In this autumn edition of the Montreal Meeting Newsletter, we slow down, re-center, and renew our sense of connection to each other. Fall is a time of transition, the junction of dark and light, movement from outside to inside, and even (as in the festival of Day of the Dead) the thinning of the barrier between the spiritual world and this physical one.
We wish you happy reading, even if the mood reflects the grey skies of November. As Quakers we look to the light, in all times and all moods.
The newsletter team is formed by Jean-Louis Demers, Sheri Ochoa, and Wendy Sturton.
All members collaborate on establishing a theme for each edition and revising drafts. Sheri contributes technical and UX design knowledge; Jean-Louis and Wendy share responsibility for searching for articles, doing translations, as well as reporting on events.
We intend for the newsletter to help build community, inform about long term planned events, stimulate spiritual reflection, share contacts, and share ministry with each other. It will be published on our website, both in French and English. Its availability will be announced in a message to all on our mailing list and to other interested parties who request to be informed.
It will be produced every two months as follows: August, October, December, February, April, June. The editions will ideally reflect the change in seasons and perhaps the spiritual evolution which accompanies them. We will try to announce themes in advance and we would love to receive articles (400-600 words), photos, and drawings from Friends. You can send them directly to any of the newsletter members.
We decided to use Free HTML Editor for Gmail by cloudHQ to format the Newsletter. This extension of gmail gives us the greatest flexibility in all aspects of layout, ease of manipulation of material, and ease for all of us to collaborate in editing. It was not designed as a marketing program, as are so many other publishing programs. It meets our needs very well. If you would like to receive a copy of a technical report on this topic, send a request to email@example.com
When as a younger adult I started attending meeting for worship for business as I remember hearing ample discussion of a committee called M&C. While the acronym was used often, I think it took quite a few years before I connected it with the full name of the committee: Ministry and Counsel (indeed, I admit to mistakenly believing the acronym was MNC for at least some years before I realized I ought to be hearing “and” instead of “N”). Friends who have read the minutes of the September meeting for worship for business will know that there have recently been some changes in the composition of M&C. In the context of these changes I was asked as the incoming clerk of Ministry and Counsel to write a few words to describe our committee, to detail our upcoming plans, and to introduce the membership as approved at the September meeting for worship for business. I am grateful to the newsletter team for the invitation as it provides a wonderful opportunity for Friends to get to know this vital committee better!
In short, Ministry and Counsel is the committee charged with the spiritual care of the Meeting. This relatively simple mission includes a number of responsibilities including ensuring that our meetings for worship are vibrant, harmonious, and deep, and that pastoral care is offered to Friends in need. For example, last March Ministry and Counsel initiated and administered a drive for donations for a Covid relief fund to support people impacted by the pandemic, and before the pandemic Ministry and Counsel arranged a workshop on gender to foster a meeting in which all Friends felt welcomed as they are. More recently, Ministry and Counsel has been active in supporting the meeting as it transitioned towards online worship at the beginning of the pandemic, creating a series of activities for the period after worship to keep us connected to each other and Quaker values even when we were apart, and then in supporting the meeting as it transitioned again into the current hybrid format – particularly in discerning how to safely return to in person worship. Truly, Ministry and Counsel is a committee at the heart of Montreal Monthly Meeting.
Autumn brings changes to Montréal and it has brought changes to Ministry and Counsel as well. At the September meeting for worship for business Janette Fraser, Wendy Sturton, and outgoing clerk of M&C Chris Mussells laid down their memberships in Ministry and Counsel after many years of deeply appreciated service. At that meeting a new membership of M&C was approved, including two new members and two returning members. The returning members include Brooke Nancekivell and Kristin Karasek while the new members include Leigh Smit, and myself as incoming clerk.
Despite the changes in membership, M&C’s focus in the short term will remain unchanged: supporting the Meeting as it discerns how to meet the spiritual needs of Friends who commune with us both in-person and online in as smooth and safe a fashion as possible given the uncertainty of the current public health situation. This is no small task, of course, and includes supporting the meeting in its continuing discernment on what Covid protocols should be in place for in-person meetings, ensuring that newer and older Friends have access to activities and resources that engage them deeply with Quaker witnesses, staying in touch with Friends who can’t regularly make it to any of our meetings, and supporting our regular meetings for worship (and there are lots of these meetings: First day meeting in-person, First day meeting online, Midweek meeting, as well as worship held by our worship groups).
Uncertain times lie ahead for us all, but when we are guided by the Light of the Spirit we may be sure that we are on the right path no matter where it leads. I hope that this update has clarified for Friends the path that M&C feels led to pursue, and serves as a reminder that M&C is there to support Friends whenever the path forward feels unclear.
