Peterson Toscano is a remarkable Bible scholar, one who frequently opens a passage in a new way to me. Let’s say I quote him a lot. But he’s also, well, as he’s described it, a “quirky, queer, Quaker performing artist and comic” and environmental and social justice activist and a lot more. He adapts readily to any audience, large or small, young or old, indoors or out. Oh, and he is incredibly funny, even when dissecting a Biblical passage. I always find him quite refreshing.
Here he is in the Gonic meetinghouse in Rochester, New Hampshire.
Like many other Yearly Meetings in North America, ours holds its annual sessions in August, these days gathering for nearly a week on a college campus. It’s a powerful time of faithful work on business decisions and administration, worship, Bible study, inspiration, fellowship (often around food), music and dance, and friendships old and new.
Mennonites had a vital influence over the early Quaker movement, largely through their General Baptist connection to England. Like Friends, they maintain a pacifist witness and simplicity.
In fact, the first Mennonite congregation in North America — in Germantown, Pennsylvania — initially worshiped with a Quaker Meeting as one. By tradition, it introduced the first anti-slavery statement among Friends, who were slower to accept its call.
Unlike the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, there are few Mennonites in New England.
Representatives from neighboring Quaker congregations get together four times a year to check in on each other and events in their home meetings. The practice, called Quarterly Meeting, has its own clerks, treasurer, and other officers, as needed.
In the past, it was a big event. The smaller meetings, in fact, would not have their own worship that Sunday — everyone would be off to wherever the Quarter was gathering. I suspect much of it was a family reunion, one filled with a holiday spirit.
Nowadays is a different matter, especially as we struggle with finding a better fit between our Monthly Meetings (the local groups that worship each week but conduct business once a month) and our much larger Yearly Meetings — in our case, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.
These photos are from a session of Dover Quarterly Meeting that took place in the newly renovated West Epping meetinghouse.
This 1959 statue by Sylvia Shaw Judson sits on the grounds of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.