Kate and I attend Downingtown

Kate and I attend Downingtown Friends’ Meeting, somewhat sporadically. Both our families have roots there, Kate’s more than mine — her Thomas ancestors were the first to get married in the building. My best Quaker ancestor was thrown out of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for shipping “Quaker guns” on his China trader. That is to say, he mounted wooden replica cannon in his ship which could be run out to scare off privateers. Later, the boat was commandeered by the American navy, pressed into service, and sunk by the British. Reparation came many years later, by which time the value had deflated enough so that the settlement was sufficient to buy a silver soup tureen. Everyone was irredeemably Episcopal by then.

Anyhow, the third Sunday of every month, meeting is held at the Old Caln meetinghouse. The building is very old — even the grafitti scratched into the benches is in flowing script. Fran Brown (in the picture above, with Kate and his wife Enid) organizes volunteers to take care of the building. There’s no electric light in the old stone building, and there aren’t any cushions on the benches. There’s a big woodburning stove in the center of the small room, which Fran lights early in the morning. This Sunday, with the rain dripping off the roof and the logs ticking in the stove, it was a wonderful place to be.

The Quakers are pretty aggressive about keeping things simple, but Fran recently discovered a 1905 picture of the interior of the meetinghouse, with (gasp!) draw curtains on the windows and (double gasp!) carpet on the floors. So the Caln committee may unbend enough to permit cushions on the seats.

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