Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Does a Meeting Exist to Maintain Property?

Quakerism: a view from the back benches

Copyright 1966 The Back Benches

Does a Meeting Exist to Maintain Property?

Only a rare Monthly Meeting devotes its time and energy and money for service outside the Society. When questions of activity in the community arise, the few individuals pressing for decision are often discouraged or, worse, referred to committee. The constant concern for meeting house maintenance, property needs, cemetery upkeep, or new building funds, suggests an inner weakness of the Society. An illusion of activity and importance is created by these building and property concerns, but in terms of the higher calling of the Quakers, this is no activity at all worthy of the name of Quaker. Any fair time-study of the average meeting for business would undoubtedly reveal an undue proportion of time and money given to housekeeping functions. It is no wonder few people attend meetings for business.

The question arises: is there a possibility Quakers should give up these cumbersome properties? Why are they so sacred? Why is any particular meeting house of concern to Quakers, as Quakers? If an historical society is interested, perhaps it could maintain such a place as a museum.

All cemeteries should be turned over to a Friend Cemetery Corporation or corporations formed exclusively for this purpose.

Is there a meeting house that is used through the week, that is really a community center? Given Quaker insights, most meeting houses should be closed and no new ones should be built until we can justify their possession not only by the ease with which we can handle their maintenance, but also by the service to which we put them. To obtain maximum utility, we might cooperate with other groups in building facilities. The Quaker test, seldom expressed this way, is really utility, usefulness to the Lord.

A hard Quaker look at facilities would refresh the entire religious community, itself overloaded with property and buildings for its churches. And Friends should re-evaluate our acceptance of the special privilege of tax-exempt status for religious organizations. A fresh Quaker response on this question would prompt the comment, “just what you would expect of Quakers.”

(to be continued)


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