Allen's Neck Meetinghouse
Allen’s Neck is in Dartmouth, MA, an area that is rich in Quaker history. It is another spin-off from Apponegansett Meeting (See blog entry for Apponegansett, February, 2015).
It is a beautiful Meetinghouse. It was originally built in 1758, and rebuilt in 1873 when more room was required. It has been modernized and enlarged along the way with a large community room, kitchen, bathrooms, central heating and plumbing. It is on a large rural lot with a cemetery on the property.
The community of Allen’s Neck is undergoing transition. It is currently one of only two programmed meetings in Massachusetts. Their part-time pastor has left his position, so they are considering their future: to remain programmed, become an unprogrammed meeting, or use some combination of both. Currently, they refer to themselves as a semi-programed meeting. Recently they moved their benches into an inward facing arrangement rather than all front facing. They are holding some of each type of Meeting for Worship and deciding what is most important to them as a community.
Historically, many meetings in Massachusetts have gone through similar transitional experiences: first moving toward Joseph John Gurney and his pastoral, programmed methods, and sometimes then returning to a more traditionally silent, unprogrammed worship. Falmouth, Mattapoisett, Westport, and Worcester, to name a few, have all had some time as programmed Meetings. Many of these Meetinghouses still have some lingering evidence of programmed worship. They may have one or more of these: pews rather than benches, front facing benches, organs, and pulpits. The story is usually written in the building.
As I have made this journey through meetinghouses, one of the important things I have realized is that Quakerism is not just a historic oddity of a religion, but is a vital, fluid faith. Due to the type of decision-making process in Quakerism, change can take a very long time, but it does occur. Worcester Meeting has changed its committee structure (see blog entry for Worcester, April, 2014), and our Yearly Meeting Sessions have changed in structure since I first began attending them. I like knowing that Meeting communities can undergo a process of evaluation and change. It keeps us from getting too stodgy, and it keeps us relevant to the needs of today.
The picture is of the front of the Meetingroom. You can see the pulpit in front of the picture. On the left side of the picture, the caption says: George Fox. On the right, the caption says: Margaret Fell (AKA Mrs. Fox). When I first saw the picture hanging, I asked if I could take it down. The answer was no, and I am so glad it was. I love this children’s rendition of two important Quakers hanging in the midst of the worship room, indicating how much the children’s learning is incorporated into the life of the Meeting.
Other photographs of Allen’s Neck can be seen on my Facebook page: Framing the Light. If you do not have Facebook, the photos can be seen on this website under “Meetinghouse” on the top menu bar on the Home page. You are welcome to share this as widely as you would like!!!
Whimsical dool figures do tell the story! I wish there were fewer It is's in the to opening paragraphs of the writing and that, perhaps, one of the further down fascinating paragraphs might be raised up close to the beginning. Explaining programmed meetings to nonQuakers is challenging. I love your series.
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