We gather near evening to honor two-hundred years
Of Quaker worship in our Meetinghouse,
Two-hundred years of listening within these walls,
Of waiting on the Lord,
For That-of-God-Within to speak
And to urge speaking,
Of First Days
On the handsome, uncomfortable benches
On the simple and beautiful wooden floor,
Of seeking spiritual gathering
Bringing each within.
I know little of the Quakers two centuries past,
Only their stories told in First Day School
And the fact of men and women dividing
In early Meetings for Business:
Desiring equality without men’s domination;
Otherwise the history accompanying me at sunset
Is the history I lived.
As dusk nears
I return to childhood within these walls;
I hear the ministry of Weighty Friends,
Their timbre and cadence,
The “thee” and “thou” a few still spoke,
The names now heard as forebears.
We children sang before Meeting for Worship,
And after, all sang together:
“As we leave this friendly place,
Love give light to every face.”
I loved the singing more than silence.
We rarely sing now.
In the peaceful twilight
I see my parents
As my father clerks our Meeting for Business,
As my mother’s ministry radiates that of God within,
As we three worship on the bench we always chose.
I slip into the years
When children came to our home
To create treasures to sell
At the fair held each November;
And then I was Mary or an angel in the Christmas play;
On Easter, we children gave everyone pansies;
In First Day School
We formed salt maps of the Holy Land;
Our Bibles were presented when we were nine—
I chose the King James Version—
Faith and Practice was a gift for high-school graduation.
Today’s children in our Meeting
Have their own traditions,
But few of them are mine,
And the adults’ traditions
Are—for me—loosely fitting,
Around me in the darkening Meetinghouse,
I see Friends who are friends
And others who are strangers;
That mine is the older generation now;
My peers serve the congregation and our neighbors,
But I do not:
My life is elsewhere;
The Meeting kindly welcomed me,
Returning after time and alienation,
But I remain a ghost from another era.
 Quakers traditionally refer to Sunday as “First Day.”
 “As We Leave This Friendly Place,” lyrics by Vincent B. Silliman, 1935.
 Faith and Practice is a book containing Quaker principles and queries for contemplation.