For a long time the sign in front of the white, nondescript building at 374 Gray Road (Route 202) read Friends Meeting House. A club? Secret society? Service organization? No, it’s a church - specifically, a Quaker church – formally known as the Society of Friends.
Church elder Ron Wain was convinced no one realized it was a place of worship, so the sign was changed to clarify Windham Friends Church – A Quaker Meeting. Obscurity can be the inherent result of a basic Quaker tenet which calls upon its members to avoid “calling attention to themselves.” The building itself hides in plain sight. Church doctrine advises against adornments of any kind, whether clothing or architecture. Although a Christian gathering, there is no steeple, no bell, no stained glass - not even a Cross.
But the Windham Friends Meeting has decided it’s time to reach out to the community. Church leaders will hold an open house on August 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. In addition to a free lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and desserts, the public will learn about its unique history and its mission. Families are welcome.
Pastor Janice Beattie says the get-together has a dual purpose. In addition to those interested in the Friends, or Quaker beliefs, she hopes residents will drop by to learn about the Friends’ early influence in the development of the Town of Windham. “Friends is a historic Windham church that is still viable today,” she said. People rightly associate Quakers with the so-called silent meeting, long periods of introspective prayer seeking the wisdom of God. But many of today’s Quaker meetings employ more traditional services delivered by a minister, in addition to brief periods of silence. “We’re now more like an old community church,” according to Beattie.
Church treasurer Julie Moore worries about the dwindling congregation. “We have about 30 members with only about 10 or so that are active.” Like its plain exterior, the worship service emphasizes simple, brief, soft-spoken sermons. Moore is convinced there are many believers who would find sanctuary at the Windham Quaker Meeting, but who simply don’t know about it. “It’s a wonderful group of people,” she said, “and visitors to the open house can expect a warm welcome, good food and answers to their questions whether related to local history or Quaker beliefs.” No sermons.
David and Susan Palmer of Windham are more recent members. Asked how and why they got interested in the Friends, David said they attended a history presentation sponsored by the Windham Historical Society. After hearing about the early Quaker influence, they decided to drop in on a Sunday service and “fell in love with the place.”
Elder Wain said, “We’re all about the basics of the original Christian church without the layers of formality put in by man. I think Christ would be happy with the way we worship.” <
Pic: Some of the members of Windham Friends Church and their grandchildren dressed in traditional Quaker garb as they participated in the Windham Summerfest Parade in June.
Julie Moore, Treasurer
Back Row L-R: Edward McCue and Ron Wain
3rd Row: Christine McCue and Sandra Wain
2nd Row: Isabelle Gilman, Julie Moore and Janice Beattie
Front Row: Devin O'Brien, Kimberly Kehlenbach, Jack McGinn and Samuel