New Garden Friends Meeting New Garden Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends has met continuously in Guilford County, North Carolina, for over 260 years. The earliest New Gardeners came from Pennsylvania, Nantucket, and Eastern North Carolina. Quaker meetings had no designated, hired ministers until much later, although early Quakers, including George Fox and William Penn, were not averse to preaching. New Gardeners founded just such a traditional unprogrammed meeting and continued in that tradition until the beginning of the twentieth century when its first pastor was hired. For more than a century there have been hired ministers and for more than forty years it has been in the person of David Bills who recently retired. For many years, New Garden was primarily a community church (or “meeting”) serving its immediate area. For 200 years, it hosted the annual gatherings of North Carolina Yearly Meeting. When the Yearly Meeting began opposing slavery in the early 1800’s, New Gardeners were in accord. In 1837, members were among the Friends who founded the New Garden Boarding School, which became Guilford College. The college is a testimony to the emphasis Friends place on education. And so began a long tradition of affiliation and cooperation between New Garden and other Quaker and non-Quaker institutions. Now it participates in and supports a number of ecumenical and inter-faith endeavors. Quaker affiliations include North Carolina Yearly Meeting, Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting, Friends United Meeting, Friends General Conference, and Friends Committee on National Legislation. Over the course of the 1900’s Greensboro expanded and annexed the area; New Garden, too, grew and diversified. The Meeting now includes people from a wide area and various walks of life. Similarly, as its members come from and reflect a wide variety of religious and spiritual traditions, including birth-right Quakers, divers Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and others. Some would even describe themselves as agnostic to particular doctrinal positions of traditional religion. The community seeks spiritual sustenance by our shared spiritual journeys. Guided by traditional Quaker testimonies of Peace, Simplicity, the Inner Light, and the conviction that there is that of God in all people, its tradition rejects creed and mandated doctrine. Sunday morning worship begins programmed, including music, readings, and a prepared message, usually by the pastoral minister but often by others. Then follows a period of unprogrammed worship with silence and the occasional spoken message in response to divine leading. The readings come from a variety of texts, including the Bible, and various versions of Quaker Faith and Practice, and material from many traditions. New Garden provides First Day School for children and adults, and a strong program of activities for high school and middle school Young Friends. Social outreach and social justice is emphasized, as is the equality and dignity of all, irrespective of race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. New Gardeners worked to end slavery before the Civil War and have long supported Civil Rights, environmental, and social justice causes. Some members teach and learn conflict resolution and non-violent communication skills. Our pastor has helped to facilitate and inspire the many ministries carried on under the care of the meeting.
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