Quakers mark an anniversary in Friends House

By agency reporter
May 21, 2017

Quakers in Britain are marking the first Yearly Meeting in Friends House, London, which was held ninety years ago..

In 1911, London Yearly Meeting – now Britain Yearly Meeting – set up the Special Premises Committee to review office capacity in Devonshire Square. They opted for a purpose-built office and in 1923 Yearly Meeting Trustees made an offer of £45,000 for a suitable site at Euston's Endsleigh Gardens.

Today, Friends House is the venue for Yearly Meeting and has thriving conference facilities, centred on the large meeting house, known as The Light, along with the library, offices, smaller worship space, award-winning restaurant and café. It is run on sustainable and ethical grounds. The Dalai Lama and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi have addressed peace rallies there.

The Quaker architect of Friends House, Hubert Lidbetter, won the RIBA bronze medal in 1927 for the best building erected in London.

Construction of Friends House began in 1924 and the first Yearly Meeting there was in 1927 when Quakers were concerned about education, temperance, the Peace Testimony and their work among miners following the coal dispute.

According to the Quaker weekly The Friend, the opening meeting for worship began at 5pm on Thursday, 20 May. The Swarthmore Lecture followed, given by Harry T. Silcock. The large meeting house was packed, says The Friend. “The main floor [was]understood to hold 700 and the galleries a further 600. Every seat was occupied and fully 200 more sat on steps, stood at the back, crowded round doorways and even climbed on to the roof and listened in to the window tops."

Yearly Meeting 1927 wrote this concluding minute: “Meeting this year in our new house in London, with some thought of all that we have left behind, and much more for all that is before us, we have faith, that as we keep tender to the leadings and guidings of God, and surrender ourselves to them as they come, He will open to us fresh service for the world.

"The business of the Yearly Meeting being concluded we separate intending to meet in London at the appointed time next year, if the Lord permit." The clerk was Roger Clark.

Yearly Meeting is the occasion when Quakers in Britain come together to worship, make decisions and spend time as a community. Already 1327 have booked to attend Yearly Meeting Gathering 2017 at the University of Warwick in Coventry.

* More about The Light here

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/


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