Friends General Conference

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History of CPMM

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Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting was formed in 1956 when two city meetings -- 12th Street Meeting and Race Street Meeting -- were united. Our building, however, is 100 years older, and has served as a Quaker meetinghouse since it was built in 1856.

The first monthly meeting in Philadelphia was organized in 1682. It continued to be the only monthly meeting until 1772, meeting in a succession of sites. As the number of Quakers in the city grew, Philadelphia was divided into meetings serving the northern, western, and southern sections of the city. The 12th Street Meeting, established in 1812, served the western district.

The historic Hicksite/Orthodox schism of 1827 affected Philadelphia Quaker meetings along with the Religious Society of Friends as a whole. The Monthly Meeting of Friends in Philadelphia was one of the new meetings formed as a result. This new meeting met at 5th and Cherry Streets, but soon outgrew that location, and our present meetinghouse at 1520 Race Street was built. As a result of the schism, a Hicksite yearly meeting was also established, with which the Hicksite monthly meetings were affiliated.

Our meetinghouse was built to house the new yearly meeting and the monthly meeting as well. For that reason, it was constructed as 2 separate meetinghouses joined by a common building. One is now our Cherry Street room, where coffee hour is held. During yearly meeting week, once a year, the women's business meetings were held there, while the men met on the Race Street side. For many years, Friends Central School classrooms were located in the building, and the students used its courtyard as a playground.

In 1955 the schism was healed and two yearly meetings were no longer needed. 12th Street and Race Street Monthly Meetings were united also, soon after to form the current Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, which continues to use the 1856 meetinghouse. The Friends Center, a complex of offices serving a number of Quaker and community organizations, was added to the meetinghouse building in 1972.

Deep responsiveness to concerns in our Society and in the larger world has characterized the history of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and its two predecessors. Past members were active in the anti-slavery movement and members' concerns led to establishing schools for newly freed slaves, for Quaker children, and for children as far afield as Ramallah, Palestine and Tokyo, Japan. Many leaders in the first wave of the women's movement were associated with the meeting, including abolitionist and women's activist Lucretia Mott, and suffrage leader Alice Paul.

At the present time we are deeply committed to the peace testimony and encourage members to work toward non-violent solutions to conflicts both at home and abroad. We continue to support those who are war tax resisters and/or conscientious objectors to military service.

Our strong concerns about social justice have led us to take clear positions against sexual harassment and the death penalty, and to speak out against the oppression of minority groups in our society, particularly persons of color, lesbians, and gay men. We have provided community support to our members who are called to work actively in ministry to persons with AIDS, crime victims, and people who are homeless. The meeting provides sustenance through worship and other means, to members as they carry their individual witness and ministry into the world.

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