September 6th.  We’ll be exploring the Asian double-ninth festival which is celebrated that week on the ninth day of the month. It is a kite festival celebrated in China with kites that bear wishes and prayers. 

The children will have a guided exploration of an unusually shaped kite or flying device, hear Demi-Demi’s Kites: Magic wishes that fly up into the sky read aloud, soar like kites for a movement break, and then may make whirly birds or pinwheels. During share we’ll ask about how we all know the wind is there even when we can’t see it, connect with the Quaker belief in Inner Light and That of God in everyone, and share that the celebration originated in Asia. 

Come for 10:00 Meeting for Worship.  After a brief time, the children will be invited to come to the social room for our children’s program, and then at 11:00 we will all meet and share what we’ve done.  We follow that with a potluck which we hope you can stay for, too.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Summer Visitor

Summertime here in Maine ... school's out and homes and camps are full of active kids ; cottages and highways are full (some might say choked) with an influx of summer visitors; seasonal work outdoors on boats, homes, and gardens is underway.

Shan Cretin of the AFSC
When we heard that Shan Cretin, the Secretary General of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), was in Maine and had a Sunday afternoon available, I was so pleased that we were able to quickly step up and invite her to come talk with us at the Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center!

Meeting Room, Sunday, July 19.

 Shan is responsible for AFSC’s worldwide peace, social justice and humanitarian assistance programs. Her overview covered the theory and practices behind Quaker programs aimed to build capacity for peace with justice. Specific examples of projects showed increased effective engagement especially among young people, our next generation of activists!




Thursday, July 2, 2015

Banning and Clearing Land Mines: Managing a Humanitarian Crisis

The Second Program in the free public dialogue series presented by the Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center (MOPC) as part of its Humanitarian Crises and Challenges series of programs  

                                                                                               
The Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center will present the second program in the Public Dialogue Series on Humanitarian Crises and Challenges entitled “Banning and Clearing Land Mines: Managing a Humanitarian Crisis” Prominent humanitarian worker and land mine specialist Bob Eaton will speak about his work with governments and communities striving to clear mines as a critical part of rebuilding war torn communities. Eaton was a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its role in creating the International Mine Ban Treaty.

He will be accompanied by Martin Barber, a senior United Nations official with extensive experience in humanitarian affairs and peace operations.  Martin directed the United Nations Mine Action Service and was Chief of Policy Development in the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and worked in Bosnia- Herzegovina Afghanistan.

The program, which is free, will be presented on July 2, 2015 at 6:30 P.M. at the Midcoast Friends Meetinghouse, 77 Belvedere Road in Damariscotta. A light dinner of soup and bread will be offered at 5:45 P.M. before the presentations.
Bob Eaton has more than 25 years of experience planning and managing rehabilitation programs for war-devastated countries. He was the founder and Executive Director of the Survey Action Center (SAC), an international group of leading U.N. and N.G.O. (non-governmental organizations) that are working to eliminate landmines and cluster munitions. He also had a significant role on the development and acceptance of the Landmine Ban Treaty.

During the Vietnam War, Eaton served as master of a sailing cargo ship that took medical aid to civilian war victims in both North and South Vietnam. After the war, Eaton and his wife worked for the Quakers in Laos for three years on post-war rehabilitation for Laos and Vietnam.  During the Cambodian famine, following the overthrow of the Pol Pot regime in Phnom Penh in 1980, Eaton monitored the delivery and distribution of emergency relief supplies. He also led the first lobbying initiative to break the U.S. embargo on trade and investment with Vietnam and Cambodia. In 1995, he established the Humanitarian Department at the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (V.V.A.F.) whose mission included developing post-war rehabilitation programs for war victims in Vietnam, Cambodia, Angola, Kosovo and El Salvador.

Today the United Nations estimates that a record high of 60,000,000 people are displaced amid expanding global conflicts, in many of which landmines have been particularly devastating.  One of the most brutal weapons of war is also one of the simplest: the landmine. Easily set up, difficult and time consuming to detect and disarm, they inflict injuries on civilians and combatants alike. Claiming over 500 victims a week, landmines are weapons of massive devastation.

Future programs will include speakers who have worked to provide humanitarian assistance to individuals and communities who are or have been endangered by ongoing wars and natural catastrophes, often leading to displacement as refugees and migrants.

While Maine may be a long way from many of the world’s most severe crises, the extent of destruction that is produced by natural catastrophes and brutal war is ever-present in our news programs, and often touches our communities.   

As Ebola has ravaged West Africa, politicians in Maine attempted to quarantine a nurse who had served in a contaminated region of Africa. Brutal and ongoing war in Somali, has led to the settlement of more than 6,000 Somalis refugees in communities throughout Maine. And, in recent years, elected officials and communities in other parts of the U.S. have struggled to respond humanely and appropriately to the influx of Central American children that have poured into the Southwestern U.S.