On November 20th at 1.30pm EST, CYM representatives are meeting on Zoom. Anyone interested in joining this for all or part of the session can contact Janette (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information and the link.
Gardens of Light festival in the Botanical Garden of Montreal | Photo by Kristin Karasek
Warning: God has slipped the noose.
We must confirm the worst
of our righteous fears –
God has escaped the mosque,
the synagogue, the church
where we’ve locked up God for years.
God is on the loose.
You may find God in heathen beauty.
You may stumble upon God unaware.
Take appropriate measures:
You may have to behave
as if each human being
could reflect God’s face.
posted by Sarah Chandler on CYM Facebook
For six weeks, a small group of explorers attended an introductory online course about Quakerism, led in French led by David Summerhays. This project had been in the works for quite a while. Finally it was ready!
Nine people took part in this course; nine people were introduced to the basics of Quakerism and were fascinated by it. Quakerism is little known in Quebec, or, for that matter, in any French-speaking country. And yet… the Quaker journey has so much to offer to seekers of meaning who face the difficulty of finding a spiritual community. These six weeks offered a wonderful opportunity to deepen our knowledge and our reflection on Quakers, their faith, their values, their history, their processes.
We feel the experience should be repeated when numbers are sufficient. Living your spirituality in your own language is essential. Words, even in a native language, are insufficient to express the depth of spiritual feelings. Imagine in a second language!
For their openness, we say thank you to David, to Montreal Monthly Meeting as well as to CYM and their Education and Outreach Committee. Thank you also to all the participants who made this course a profound, relevant, rich, friendly and simple experience. Each person’s contribution was essential.
We are keeping in touch and we look forward to next time.
How Can We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?
Visitation Nature Park in Montreal | Photo by Sheri Ochoa
After writing in German to a friend in Munich, I write a message to someone else in French. A familiar linguistic tickle flutters in my brain. The previous night’s French course on the basics of Quakerism was so elliptical and profound and impossible to contain in language—let alone in a second language—that I threw forth whirling unsayables and had no idea how they struck people.
My German friend tells me that her daughter writes home in strangely tilted German during her stay in England. I write back: every act of language is creative, but we lose the sense of creation in the familiarity of our first languages. Your daughter is in a good place to repossess her mother tongue, precariously perched in a second language.
And somewhere in the transition between languages I encountered the Word.
Commemorating Our Deceased Loved Ones on the Day of the Dead
Ofrenda for the Mexican Day of the Dead made by Juan, Sheri, and her mother Belem.
The altar is a traditional element within the Mexican Day of the Dead. It is believed that on this day the souls of people who have passed away can cross into our realm to visit their loved ones. The ofrenda is made to commemorate them, and to receive them with the food and objects that they enjoyed the most.
Remembering is reliving precious moments. While one gathers the elements of the altar and cooks their favorite foods, one rejoices in remembering them. It is through memory that we meet them again.
the leaves are surprisingly soft
like cake underfoot
and velvety palms overhead
we sit on the leaf-laden floor,
my babies and me,
yellow couch yellow walls yellow
breeeathe. my pup sniffs in bursts, snort-snuff,
her snout her spirit
she digs it into my cold palm
her eyes are surprisingly bright
for someone so sick
they plead, don’t you dare forget me
we breathe in this leaf-laden world,
my babies and me,
our bones in a bed of goodbyes
my child palms a leaf, shrieks with glee
lets it whirl to rest
yellow life yellow death yellow
“Art thou in the darkness? Mind it not, for if thou dost it will feed thee more. But stand still, and act not, and wait in patience, till light arises out of darkness and leads thee.”
— James Nayler
At a special Meeting for Worship for Business held November 7th, 2021 on Zoom, Montreal Monthly Meeting received, considered and embraced a letter composed by Brooke Nancekivell, Roberta De La Torre and Leigh Smit. The letter spoke the mind of the Meeting and as such was forwarded to appropriate recipients as noted in the Minute below.
21.11.01 Letter about the unearthing of unmarked graves at residential schools in Canada.
We thank the group who prepared this letter which is attached bellow. We recognise the careful consideration which has gone into its composition. We agree to send this letter to
Justin Trudeau ( Prime Minister)
Minister of Indigenous Affairs
Party Leaders of main political parties.
Francois Legault (Premier of Quebec)
The clerk will send it on behalf of MMM by email to all the above and also by Canada Post to as many of these people as is appropriate.
It will also be posted on our website and included in our newsletter.
Friends are welcome to share it as they feel fit and tell a future Business Meeting they have done so.
Signed Janette Fraser (clerk)
Montreal Monthly Meeting
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
1090 Greene Ave, Westmount, Quebec H3Z 1Z9
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Justin Trudeau,
We write to you as the Montreal Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. We meet on the unceded traditional territories of the Kanien'kehá:ka people, on the island Tioh'tiá:ke, which has long served as a meeting place for many Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.
