Thursday, August 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

When two Quaker factions were as one

At the Old Caln Meeting House near Coatesville, Quakers worshiped in the same building, though the 1827 Hicksite schism had drive them apart.

When two Quaker factions were as one

The Old Caln Meeting House near Coatesville certainly has a history, given that its older section was built in 1726 and its other section in 1801.
But it’s distinctive for another reason.
When there was a theological split among Quakers in the 1800s, the two factions in the Old Caln congregation continued to worship in that same meeting house, though separated by a moveable wooden wall.
“This was one of the rare meetings that in the great split — they kept meeting here,” side by side, Adrian Martinez, a trustee for the congregation, said as he walked the ground, for an April 8 Inquirer story.
The Old Caln Meeting House, at Caln Meetinghouse Road and Route 340, is not an active place of worship. But its six trustees, all members of Downingtown Meeting, do worship also at Old Caln and hope eventually to attract enough folks to form a functioning congregation.
The major 1800s scism among Quakers is explained in this website.
“The most eloquent and charismatic leader of this movement was Elias Hicks (1738-1830),” it reads.
“His opposition to the wealth and power of city Friends in such centers as Philadelphia drew support from many …
“Finally, in 1827, there was a formal schism within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting into ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Hicksite’ branches …
“Orthodox Friends in Philadelphia met at the 4th and Arch Strets meetinghouse, while Philadelphia Hicksite Friends built a meeting house at 15th and Race Street …
“To confuse matters further, each group continued to refer to itself as Philadelphia Yearly Meeting: that is, each assumed that it alone represented the authentic Quaker perspective and practice.
“Orthodox Friends were dominant in the city of Philadelphia; and Hicksite Friends, elsewhere in the region.”
Adrian Martinez noted in a Thursday, April 11 interview that, “in the 1950s, they got back together,” the Orthodox and the Hicksites.
But in the 1800s at the Old Caln Meeting House, he said, “the legend is … they met at the same time, but at different sides of the building.”
And because “there were many more Hicksite than Orthodox out there,” Martinez said, the Hicksite worshipers met in the larger section of the meeting house, the one built in 1801.
The factions’ members “were very friendly,” he said. “They just went their ways during meeting.”
— Walter F. Naedele.

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Aubrey Whelan
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