News, March 2017

NEYM donates records to UMass Amherst

Declaration of faith (remonstrance) by three Quakers imprisoned by Massachusetts Bay, August 1, 1657. Image courtesy of UMass Amherst Libraries.

In late November 2016, New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) donated its records to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

The New England Yearly Meeting Collection contains the official records of NEYM from its founding in the seventeenth century to the present, along with records of most of its constituent quarterly, monthly, and preparative meetings, and records of Quaker schools and trusts. As varied as the Quaker practices they document, these records include minutes of meetings for business; committee records; newsletters; financial records; some personal papers; and an assortment of photographs, audiovisual materials, microfilm, and electronic records. The collection also includes several thousand Quaker books and pamphlets, including the libraries of Moses and Obadiah Brown and notes from several individual monthly meetings.

NEYM has been diverse in spiritual practice, reflected in a history of separations and reunions. Most famously, New England Friends divided over doctrinal issues in the 1840s into separate meetings known as Gurneyite and Wilburite, and they remained apart for a century before the rifts were healed. The Libraries’ department of Special Collections and University Archives has committed to partnering with the Archives Committee of NEYM in on-going documentation of the yearly meeting.

The UMass Amherst Libraries hosted a public exhibit of the NEYM records in January. The collection is open to researchers, and digitized selections from the collection are available through the library website:

Quaker gives invocation at Pennsylvania State Senate

John Marquette and Senator Lisa M. Boscola. Photo courtesy of PA State Senate.

At the Pennsylvania State Senate session held on October 18, 2016, John Marquette, a member of Lehigh Valley Meeting in Bethlehem, Pa., delivered the invocation message as the designated Senate Chaplain. This was the first time a Quaker gave the invocation since at least 1999—the oldest year represented in the PA Senate’s digital records.

Senate sessions are held at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., and they usually convene at least once a month, over an average period of three days at a time. Marquette’s message took place after three bangs of Senate President Mike Stack’s gavel—Stack also serves as Lieutenant Governor of the state—and lasted two minutes.

Marquette used Jeremiah 29 (message to the Jews in exile in Babylon) as his base and also included the words of William Penn that are inscribed in the State Capitol’s rotunda. After introducing and reciting both the Bible passage and the Penn quote, Marquette continued, “Remember too that Penn practiced the Quaker principle of seeking that of God in everyone. Take a moment, then, to look for the Divine in your neighbor, in your friends, and in those with whom you find yourself in disagreement.”

Marquette first learned about local faith leaders delivering the invocation through a friend. He contacted the office of his senator, Democrat Lisa M. Boscola, and brought this information to his meeting’s Worship and Ministry Committee, on which he serves. The committee was easy with the idea, and it was approved at meeting for business the following month. Senator Boscola’s office then put Marquette in touch with Senator Chuck McIlhinney, who is responsible for the Senate Chaplain function, to determine which day he would come.

Watch the invocation on John Marquette’s Facebook page.

“Then came the hard part,” Marquette recalled. “What kind of message would a Quaker deliver to the Senate? I rolled that question around in my head for several weeks.” He landed on the selection from Jeremiah after being inspired by a sermon he had recently attended and realized that blending it with words from Penn would be his way forward for a short message that was nonpartisan, nonsectarian, and did not address any issues before the state legislature.

Marquette is grateful for the experience. “Sometimes it’s important to have someone offer a moment of spiritual dimension to an occasion. I never realized it might be me. And all that is thanks to my meeting, my discipline, Faith and Practice, and our testimonies.”

Cambridge Friends worship as witness outside bomb manufacturer

In September 2009, Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Mass.) approved a proposal to hold a monthly worship for Friends to gather outside a major weapons manufacturer: Textron Industries in Wilmington, Mass., about 13 miles north of Cambridge. Friends call the silent witness “meeting for worship with a concern for the making of weapons.”

Cambridge Friends hold silent worship as witness outside Textron, October 2016. © Skip Schiel.

In September 2016, Textron announced that it would stop making advanced cluster bombs. Cluster bombs have been used since World War II. They spray bomblets over an area the size of a football field, and some lay undetonated like landmines. The last time the United States employed a cluster bomb was in 2009 in Yemen. Textron would be the last U.S. producer, although no U.S. law prevents other industries from future manufacture.

Internationally, over 100 countries have signed or ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, adopted in 2008. A number of military powers have not signed it, including China, Russia, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Brazil. As long as Textron makes weapons banned by most Europeans countries, the treaty stipulates that these countries cannot invest in Textron. Lack of sales and decreasing investment are possible reasons why Textron is stopping the production of these weapons.

Friends have met at Textron during hot and cold weather. Regular attenders at the Textron witness recall many gathered meetings. “The elements of weather and a busy road enhance rather than detract from worship,” said meeting member Elizabeth Claggett-Borne. “This witness has enlivened our faith, fortified our commitment, and welcomed newcomers living close to Wilmington. This worship exposed our concern of proliferating war in a Quakerly and assertive manner.”

Claggett-Borne wrote about the Cambridge Friends monthly witness at Textron in a June/July 2012 Friends Journal article, “Where Do Friends Worship?”

In February, Claggett-Borne shared that Cambridge Friends will continue their worship as witness at Textron through April. They plan to continue praying at sites which manufacture or export weapons, and are considering other places in eastern Massachusetts. “To pray in public is a strong leading,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.