This speaker series is designed to explore how citizens in Maine and elsewhere can contribute to finding solutions to foreign conflicts that relieve and eliminate suffering and help our communities adjust and respond effectively to global emergencies and disasters.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Variations Among Buttercups

I went on a "noticing walk" with some children yesterday.  We were noticing the variety of flowers in the meadows and plantings on our grounds.
 Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center, located at the Midcoast Friends Meeting.
One child, who likes to count, counted the petals on a buttercup and came up with four.  "Buttercups have four petals." "Really?" "Check another!" "Five!  This one has five!"  Soon, we were wondering if buttercups follow any rules.
Buttercups in the meadow.

For the next few minutes the children were intensely attentive to nature, and their own expectations. Eventually, it was decided that buttercups usually have five petals.  We went back to that four-petaled buttercup and noticed more--something had obviously chewed on it.
Lupine flourishing among the peonies by the front ramp.
The children and I had a chance to practice paying close attention to details, we are now making fewer assumptions, and we're asking new questions. I wonder what we will discover when the peony buds are bigger?

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Series on Humanitarian Crises in Our World Today

Presenting: Daniel Asher Filstein on Southern U.S. Border Immigration

I'm quite excited about this series!  The Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center is presenting the first program in the Public Dialogue Series—Humanitarian Crises in Our World Today. The programs in the series will be presented by individuals that have been or are involved in helping people in different parts of the world whose lives are endangered by ongoing wars, natural catastrophes, misfortunes and adversities.
Daniel Asher Filstein, an apprentice at the Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Pemaquid, Maine, spent several months working with the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. For many Americans, immigration issues continue to elicit polarized and highly inflammatory differences of opinion. Debates rage on the national stage about the treatment of illegal immigrants by the U.S. government when immigrants are fleeing from war torn countries, violent drug trade, political unrest or from regions where survival is threatened by food and water scarcity.  Filstein will discuss his experiences helping immigrants on the U.S.’s southern border and what Americans can do to help address this international crisis.


The Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center will hold the program on Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 6:30 P.M. at the Friends Meetinghouse, 77 Belvedere Road, and Damariscotta. 
Filstein will talk about his experiences on the border and what he has learned about the complex and tragic ongoing immigration crisis.  He will discuss the history of the southern border, regional immigrant migration, border enforcement, the increased militarization, the mass incarceration of migrants, and humanitarian aid efforts. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer period.
Filstein has worked primarily with nature-based experiential education programs and wilderness guiding. He is the son of Russian immigrants and he grew up in New York City before moving to northern New England. Filstein is passionate about traditional crafts, earth-living skills and likes work that leads to social change. In his current work at the Carpenters’ Boat Shop, he hopes to find meaningful connections between people, the communities in which we live and the planet.
In the coming months, the Public Dialogue Series on Humanitarian Crises in Our World Today will feature lectures and presentations by individuals from Maine who are involved in alleviating humanitarian crises in the U.S. and other countries. The series is designed to help people in Maine learn about the consequences of current international crises for people throughout the world and the options that are available to improve and eliminate life-threatening, dislocating and deadly conditions.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spiritual Searches, Meditation ... and Doodling

There is an intimate inter-flow between the mind and body.  A scent can elicit a vivid memory. A sound can trigger physical reactions. A certain amount of fidgeting can help a person who needs to move often be able to stay in one place and concentrate. Meditative practices enhance physical well-being.

"Doodling" may sound like an odd spiritual practice because we often doodle when our attention is mostly otherwise occupied, but in fact Lindy Gifford, an interfaith chaplaincy student, has been developing a gentle, spiritual practice around doodling. She's coming to Midcoast Friends Meeting to lead a session with us.

Workshop: Doodling as a Tool to Increase Focus and Self-Awareness


What does doodling have to do with the spiritual search? Anyone can find out Thursday, April 16, 6:30-8:30 pm at Midcoast Meeting of Friends, 77 Belvedere Road, Damariscotta. Lindy Gifford will lead a free workshop in focused doodling, sponsored by the Midcoast Outreach and Peace Center. The workshop is open to the public and is designed for anyone interested in enriching their spiritual life, whether they identify with any religion or none.

Currently there is an explosion of interest in doodling and with good reason. The word is out that it is very calming and increases mental focus. Lindy’s approach to doodling, called Doodle-ography, stands out from other doodling books and programs in that it is a spiritual practice and a non-directive guide. And anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime.

Lindy Gifford is an artist and graphic designer and will be ordained as an interfaith chaplain this June by the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. Like many people, she has doodled all her life. Recently she published the Doodle-ography Journal with Maine Authors Publishing in Rockland. As a part of her chaplaincy program she has been leading workshops with elders at the Lincoln Home, US veterans at Camp Kieve, and inmates at Two Bridges Jail. She has found participants are very often both surprised and uplifted by what they discover in doodling.

