The library in many Friends meetinghouses may have a few shelves like this. From a similar bookcase in Ohio I once borrowed Joseph Besse’s 1753 two-volume A collection of the sufferings of the people called Quakers, for the testimony of a good conscience from the time of their being first distinguished by that name in the year 1650 to the time of the act commonly called the Act of toleration granted to Protestant dissenters in the first year of the reign of King William the Third and Queen Mary in the year 1689. Alas, we don’t have that one in our collection – those big books are a genealogical treasure. We still have plenty for a serious scholar or bibliophile to engage. It’s likely that many of the authors visited Dover as travelling ministers.
We’re getting ready to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the erection of our meetinghouse in June 1768. It’s our third and went up in one day, like an Amish barn-raising nowadays. The big sign stashed in the gallery upstairs announced a play one Friend wrote and the rest of the Meeting performed in honor of the 200th anniversary. Yes, poet John Greenleaf Whittier’s parents were married in our meetinghouse.
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.
While Friends often look to writings from the earliest days of the Quaker movement, much good, often profound, new material is being published in our own time. The Pendle Hill pamphlet series is a fine source of inspiration and practical direction from contemporary voices. Here’s the rack in the Dover Friends social room.
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.