History of Quakerism
Most worship groups of the Religious Society of Friends (often called Quakers) are organized as monthly meetings. They are so called because they meet for worship with a concern for business once a month; their other gatherings for worship are normally held each First Day (known to non-Quakers as Sunday.).
The Religious Society of Friends was founded by George Fox in England in the mid-seventeenth century. He and other early Friends were deeply grounded in the Christian tradition and the Bible. But their chief emphasis was upon the Living Christ, a spirit believed by them to be immediately present in all human beings and also called the “Seed of God” or the “Inner Light.”
Quakerism by 1700 was widespread in the British Isles, though Quakers were severely persecuted until 1688. Also they had come to the American colonies, notably Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1681 by the Quaker William Penn as a haven for Friends and other persecuted religious groups. The movement went westward in America along with the frontier. Now there are Friends’ meetings or worship groups in all states in the United States, as well as in Canada, Europe, Africa, Japan, Latin America and elsewhere.
History of Wilton Quaker Meeting
Gatherings of persons interested in Friends were first held at the home of Henry Fraad in Weston in 1938. Beginning Twelfth Month 7, 1941, meetings for worship after the manner of Friends were held regularly, first at Henry Fraad’s and later at different places in Norwalk, Westport and New Canaan. In Seventh Month, 1942, the group became the Weston Preparative Meeting under the care of Purchase Monthly Meeting. In Fifth Month, 1947, Purchase Quarterly Meeting accepted the group as one of the constituent monthly meetings under the name of Fairfield County Monthly Meeting. Because other Friends’ meetings had arisen in Fairfield County by 1957, the name was changed in that year to Wilton Monthly Meeting.
In 2017 the name was changed to Wilton Quaker Meeting to highlight our Quaker roots and present a more understandable face to seekers. Wilton Quaker Meeting serves all of Fairfield County.
In 1949 a gift by Gayer and Eleanor Dominick of five acres of land in Wilton was gratefully accepted. On it the first section of the present meeting house was completed in December, 1952. Another section, including the present meeting room, was finished in 1954. An extension of the First Day School and social area in 1964-65 brought the building to its present form.
History of Education at Wilton Quaker Meeting
A First Day School (Sunday School) is one of Wilton Monthly Meeting’s important activities. From its very beginnings, there has been a committee devoted to educating the children of our meeting. The number of children fluctuates, from few to fifty, and at one point overwhelmed the meeting to the point of having to hire a First Day School Director. For the most part, however, Wilton Meeting has taught its many children a well-thought-out program, instilling Quaker values with current events and some biblical stories.
Since 1956 the building has also been used for a nursery school under the care of the meeting. It was called the Helen Gander Friends Nursery School in memory of a Wilton Friend who was very instrumental in the founding of the meeting and of the nursery school. Marjorie Walton was head of the nursery school for many years until she retired in 1996. Since then, Maureen Jackson, who was one of the teachers, has taken on that position. In June, 2012, the Friends Nursery School merged with Connecticut Friends School (CFS) when Maureen Jackson retired.
Connecticut Friends School (CFS) began in September, 1998, founded by a group of parents anxious to give their children a Quaker education that was more formal than the home-schooling they had formerly been given. Wilton Meeting approved, and agreed to take the school under its care. The first classes were held on September 8, 1998, for five children with one teacher, with Kim Tsocanos as Head of School. Classes were held in the Meeting Room. By 2011, with Kim Tsocanos and Mark Dansereau as co-Heads of School, Connecticut Friends School had grown to about 60 students in grades K-8 held in two modular school buildings on Meeting grounds. In 2014, CFS, the school Mark characterized as “a jewel amongst schools in this area because it is an intimate environment where everyone is known and supported,” received “reaccreditation with distinction” from the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). Despite these successes, by 2015, the recession had taken its toll. At the end of that school year, the Board of Directors was forced by declining enrollment to limit the size of the school to the preschool, ages 2-5.
Nicole Artniello is our current Director of our thriving CFS Friends Preschool now located in Hastings Hall and Helen Gander Hall with the two's playground between. CFS is licensed by the State of Connecticut and applications are being accepted. Inquire at 203-762-9860 or at the CFS website at http://www.ctfriendsschool.org/.