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Posted May 14, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Quaker group to celebrate 275th anniversary of meetings in the valley

The Quaker Hopewell Meeting House
The Quaker Hopewell Meeting House will hold an open house on Saturday. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Jim Riley stands inside the meeting house
Jim Riley stands inside the meeting house. He is one of 30-40 regular worshippers who attend the Hopewell Centre Meeting from all over the region. Dennis Grundman/Daily

A view from the balcony
A view from the balcony inside the Quaker Hopewell Meeting House. Dennis Grundman/Daily

The interior of the Quaker Hopewell Meeting House
The interior of the Quaker Hopewell Meeting House. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

CLEAR BROOK -- 'Tis a gift to be simple, as the Quaker hymn goes.

That simplicity for the Quaker group in the valley has helped keep it going for 275 years.

Now, the Hopewell Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends plans to celebrate this anniversary with an open house Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at 608 Hopewell Road in Clear Brook. Visitors can hear about Quaker history and see the historic meeting house, graveyard and grounds. There will be games for children and light refreshments, as well as special music.

Jim Riley, a descendant of the Lupton family, the original Quakers in the area, noted that the worshippers were among the earliest settlers in Frederick County and the following remains strong, even if its membership has waned somewhat.

But in 275 years, the Quaker beliefs and way of worship remains unchanged.

"One of the things that I think sets off Quakers from the other Protestant denominations is that we don't have a pastor, we don't have a minister," Riley said. "One of the beliefs then and is still now is that individuals could communicate directly with God."

That defined the style of worship which, as Riley described, is one of silence and meditation. Members sit in silence, though some may stand from time to time and speak to the group. Quakers believe in peace and equality, Riley said.

"They were very active in opposing slavery and very active in promoting women's rights," he said.

The site has been in continuous use since the building was started in 1734 as a house made of logs on land granted by Alexander Ross, an Irish Quaker, and Morgan Bryan, an Irish Presbyterian, according to information from the group. The building burned in 1757, and the eastern part of the present meeting house was built from 1759 to 1761, with another section added in 1794.

According to the group, Ross and Bryan brought about 70 families to the Northern Shenandoah Valley from Pennsylvania in hopes to set up a new Quaker community. They named it "Hopewell" after a place in Lancaster County, Pa.

On the inside, in the large room used for silent worship, old, wooden benches sit around an equally aged table.

"This hasn't changed all that much in 250 years," Riley said. "We've had people come in to work on this building and they say 'this is probably one of the most substantial buildings in the whole area' with the stone walls and the way it was constructed."

"Somewhere along the line we got electricity and we actually got indoor toilets."

The meeting, which is what a Quaker house of worship is called, merged in 1999 with Centre Meeting located in downtown Winchester and the combined meeting is now called Hopewell Centre Meeting.

The Hopewell Meeting House is on the National Register of Historic Places, is registered as a Virginia Historic Landmark and is designated as a Frederick County Historic Site.

Log onto hopecentre.quaker.org or call 667-9114 for more information.

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