HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) – Here are things that happened after Springfield Friends Meeting, a Quaker church in High Point, had its first gathering:
- 1776: The Declaration of Independence was signed, and North Carolina becomes the first “state” to vote for independence.
- 1781: The battle of Guilford Court House ended the Revolutionary War.
- 1789: North Carolina became the 12th state in the union, and UNC-Chapel Hill was chartered.
- 1794: The state capital was moved from New Bern to Raleigh.
- 1808: Greensboro was founded.
- 1859: High Point was chartered.
The rest is history.
Yes, before all of those key events in state and Triad history, a group of Quakers gathered in the Springfield community of Guilford County and had their first meeting. That was in 1773.
This weekend, the church is taking two days to celebrate what really is a year-long event: 250 years of having provided meetings for worship to residents of the Triad. There is a concert on Saturday, and, on Sunday morning, Joshua Brown will lead the meeting for worship as he has since 2015, when he arrived from points north.
Think about that: 250 years, two and a half centuries. If the birth of the U.S. is your historical compass, then what does that say about the men and women who found their way to a gathering spot among the hardwood trees of Southern Guilford County?
The church that now stands at 555 E. Springfield Road was built in 1927, but it emerged from the original building on land purchased in 1786. The price of that land? 5 shillings.
The church grew from the first Quakers to arrive in North Carolina, an evangelistic trip in 1671 led by Brit George Fox. Greensboro became the center of the group because of the establishment of Guilford College. The movement grew when Levi Coffin of Guilford County helped to establish the Underground Railroad to help enslaved people escape during the Civil War.
What are friends for?
Quaker churches are called “Friends” for Biblical reasons. They cite the words of Jesus as written in John 15:14: “You are my friends, if you do what I command you.” Many Christians believe that Jesus was talking about all those who “love him.” In the next verse, John writes: “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” There are some 81,000 Quakers who practice in the U.S. Everyone is considered a minister because of the principle that all believers know God equally and personally.
The oldest church
Springfield isn’t nearly the oldest church in North Carolina. St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Bath is considered North Carolina’s oldest church, dating back to 1734, and services continue to be held in that building, and therein is a rub. Historical markers establish that Shiloh Baptist Church in Shiloh officially was organized on Sept. 5, 1729, and had a meeting two years before that.
Stops in NC
There are 185 Quaker churches in North Carolina. They use the terms “Friends” and “Meeting” in their formal names. For instance, First Friend Meeting is in Greensboro. Guilford College also was founded by Quakers and developed in the community known as New Garden. The Underground Railroad included a network in the region that various churches manifested.
One of the cool stories about Springfield Friends is its “Rock Gym,” a building that remains in place since its construction in 1937. As the church’s story goes, leaders from Guilford County couldn’t afford the needed gymnasium, and it was proposed that the church pursue help from the post-Depression WPA project. Church leaders couldn’t get a response from the WPA and traveled to Washington to pursue action. They went into a meeting they thought was with the chair of the WPA. They wound up confronting President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who after 15 minutes had picked up the phone and made sure the project was funded.
A lot of history
Springfield Friends operates the Museum of Old Domestic Life on its property. It includes items from families who attended the church during its early years. There is clothing, tools, furniture, saddles and many other items. Even its building is an antique: It’s a site-baked-brick building that was the Quaker meetinghouse in 1858. There’s also a very old cemetery outside. If you are looking for a specific grave, you can search its database.