We wish to express profound gratitude to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and all those who contributed to the success of their work. Thanks to their efforts, we understand that residential schools were a part of a series of genocidal actions and policies undertaken by the federal government against Indigenous peoples. Residential schools systematically uprooted generations of Indigenous children, who were forcibly removed from their homes, isolated, abused, indoctrinated, and even subjected to medical experimentation.
Many children who died in residential schools were written off without explanation or ceremony. The thousands of missing children and hundreds of unmarked graves unearthed since May 2021 testify to the atrocities committed. We grieve for these beloved children who were sacrificed to our genocidal system. We grieve for their families, friends, and communities. We grieve for the callous actions done to them by our society and our government.
The first step in the process of truth and reconciliation is uncovering and laying bare the truth. The federal government and our society as a whole must take responsibility for past actions. Locating and identifying all the unmarked graves at residential schools across Canada must be informed by Indigenous communities. We also call on the federal government to engage in respectful collaboration with Indigenous communities regarding any follow-up actions, including but not limited to criminal investigations and compensation for survivors and their families, as well as the families of children who did not return home.
The Summary of the Executive Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada details how the federal government has repeatedly failed to take action to rectify past wrongdoings. We call on the federal government to act in good faith and fully implement all ninety-four Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Final Report. We are dismayed with the slow progress toward meeting these goals. The Calls to Action are thorough and wide-reaching and critical to the healing and revitalization of Indigenous communities. Pressing actions include:
- Nullifying laws that enabled residential schools,
- Nullifying laws that continue to enable other acts of genocide,
- Supporting revitalization of Indigenous languages and cultures,
- Addressing the disproportionate representation of Indigenous people in prison,
- Ensuring all Indigenous people can access clean drinking water and health care,
- Providing funding and resources to Indigenous nations to create their own infrastructures, such as education and health care,
- Educating the public about the genocidal history of residential schools.
In line with Calls to action 62 - 70, we call on the federal government to ensure that all of Canada knows about the legacy of residential schools through not only primary, secondary, and post-secondary education, but also other avenues of popular education such as museums and youth programs. We have much to learn as Canadians so that we may establish relationships of respect and integrity with Indigenous peoples on this shared land.
The Calls to Action are a generous gift: a pathway toward addressing the harms that Canada has perpetuated and establishing respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has laid out a clear pathway to change our relationship with Indigenous peoples and we must act on it.
Signed for and on behalf of Montreal Quakers
Janette Fraser (Clerk)
Who Is My Brother? An Election Story
Silo No. 5 on Rue de la Commune on the Old Port of Montreal | Photo by Geoff Garver
You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’
~silly idea promoted around the year 0028 by a fellow the government got rid of
I live and vote in the federal riding of Peterborough–Kawartha, in Ontario. For the past six years, our Member of Parliament has been Maryam Monsef. This still-young woman came to Peterborough at age 11 as a refugee, fleeing with her mother and her sister from the fighting in Afghanistan. At age 31 she won the election as a Liberal candidate, and was immediately appointed to Cabinet. Monsef has served us well, even though some of us certainly have been unhappy about Liberal policies and inaction.
Peterborough-Kawartha has been a “bellwether riding.” Since 1965, with only one exception, the candidate elected here has always been a member of the party that has formed the federal government. We expected this election to be close, as usual, but it was reasonable to expect that the incumbent would likely be re-elected.
All four main parties fielded a strong woman candidate. In the all-candidate debates, Maryam Monsef showed the competence and confidence that came from six years of hard work.
Then, during the election, the Taliban took over Afghanistan and our government attempted to bring people out who were known to have worked with the West during the long time wars there. Monsef’s family personally knew some of those trying to get onto airplanes. She made an emotional speech, pleading with the new Afghan government as her Muslim “brothers” to do the right thing .
Those of us raised with biblical pleas to “brothers and sisters in Christ” recognized that Monsef was appealing to “that of God” in the leaders of her former country. But in the charged atmosphere of the election, her words brought shock and dismay. Ugly racism that has been here all along became overt. Someone paid for a lighted sign on a main thoroughfare saying that 158 Canadians were killed but “Monsef calls the Taliban brothers.” By using that term “brothers,” she definitely had touched a nerve. It was as if no one had ever heard of the outrageous idea that we are called to love our enemies, to see them as brothers and sisters, that we are one human family with one Creator.
As the candidates went door to door, people began saying plainly that they wanted to vote for “somebody who was born here.” Even her supporters widely agreed that calling her enemies “brothers” had been a blunder. Politically, clearly it was.
