Friday, November 03, 2006

Membership Decline

Dear Friends,
Welcome to a new sprouting of Quakers in the News –

QiN Behind the News.
For our first report - we go behind the news feature about the changing face of Philadelphia by Alison Lapp, of the Associated Press, which was printed in 17 regional newspapers in the United States between October 8, 2006 and today. The AP feature story begins:
PHILADELPHIA - Whether it's a result of the city's Quaker roots or its working-class character, Philadelphia has always cooked up a cuisine that's more meat and potatoes than experimental. Even the city's signature snacks - cheesesteaks, soft pretzels and water ice - appeal more to a sense of hometown pride than to an adventurous palate. But under this bland exterior, a flavor revolution has been brewing in South Philly. It's one that's fed by national immigration trends, the changing face of a neighborhood and, most delectably, tacos. (please see the full story)
Quakers in the News 11.1.2006 linked to one of these 17 publications (See Quaker History period ended 11.1.2006) and mentioned that Hispanic Evangelical Friends Churches were taking over defunct (unprogrammed) meetinghouses in Philadelphia" in a BEHIND THE NEWS editorial comment.

The revolution challenging the longstanding traditional food of Philadelphia could also be a metaphor for “ Spanish-language Evangelical Friends Churches which are taking over these defunct (FGC/Silent) Quaker Meetinghouses”.
The comparison turned out to be slightly untrue, in that the QiN Editor, on a deadline to publish the news summary for that period, had remembered a conversation with Louise Salinas, Associate Secretary, FWCC Americas - in this regard some months back and decided to use the plural – MEETINGHOUSES. This was possibly due to the remembrance of the conversation of such report which described the vitality and rapid growth of these Hispanic Friends churches.
It’s generally predicted that by the year 2050, 50% of the U.S. population will speak Spanish.
So - this happening in 2006 might not be so shocking if we put this news in this perspective. Listo? Adelante.
Subsequent to the publication of QiN Summary 11.1.2006 Louise Salinas wrote to the QiN Editor:
"…there are two Hispanic Friends churches in Philly: the first one that started is at 6th and Chelten Aves., in North Philly, and they meet in a Methodist Church that is also used by an African-American Methodist congregation. That Friends' group has been there for four years now. The second group to start is the one in West Philly at 42nd and Powellton, and they use an old Friends Meeting…."
Combined with the statistics that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has declined in membership substantially in the last 50 years, the Editor made an assumption, which turned out to be slightly incorrect. Upon clarification with Louise, the Editor hereby makes a correction in that one defunct meetinghouse has been taken over by an Evangelical Friends Church which is Spanish-speaking. A second Evangelical Friends Church has residence in another church building in North Philadelphia, so in fact it did not take over a second defunct Friends Meeting, and there is not more than one defunct meetinghouse taken over by Evangelical Friends, who speak Spanish. I ask a question – How long until this singular example becomes plural? Maybe not in Philadelphia proper, but in general?
On that note, Louise Salinas also reports the following:
"....there is another Hispanic church using a Friends Meetinghouse. The pastor, Carlos Moran, has moved to Woonsocket, RI and his group now meets at Smithfield, RI Friends Meeting." (see this link:
The Editor would like to thank one inquiring PYM Friend who wrote in asking for the addresses of the meetinghouses, saying he was familiar with one – at 42nd and Powellton in West Philadelphia. If it were not for him, this column - QiN Behind the News - may not have started.
Declining membership of Quakers has been a reappearing item in the general interest published news reported in all regions in the United States, and it is possible that all ‘flavors’ of Friends are affected.

But an item relating to the un-programmed or silent Friends was featured especially in the QiN 9.1.2006 when problems at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting were aired in the Philadelphia press as well as 20 other regional newspapers across the United States. In the period before the Philadelphia YM story - two stories in the New York Times about (silent) Friends meetings - one in Rhode Island (Westerly Meeting/New England Yearly Meeting) - described how the meeting gave ownership of their building to a historical society, since they were unable to manage (with their declining membership). In the same period - Flushing Meeting/New York Yearly Meeting was reported having trouble taking ownership of the costs of its historic building and was applying for public assistance. Please see (Membership Decline – period ended 8.1.2006)
Coincidentally, Louise Salinas also says:
"… You might be interested to know that last month the 10th North American Hispanic Friends Conference took place in Philadelphia. …This is a growing group - Hispanic Friends in Philly - and it's noteworthy that the conference was held here when just 5 years ago there were no Hispanic Friends….."
To see a listing of more Spanish speaking Friends Churches across the United States, please see
Most of us know how hard-working, responsible and important Latin American immigrants are to our economy and our culture. The AP feature article in so many newspapers across the U.S. states that Latin American food might spice up an otherwise traditional fare. We might be thankful for their arrival, and the 'spices' they bring to our own country and culture ? We could also take it as a wake-up call. But Friends, like anyone else, are not always in a good mood upon waking….
In Friendship,


At 7:28 AM, Blogger kwattles said...

The Quaker meetinghouse at 42nd and Powelton in West Philadelphia was "defunct" since the early 1900s, I would guess since the 1930s or '20s or maybe earlier. To call it a "take over" by the Evangelical Friends from Bolivia is sensationalist nonsense.

The building has been used by many church denominations since then. Only a history buff would even know it had originally been built as a Quaker meetinghouse. It has some distinctive architectural features, with symmetry between the men's and women's sides.

It was the Orthodox one of a Orthodox/Hicksite pair of meetings in that part of West Philadelphia. The Hicksite one was at 35th and Lancaster, about 7 blocks away. Both meetings had been laid down for decades when Friends new to the area started the Powelton Preparative Friends Meeting (in the care of Central Philadelphia Meeting) which held worship from the 1950s into the 1970s. My family was part of that meeting.

The meetinghouse at 35th and Lancaster is now called the CEC -- Community Education Center -- with educational and cultural organizations and programs. It includes what is called the Meeting House Theater.

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