Beacon Hill Friends Meetingroom
Just when I thought I might tire of photographing very similar, very old Quaker meetinghouses, something new popped up. My visit to Beacon Hill Friends Meeting was a very different, refreshing, and rejuvenating experience. Beacon Hill Friends Meeting is located in the heart of Boston’s Beacon Hill and required trekking my stuff along uneven brick pavement as there is no parking there! It was definitely not a drive-through experience!
Beacon Hill Friends Meeting is located in Beacon Hill Friends House. This house is a five-story brick building designed by Charles Bullfinch and built in 1805-1806. (He also designed the Massachusetts capitol building). It was built as a double house at #6 and #8 Chestnut Street. The owners of #6, the Greene family, prospered and then bought and remodeled #8. Included in the remodeling of #8 was a music room/ball room on the ground floor. It has a teak floor and a grand fireplace, made with teak and black marble. There is a large window occupying one wall that overlooks the backyard courtyard of the house. This room has now become the Meetingroom for Beacon Hill Friends Meeting.
The Quakers (without giving an extensive history) acquired #6 and #8 Chestnut Street and formed Beacon Hill Friends House. The first residents occupied the building and the first meeting for worship took place in 1957. Currently there are 21 residents sharing the house. It is run according to Quaker principles, with business meetings and decision-making in the Quaker way. Part of the mission of the Beacon Hill Friends House is education so the lectures and other educational activities are planned and take place here. More information can be found on the website for Beacon Hill Friends House (http://bhfh.org).
Beacon Hill was surprising to me because I could find a sense of Quaker presence in a room so different from traditional Quaker meetinghouses. I think it is not the meetinghouse or the meetingroom itself; it is what is done there. When Quakerism first began in England and in America, meeting for worship took place out of doors, in homes, barns, or wherever there was room. East Sandwich Meeting, for example, began with meetings held in a hollow in the woods. Today, many meetings are held in homes, function halls, and borrowed or rented spaces. For Quakers, the building itself is not considered to be a sacred edifice. It is what takes place inside that is sacred. It is the expectant waiting for the presence of the Divine with a group of others. The collective spiritual seeking experience is what makes Quaker meetings unique. The simplicity of this act of expectant waiting reduces worship to its essential elements, stripped bare of all unnecessary elements.
I had a difficult time choosing the picture for this blog entry. Should I put in a picture that shows the staircase, the beautiful windows, the teak floor, the balcony, the soft light coming in the windows? I chose instead to include a picture of a pen and ink drawing that I found in the library of Beacon Hill Friends House. This was an especially tough choice because a photographer likes to do their own work, not photograph someone else's art. However, since I never take pictures of people sitting in expectant waiting, and since I never take pictures of people who are going inside to greet the Light, I decided to show this artist’s rendition of that most essential part of Quakerism, people sitting in expectant silence during meeting for worship.
Thank you to everyone who posted a comment. I really enjoy reading about people's reaction to my blog. Unfortunately, in this blog, only one photo is allowed per entry. That is the format, so tough choices have to be made. In this case, I chose to illustrate the text rather than show the meetinghouse, but I am hearing that many people missed seeing a photo of the actual meeting room. Also, I have both non-Quaker and Quaker readers, so the text has to be appropriate for both. Again, this is a tough line to draw: too much info, or not enough? Too simple, or not simple enough! That is the question!
You nailed the spirit of Meeting by photographing this drawing. It is the people and what transpires there, and using the vital Beacon Hill setting this way is inspired. However, it could be any Friends Meeting and I'd also like to see some of their historical Boston elegance. Another Photograph?
After reading the blog, I really wanted to see the pictures of the physical building, however, I think you choice of the drawing was a good one. The artist really did capture "it".
Keep up the good work.
1.W Thomas Manders(non-registered)
I really like the photograph of the drawing, a great choice in that It gives one who is not a quaker a sense of the peace of meeting which the photographs of the buildings cannot in the same sense. I am learning some interesting things through this blog so I am so happy you are doing it.
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