History of Sandy Spring Meeting
The Sandy Spring Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends is one of the oldest Quaker Meetings in Maryland. The earliest written accounts of the Sandy Spring Friends dates to 1753. The first recorded burial in the graveyard is from 1754.
The Meeting property was gifted by James Brooke in 1770, at which time a log house was used for worship. The brick Sandy Spring Meeting House was constructed in 1817 and has been in continual use since then. The Meeting’s Community House was built in 1859 originally as the Sandy Spring Lyceum, which was used for educational lectures. As early as 1797, Sandy Spring Quakers organized schools for local Quaker and non-Quaker children, and naturally the Lyceum became the property of the Meeting in 1923.
Since the early days of Friends’ worship, women have practiced as equals to men. Men and women would worship together but held separate meetings for business. The Sandy Spring Meeting House was constructed with a wood-paneled partition that separated the men’s meeting from the women’s.
Quakers have long acted in opposition to war and historically been at the forefront of the conscientious objection movement. Friends also were the first Christian faith to require its members to free all people held as slaves. In 1790 the Baltimore Yearly Meeting—of which Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting is a part—reported that all members kept no one in bondage. Both positions were motivated by not political reasons but instead by convictions of faith.
Through the first half of the 20th century, the Meeting was split due to religious and ideological differences. Sandy Spring Friends were known as Hicksites, influenced by Elias Hicks who in the 1820s called on Friends to seek God in experiential religious practice. The Ashton Meeting was Orthodox Friends who believed and practiced in keeping with a literal reading of the Bible. The two Meetings worshipped virtually right next door to each other. The two Meetings reunited in 1950.
Quakers in the 20th century were active in connection with civil rights and equality for women, helped with the resettling of Jewish refugees from Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, planned the strategy that led to the creation of the Americans with Disability Act, sought to end the death penalty, pressed for arms reductions, and participated in the environmental movement. In keeping with a commitment to education, Sandy Spring Friends School was established by the Meeting in 1961 and continues to serve as a co-ed preparatory school for children Pre-K through 12th grade.
The 21st century offers new and ongoing challenges. Sandy Spring Friends are active in many issues to which the belief in “that of God in every person” demands attention, including prison reform, environmental justice, carbon-free living, violence prevention, reparations to Native Americans, peace and demilitarization, and education equality.
After more than 250 years, we are still looking to make progress.