Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice
A Quaker meeting in the northern suburbs of Chicago

The History of the Meeting

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Statue of Mary Dyer; larger versions of this statue are in Boston and on the campus of Earlham College.

Brief History of Lake Forest Friends Meeting

In 1951, Sylvia Shaw Judson, a well known sculptor and resident of Lake Forest, invited Anna Brinton from Pendle Hill, a Pennsylvania Quaker study center, and 50 acquaintances for Sunday tea at Ragdale, her Lake Forest home. The purpose was to hear Anna describe Quakerism and to experience a "sample" Quaker Meeting for Worship. Soon regular Tuesday evening meetings were held in a log cabin on the Ragdale grounds that had been built during the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago as a facsimile of Lincoln's birthplace. George Bent, who headed the American Friends Service Committee's Chicago office, was helpful in gathering like-minded people to attend the Tuesday evening silent Meetings for Worship. Attendance ranged from five into the teens. As winter approached, the fledgling group moved to the Lake Forest Country Day School library. Within a year, attendance numbered in the twenties and regular Meetings were held on Sunday mornings.

On September 23, 1952 an organizing meeting was held. The eight attenders who belonged to Friends were asked to form an Independent Meeting that was established November 1, 1952. In 1953 eight new members joined, and in 1954, ten more. In 1956 Meeting was moved to a larger venue in the Deer Path School library. In 1962, the Meeting was incorporated with 58 members. In 1963, the Meeting joined the Illinois Yearly Meeting.

Early concerns of the Meeting included racially based housing discrimination in the northern suburbs, opposition to conscription for military training, the need for counseling conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War, and sponsorship of a Yugoslavian carpenter to immigrate to the U.S. First day school and forums began in 1963. Topics for forums included Quaker Faith and Practice, Howard Brinton’s Friends for 300 Years, the American Friends Service Committee's pamphlet Speak Truth to Power, and the peace testimonies of various Friends. 

In 1964, Sidney Haskins, a British-born Quaker who later married Sylvia Judson after her husband died, donated three acres of his sheep farm for a Meeting House at the corner of Old Elm and Ridge Roads. Members Lew Walton and Bill Hasskarl prepared architectural drawings, and the Building Fund raised $22,000 towards the estimated cost of $35,000. Initially some members thought the funds would be better spent to relieve human suffering in the world. In time, however, the sense of the members was that the Meeting House could be used constructively by others and would strengthen the ability of the Meeting to fulfill the mission of George Fox articulated in the 17th century "to live in that spirit that takes away the occasion for all wars."

In 1968 the brick Meeting House was completed. Many members assisted with the interior finish, and Sidney Haskins, a skilled carpenter, built all the benches from scrap wood made available from dismantled bunk beds from Fort Sheridan, the nearby Army training base. Regular meetings were then held every Sunday and often on Thursday mornings. For many years a non-Quaker nursery school rented the Meeting House during the week.

In the entrance lobby of the Meeting House is a bronze sculpture by Sylvia Shaw Haskins of Mary Dyer, a 17th century Quaker witness for religious freedom. Mary Dyer's words are a reminder to us of the essential ordering of our lives: "My life not availeth me in comparison to the liberty of truth."