Quakers Celebrate 250th Anniversary in Barnegat

May 31, 2017

The Barnegat Friends Meeting will celebrate a 250th anniversary on Sunday, June 11, 1 p.m. at the Quaker Meeting House, located at 614 East Bay Ave. All faiths are welcome; no registration is necessary.

Susan G. Cummings, Friends meeting member, said the guest speaker is Quaker historian Charles Bruder. He will discuss Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who in 1746 spoke out against slavery, saying it was contrary to Quaker beliefs.

Cummings said the Friends group meets for an hour every Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

“For most of that one hour we are silent,” she said. “There is no clergy, no sermon, no Bible readings. If someone feels inspired to speak, they can do so. But it is not like a structured worship service.”

According to the Barnegat Friends Meeting website, the Society of Friends began in the religious turmoil of England in the 1650s. Founder George Fox’s insight was that anyone could directly know God’s guidance. Quakers rejected public affirmations and rituals, instead meeting in silence to experience God’s presence.

“Quakers understand that the light of God is present in every person,” the site explains. “Quakers place less emphasis on theology than many other religious groups. We do not dwell much on themes of sin and redemption. Quakers have in common some values and practices: meeting for worship and testimonies ..., and recognizing the Light in each person. At Barnegat Friends, some of us were raised Quaker and others have come from different faith traditions. Each of us is seeking our own way to know God. We welcome you to worship with us.”

The website notes that when the meeting house was built on its current site in 1767, it was the first place of worship in Barnegat, and the third church building in Ocean County. The land on which the meeting house was built was deeded June 11, 1770 by Timothy Ridgeway and Levi Cranmer of Stafford Township to Stephen Birdsall and Job Ridgeway, both of Stafford, and Daniel Shourds and Joseph Gauntt of Little Egg Harbor Township.

Ocean County historian Tim Hart said the term ‘Quaker’ was derogatory in origin. Legend has it that William Penn, who founded what would become the state of Pennsylvania, would not take his hat off in the presence of the king of England. Penn told the king that instead of worrying about silly things like hats, he should be “quaking before the Lord.” The king then responded, “Get this quaker out of here!”

“When you study the history of New Jersey, you’ll find that the Quakers played a major role long before New Jersey became a state,” he said.

He noted that between 1674 and 1702, New Jersey was divided in half. The proprietary West New Jersey colony faced the Delaware River while East New Jersey looked toward the Hudson River.

“The colony of West New Jersey was settled by Quakers,” he said. “They had been persecuted in the homeland but found a peaceful place in the new world, and lived in harmony with the Native Americans.”

For more information on the anniversary event, call Cummings at 609-276-4901.  —E.E.

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