Uxbridge Quaker Meetinghouse
Finding a new meetinghouse is like a little life adventure. This Meetinghouse was located on my GPS, which was a good thing, as Uxbridge is really "out there" in the boonies (for me at least). I couldn't help but wonder: how did early Friends arrive here?? That led to some history lessons: Uxbridge is in Blackstone Valley, which was a thriving industrial mill center at the time the Meetinghouse was built. The Uxbridge Quakers probably came from Rhode Island, which is close by. When Quakers were first arriving in the States from England, Rhode Island was more open and hospitable to Quakers than puritanical Boston. In Boston, Quakers were imprisoned, whipped, and executed until about 1660.
This Meetinghouse was built in 1770, about 100 years after active persecution of Friends ended in Massachusetts. It is built of red brick, which is somewhat unusual for New England Quaker meetinghouses. The bricks were made by a Quaker brick maker in the area. The walls are 16" thick. The door is opened with a 6" brass key. Once in the Meetinghouse, there are separate entrances to meetingrooms for men and women. There are two fireplaces, one on each side of the building. The "wooden curtains" between the two rooms were closed when I was there. For overflow crowds, they built a balcony with rough hewn benches.
Currently this Meetinghouse is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Though the worship group participates in the care of the building, the Quaker Meetinghouse Association has ultimate responsibility for the care of the building. Against all odds, they lovingly care for it.
The worship group that meets in the building is a small group with a core of 4 people, with as many as 7 people at Sunday worship. They tell me that the Meetinghouse itself feels like a member of their group. I can see why. When there, you sense the presence of history and of the Quakers who built the place. It remains relatively unchanged to accommodate modern conveniences. What I know about this worship group is that they deeply care about a historical Quaker building, and also are ardent about their worship. This would not be an easy place to worship. The benches are wooden planks, no cushions. There is no central heat, and no indoor plumbing. In the wintertime they have a fireplace, a space heater, and blankets. There is a basket of hand warmers at the entrance to the Meetingroom. This group really wants to be here, in this building, to worship. They want to chart their own course, in a way that works for them, just as early Quakers did. I was impressed.
The picture is of the room where the worship group meets. You can see the light they use, some cushions, and some blankets on the side. The fireplace is on the left of the picture. You can see the thickness of the walls in the depth of the sills around the windows.
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