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1652 and all that....

Jul 06 2016, 3:22 PM

In 1652 a young man walked to Sedbergh in search of something.  He found a group of people who were ready for a man with vision to lead them into a new way of worshipping God.  His name was George Fox and he has become synonymous with the area of south Cumbria known, to Quakers, as '1652 Country'.  After speaking outside the church to the hordes gathered for the hiring fair, the following week he preached to a large assembly of worshippers high on Firbank Fell.  This has come to be considered as the beginning of the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers.

Later on this walking tour Fox found a ready convert in Margeret Fell, wife of Judge Fell of Swarthmoor Hall.  The judge allowed their home to be used for meetings and Margaret became heavily involved with the movement.  Some years after her husband died, she and Fox married and continued to spread the word about this new way of worship where everyone was considered equal and that it was not necessary to use either a church or a priest to communicate with God.  One of their underlying beliefs is that "there is that of God in everyone".

The 17th Century was a time of great political and religious upheaval and Quakers were imprisoned on a continual basis for their beliefs.  It was made illegal for any group of more than 5 people to meet in a house for worship and the homeowner could be sent to prison.  To get around this law, separate meeting houses were built; as they weren't owned by any one person, the owner could not be imprisoned.  This didn't stop them being raided however and everyone hauled off to court.

One of the earliest meeting houses to be built in the country was Brigflatts, just outside Sedbergh and next door to the farmhouse where George Fox stayed on his first visit.  Resembling a house rather than a church, on the inside the original benches are still arranged around the outside walls of the room.  Not the most comfortable seats for sitting for an hour in silence but not so different to traditional church pews.

Today the meeting house is busy with visitors calling in to experience the atmosphere of peace, a legacy of 300 years of people coming together to worship.  Despite a turbulent beginning, the Quakers have always been about embracing peace, in all its forms.  I rather liked this notice I found pinned up:

 

 

 

 

 

 



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And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils

William Wordsworth »