At the workshop, Lindy will introduce the concept of doodling as a spiritual practice and answer questions. The majority of the time will be spent with the practice itself and sharing thoughts and reactions. Pens and sample pages from the journal will be provided for use during the workshop. Participants can purchase a copy of the Doodle-ography Journal there. The journal is also available at Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Walking Cheerfully, Mindfully Over the World

Color water drop by Worldizen
mind·ful·ness
ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/
noun
  1. 1.
    the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. "their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition"
  2. 2.
    a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Definition courtesy Google search. 

Mindfulness is making lots of news these days, being touted by teachers, healers, and mystics alike. It is a powerful practice and can be quite fun to teach! Mindfulness practice can be used to enhance the core skills essential to learning: observation, awareness, an open attitude, concentration, curiosity. Guided mindfulness meditations can reduce stress and the negative impact of pain. 

Centering is a related, but different skill:

ˈsen(t)əriNG/
noun -- medical dictionary


Any method used by a person to calm himself physically, mentally, or emotionally, usually in preparation for performing an activity requiring concentration- e.g., meditation, an exam, or a sports competition  

"Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet." ― Thích Nhất HạnhPeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life


"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." -- George Fox, 1656 

In a world chock full of over-stimulation and distraction, both these practices can be a real gift. As a Quaker, and a Quaker educator, I have had the pleasure of attending workshops and practicing with others often. Now that I've moved to Midcoast, I'm looking forward to sharing a few favorite introductions to the practice, especially with the children during the next few first day lessons.  

Resources: 

The Mindful Quaker: A brief introduction to Buddhist wisdom for Friends is an introductory pamphlet written in 2006 by Valerie Brown, a Buddhist and Quaker. It is available as an e-book or in paper. If you're interested in learning how to start out with mindfulness meditation, I can recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn's work, especially Wherever you go, there you are.  Teachers may enjoy this collection of essays, edited by Quaker educator Irene McHenry, Tuning In: Mindfulness in teaching and learning. And if you can't wait to try it out, UCLA's Mindful Awareness Center offers an introduction to mindfulness and meditation by serving up playable guided meditations free on its website.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

February and March Children's Programs

Our program on January 4th drew a nice number of children. Getting acquainted and offering a gentle introduction to a few Quaker practices (the first 10-15 minutes of Silent Worship, centering, developing first name relationships with teachers) and principles (equality, community, stewardship) is a delight. As children practice listening for their own inner voices and looking for “that of God in all of us” I believe they grow in self-esteem, mindfulness, empathy and resilience.  The children have done amazingly and are certainly a bright spot in the entire Meeting’s day.

Holi by PaulaLyn Carvalho
There are wonderful school, camp, and preserve programs for these children already, so in our quick 45 minutes together I want to offer a simple connection to something that is special to our philosophy. We've touched on testimonies of community, equality, and stewardship in the last three programs, so we chose to highlight caring and growing in a diverse set of cultures for our next two sessions.    

Here are the plans. Please feel free to share them with others who might be interested--you don’t have to be members of the Meeting to join us.  If we need to cancel because of weather, we’ll hold the program the next Sunday. 
  
Themed Programs on First Sundays
A monthly exploration with children for first day
followed by a family style potluck lunch!

February 1:  Looking for the Good & Sharing our Gifts--Stewardship Testimony
Children’s Activity:  Song: Love is like a magic penny. Scavenger Hunt (for the pieces for our “extra hug”craft).  Read aloud: Crow Boy by Taro Yashima. (Or similar book about individual differences and commonalities).

Testimony of Stewardship: Friends strive to use our gifts wisely, with gifts conceived of in the broadest of terms. To Friends, good stewardship means taking care of what has been given, not just for ourselves, but for the people around us and for future generations as well. Friends strive to use their gifts in accordance with their beliefs.

Luncheon theme: Variety—we’ll provide a variety of fruits and fruit dishes to explore!


March 1: Spring Celebrations—Stewardship and Diverse Communities
Introduction: Share about Spring holidays around the world (like the Polish Smigus Dyngus, or Wet Monday; India’s Holi; and Russia’s Pancake Week).  Read aloud:  George Shannon’s SeedsActivity: Planting real and imaginary seeds. Song (if time): Sing a Rainbow

Another phrasing of the Testimony of Stewardship: also called “Care for the Earth”, is valuing and respecting all of God’s creation; using our fair share of the earth’s resources; working for policies that protect the planet.

Luncheon theme: Eating the different parts of a plant!  (Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds!).

Come for 10:00 Meeting for Worship.  After a brief time, the children are invited to come to the social room for our children’s program, and then at 11:00 we all meet and share what we’ve done.  We follow that with a themed potluck which we hope you can stay for, too.