But that was because, culturally and spiritually, Monsef had not realized that the average Canadian who was born here knows that to see your enemy as your “brother” marks you as irresponsible, alien, and dangerous. Someone wrote to the paper to say that if using “brothers” for the Taliban was a cultural reference, well, they wanted an MP that knows Canadian culture! Someone else wrote to say that Monsef’s words meant that our soldiers who died in Afghanistan had died in vain. I wrote to say that my deepest support went to the Green candidate. However, I said, to ignore the spiritual integrity in Monsef’s words would mean that Jesus had died in vain.
On election night, Peterborough-Kawartha lost its status as a bellwether riding. Monsef lost the election to someone who was born here. It could be worse: Conservative Michelle Ferreri seems a person of passion and with a social conscience. But the incident has reminded me of what outliers we Friends are whenever we take seriously the teaching to love one’s enemy.
Videos to Watch: Women of Courage
Kairos News Forwarded by David Millar, CYM rep to Kairos Rights & Partnership Circle (it is responsible for the WP&S program and Mother Earth HUB)
Celebration ending a Kairos "blanket exercise" on understanding our treaty responsibilities and reconciliation with First Nations. A participant's account.| rabble.ca
See videos of Mik'maq women in NS (27 min), Wolastoqiyik grandmothers in NB (20 min), Kairoscanada's Women Peace & Security partners in Brazil, and brief written reports from women's NGOs in Ecuador, Guatemala and the Philippines All part of the new Mother Earth HUB. This work is supported by Kairos, the ecumenical coalition Canadian Yearly Meeting helped found 20 years ago.
This fall, Quaker Earthcare Witness sent delegates to WECAN's New York conference. Minutes 3.44 to 3.47 of the final summing-up video include among others two indigenous women from Canada, Eriel Deranger and Ta'kaiya Blaney. Worth watching!
A two-page summary of the WECAN Women’s Climate Action Agenda shows how aboriginal rights, social justice and climate action are linked together. Kairos has understood this from the start.
If this is a new idea to you, we suggest you watch Robin Kimmerer, Potawatomi mother, scientist, ethnobotany professor at SUNY, and author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants and Gathering Moss. See this 27 min video of her (one of many) showing what we can learn from aboriginal wisdom. If you prefer text, see the one-page Wikipedia summary and this free PDF download of the entire book.
Since September, members of Montreal Monthly Meeting have been meeting face to face at the Greene Center as well as on Zoom. For those too distant to travel to Meeting in person, or for those with special vulnerabilities, the Zoom meeting is flourishing, while Friends who feel able and safe have crossed the threshold at the Greene Centre and enjoyed a reunion in person for First Day worship.
A committee of technologically savvy Friends has worked hard to bring Zoom worshipers together with those in the Greene Centre. The experiment has fundamentally worked, although there are some obstacles with sound and view which, we hope, will be overcome through technological adjustments.
Every month, Business Meeting reconsiders how things are working. We still are following the rule that unvaccinated people, including younger children, cannot attend in person, while we hope that those in this situation will take advantage of the Zoom alternative. We look forward to the moment when younger children will be offered vaccinations.
We have taken the decision to follow the rules and procedures of the Greene Centre, whose flexibility and attention to our needs have been excellent. Those attending our meeting are asked at the door of the Centre to show their vaccination passports along with other visitors to the Centre. We know that the administration of the Centre is well aware and respectful of changes in Public Health regulations.
The last few months have brought us many joys, as we realize how contact through Zoom has increased our interaction with distant Friends, and how in-person contacts have enriched our friendships and worship.
The Quaker Mystery of Bolton County
A historical mystery lies in the past of Quakers in Quebec. Was there ever a Quaker community in Bolton in the Eastern Townships? Documentation reveals that a Quaker community was well established in East Farnham (formerly Allen's Corner) between 1820 and 1902. However, there is good reason to hypothesize that a Quaker community also existed in Bolton County.
The first Quaker to arrive in Lower Canada was Nicholas Austin (1736-1821). The archives clarify that he moved to Bolton in the year 1793. He was not alone, and his group consisted of, among others, a few Quaker families. It seems obvious that as good Quakers, this small community would gather regularly for worship. Strangely, no trace of such a community associated with Bolton County has ever been found. No marriage, death or burial certificate associated with Quakerism and the names of members of this community seems to have survived.
To add mystery to mystery, even the community of East-Farnham has left behind historical incongruities. For example, no trace of sixty of its members has been found in the many cemeteries of the county. One hypothesis about this situation suggests that some cemeteries have, until now, never been discovered and listed. Another hypothesis suggests that dissension within this community resulted in a random distribution of burials, some of which remain unknown. It's a safe bet that, despite current research, history will forever conceal the answers to these questions. Will we ever know?
Zoom Codes for our Meetings
Special Thanks to: