Nurturing Faithfulness Program

A collaboration between Woolman Hill Retreat Center,
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, Hilary Burgin and Marcelle Martin
August 30, 2019 to May 3, 2020

Nurturing Faithfulness is a multi-generational faith and leadership program designed to help Friends explore ways to meet God more deeply, hone methods of discernment, reach for fuller faithfulness, and ultimately bring these gifts and strengthened abilities home to their local meetings and beyond. The program is structured to set in place support, encouragement, and accountability. Class members will become a community of practice to support each other in providing and receiving spiritual nurture to and from local meetings in lasting ways.

Live info webinar with the core teachers: Jan 22, 2019, 7:15 pm

In the video below, past participants speak about their experience.


Our Quaker tradition is a path that, when lived deeply and faithfully, can have a tremendous transforming and healing effect on the world. Our hope is to seed deeper worship and faith through this program, as well as greater spiritual vitality and more radical faithfulness in our local meetings. The program is designed to help educate, equip, and support those following a leading, ministers, elders, leaders, and all those who hold a concern for deeper spiritual grounding and courageous faithfulness. Participants will be given specific guidance, practice, and support in deeply sharing their Quaker faith and faithful witness, first in their own meetings/churches, and then in the larger world. Participants will undertake projects and ministry to bring new spiritual deepening, religious education, and other opportunities to their meetings and to other groups. In this program we are also concerned to interrupt domination because of race and class in our Quaker processes.

Details of the Program 

The Nurturing Faithfulness (NF) program includes three weekend residencies from August 2019-May 2020 at Woolman Hill. Between residencies, participants will engage in online learning and discussion, and connect once a month with local (or virtual) Faithfulness Groups, as well as with a care committee based in their local meeting.  There are a total of ten overnights—four at the first residency, three at a mid-course weekend, and three at the closing weekend, plus a short mid-course retreat organized by regional groups.

In addition to practices that help open the heart to the power of God, the program also teaches skills in discernment, methods to offer and find spiritual support, and ways to ground one’s faithfulness, ministry or witness in one’s home community. Participants in the Nurturing Faithfulness program will read assigned texts and watch short videos, then discuss them online in monthly online webinars.  There will also be interviews and Q&A sessions with experienced Friends.  Participants will form local Faithfulness Groups based on the guidelines and introductory materials provided by the program, and participate monthly in such a group. Each participant will connect with a mentor who will accompany them through the program.

Faithfulness Groups

Participants will form also local Faithfulness Groups that foster spiritual openness and accountability, and which support Friends over time in meeting God more intimately in worship, in daily life, and in service or witness. Faithfulness Groups of four to six people agree to come together for a two-hour meeting once a month for mutual help in faithfully discerning and follow divine guidance. These local groups can include some Friends who do not enroll in the program. The members will discern together and carry out teaching and ministry to help deepen the worship and faith of their local meetings as well as to support meeting members and one another to grow in courageous faithfulness. 

Teaching Team 

The teaching team for NWFF will include Hilary Burgin and Marcelle Martin as the core teachers. Xinef Afraim will be the guest teacher during the first residency and Jay O’Hara during the third. The two elders will include Janet Hough and one other.

Hilary Burgin is the Executive Director of Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS).  Previously she served as the Boston City Coordinator of QVS and the Young Adult Engagement Coordinator of New England Yearly Meeting. In her work, Hilary has had the opportunity to support young adults engaged in the never-ending questions of living an integrated life. Additionally, she has worked with Quaker meetings on welcoming and outreach. Hilary grew up in Acton (MA) Friends Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting, attended Oberlin College, and became a Bostonian in the fall of 2010.

Marcelle Martin is the author ofOur Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey, (Inner Light Books, 2016) and a member of Swarthmore Monthly Meeting (PA). She has led workshops at retreat centers and Quaker meetings across the United States, with a call to help nurture the spiritual vitality and radical faithfulness of Friends and Quakerism today.  She was the resident Quaker Studies teacher at Pendle Hill for four years, and was a core teacher in the School of the Spirit program, The Way of Ministry.  She is the author of the Pendle Hill pamphlets Invitation to a Deeper Communion and Holding One Another in the Light.  In 2013 she was the Mullen Writing Fellow at Earlham School of Religion while working on her book. On her blog, A Whole Heart, she writes about spirituality today, taking inspiration from the past to help us find the courage to become all God has created us to be in our day. Visit her website at

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Xinef Afriam is a motivational speaker, performing artist, educator, author, and activist from Amherst, MA. He is the arts and inspirations minister, choir director, and soon-to-be Pastor of his family’s church, Hope Community Church, one of only two historic black churches in the Amherst, Massachusetts area. In the Quaker community he speaks and leads workshops, as well as staffing the high school aged youth group. He currently works as the assistant director of a local social justice based elementary after-school program and is working towards furthering his career as a public speaker, life coach, and minister. 

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A Quaker from Cape Cod, Jay O’Hara travels among Friends with a witness for climate-change activism. In 2013 he was one of two climate activists arrested after using a lobster boat to block a delivery of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts. This action energized a protest movement that led to the closing of the station, then the largest coal-fired power plant in New England. He is active in New England Yearly Meeting’s Prophetic Climate Action group. With the Climate Disobedience Center, Jay continues to work with Quakers and other people of faith to deepen the spiritual underpinnings of powerful action, and to bring the influence of those underpinnings to secular activism to create transformational moments of moral clarity. He currently lives in Vermont.

Live info webinar with the core teachers: Jan 22, 2019, 7:15 pm

Relationship With Home Meetings or Faith Community 

A series of intentional invitations to engagement and activity for the home meetings will increase the likelihood that the meeting will embrace the participant’s journey as part of their own venture in the Light. This parallel path for the local meeting will begin with the application process and will encourage careful discernment requesting a letter affirming the applicant’s spiritual journey. 

Our Hopes

To have the greatest positive impact for New England, we need to have a strong, diverse, and fairly large class. We especially hope to include young adult Friends and Friends of color. We believe this will make for a richer and more diverse program. To make the program accessible to all who would benefit from the program and contribute to the overall experience, there is a sliding scale fee.We also hope we can find sufficient scholarship assistance for those who cannot afford even the more modest fee.  Those in need of financial support will be encouraged to seek some partnership in funding from their meetings and other bodies.

The program is designed for 24 participants. Through April 1, priority will be given to members of NEYM for early applications. Afterward, it will be open equally to Friends from other Yearly Meetings. We believe this Nurturing Worship, Faith, and Faithfulness program will benefit not only the actual participants, but a much wider circle of Friends.

Dates of Residencies at Woolman Hill Retreat Center 

August 31 – September 4, 2017 (Friday through Tuesday)

December 7 – 10, 2017 (Thursday through Sunday)

May 4 – 6, 2018 (Thursday through Sunday)

Cost of the Program 

Actual cost: $2,500 per participant.    There’s a sliding scale fee; the average cost is $1800.  Additional scholarship assistance is available.  

Individuals are also encouraged to ask their meetings for some financial support, if that’s possible for the meeting, and to apply directly for financial assistance. Possible sources include:

  1. In New England Yearly Meeting: Obadiah Brown Benevolent Fund (next applications due January 15)

  2. Lyman Fund (next application due March 15th).

  3. Monthly and quarterly meetings

Additional information about these funds is available at:

Application Deadlines

Priority will be given to members/attenders of New England Yearly Meeting through the early application deadline, April 1, 2019.  After that, applications from Friends everywhere will be considered until the program is full.  Several spots will be held for Young Adult Friends through July 22.

Additional application info is posted on the Woolman Hill website.

If you have questions, contact