This First Day I had the blessing of visiting with Friends of West Epping Preparative Meeting (Under the care of Gonic Meeting) in West Epping, NH. It was a community celebration of the recently completed meetinghouse renovations.
What a wonderful visit and celebration! There were close to fifty Friends and visitors from the local community. The first part was a public presentation, explaining the history of the Meeting and Meetinghouse, and how the renovations came to be. We learned that Fritz Bell, beloved clerk of the meeting (1973-2015) who had passed away last year, was instrumental in supporting education at his beloved Westown School where he also attended. One of those attenders Fritz helped came forward to donate the money for this renovation project, in memory and honor of Fritz and in gratitude for the Quaker education he had received. We heard from the current clerk, Will (and Fritz’s beloved partner – they were married in this meetinghouse!) about the life of the meeting community. We heard from Friend Isobell of her wonderful gentle experience for many years in the meeting. I remembered her as the Friend who for years had to arrive to meeting two hours early to start the stove in winters. That stove has been replaced by a more modern heating system – but clearly Isobel will still have work to do in her meeting community.
West Epping Friends also realized that they were opening their doors to many who might not be familiar with the Quaker Way. For this reason, they handed FGC’s “What Do Quakers Believe” card to each attender of the day, along with their brief history of the meetinghouse. Muriel Farrar, of Gonic meeting, shared her own story of coming to Friends, and her love for meetings – especially in Dover (NH) quarterly meeting. She noted those meetings are often small, but there is a welcoming sense of Spirit that is open to all.
West Epping Friends had asked the local newspaper to write a story about their renovations – and it was printed in the week before the gathering. No doubt this resulted in more visitors. This meeting also has a well attended Christmas Candlelight service each year, and a yearly gathering open to all in the community and Friends.
A number of us snuck upstairs to see the pulley system of lifting the door panel that divided the mens’ and womens’ sides of the meetinghouse. Note the two large stones and a rope! New technology of 1851!
This meetinghouse is not currently equipped for more than the twice-monthly gatherings for silent worship. Members have chosen not to add plumbing or insulation at this time, realizing that the historic meetinghouse in its current form serves the very small occasional community of worshippers there well. Those Friends do however do much vital, faithful work in various communities – and what a blessing to hear those stories as well. These Friends modeled and shared how they carry their Quaker faith with them out into the world. I was blessed to be in their presence, to share in their joy, and celebrate their recognition that they are Friends and hold gifts to be quietly shared with us all.
Visit the meeting: click here for more information
Read about the renovation project: Union Leader News
West Epping Facebook page: click here