History of the Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, popularly known as Quakers, was started in England by George Fox and his followers in the 1650’s. George Fox was disillusioned with the traditional church structure; he felt that the priests did not live what they preached. One day, as he prayed, he was given the following message : “I heard a voice which said ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus who can speak to thy condition.’ And when I heard it, my heart did leap in joy.” He spent the rest of his life sharing his beliefs with people, traveling widely, and often being imprisoned for his teachings, as were many others. George Fox taught that God speaks directly to each of us. There is no need for a priest as an intermediary. We are all equal before God, and we all can be ministers of God’s word, if we are open to the light, the divine teacher within us. It is a universal gift available to everyone, men and women alike. Traditionally, Quakers gather together in silence waiting and listening for God’s guidance. When Quakers receive a message of the spirit, it may speak directly to them on a personal level, or it may be a truth that is meant to be shared with all who are gathered in worship.
Quakerism is deeply rooted in the Christian faith. Some Quakers believe in the divinity of Christ and some do not. In the unprogrammed Quaker tradition there are many members who consider themselves universalists, and not necessarily Christians.
As is the case in many denominations, Quakers are a diverse group with a complicated history. Our family tree now has many branches including liberal Quakers, conservative Quakers, and evangelical Quakers, who have churches and pastors. Charlottesville Friends, and the majority of the east-coast Quakers, tend to be liberal.
History of the Charlottesville Friends Meeting
The first known Friends in Albemarle County, Virginia, were the Clarks: Christopher, Penelope and their family. They arrived in 1742. Initially they worshiped in their home; then in 1748 they built Sugar Loaf Meeting House, which was a preparative meeting under the care of Camp Creek Monthly Meeting in Louisa County. It was probably laid down in the late 1750s, but the exact date is not recorded. John Woolman visited them twice, in 1745 and 1757.
The next known Quaker presence in our area was from approximately 1882 to 1885. Robert Warner Lewis, his wife Elizabeth, and their eight children were members of the Richmond Friends Meeting, and they were the foundation of a worship group in Albemarle County. Upon Robert’s death in 1885, the family resigned from the Richmond Meeting; there is no record of other Quakers living here at the time.
Then in the spring of 1938, Charles (Chic) Moran and Werner Janney, both graduate students at the University of Virginia, started to worship together in the manner of Friends. Werner was a Quaker from Goose Creek Meeting in Lincoln, Virginia, and Chic was an aspiring Quaker. The University was supportive of them, and a small worship group started to meet regularly on Grounds. It dissolved when Chic and Werner were inducted into the Civilian Public Service in 1942.
After Chic Moran returned to this area in 1952, he, his wife Fermine, and their children started a worship group with Keith and Mary Louise Hosmer and their children. In 1963, Potomac Quarterly Meeting approved our application to become a Monthly Meeting. In 1982 we settled into a permanent location with the purchase of our meetinghouse at 1104 Forest Street in Charlottesville’s Rose Hill Neighborhood.
Other departed Friends who were beloved members of our Meeting: