A Brief History of Columbia Friends Meeting

Quakers were a significant group in the population of the Carolinas from the late 1600s through the 1700s, and an early governor of the Carolinas was a Quaker. A number of meetings were established in North Carolina, while in South Carolina there were sizeable meetings in Charleston, Camden, and Newberry.

However, as Friends became increasingly uncomfortable with slavery, large numbers of Quakers in the early 1800s left the Carolinas for the newly opened Northwest Territory, settling in what is now Ohio and Indiana. Quakerism survived in North Carolina, where there was a larger number of Quakers, but the meetings in South Carolina were so reduced in number that all were eventually laid down as the few Friends who remained drifted into neighboring churches.

It was not until the second half of the 20th century that Quakerism again became a presence in South Carolina. Columbia Meeting traces its origins to 1967 although an unrelated group held meetings for worship in Columbia in the 1950s. The meeting grew slowly through the 1970s and 1980s, meeting on the University campus, at student religious centers adjacent to the campus, and at the homes of members.

In 1994 the meeting moved to its present location at Harmony School, a privately operated school with a child-centered philosophy that is compatible with Quaker approaches to education. Relations with the school have been congenial, and the relationship is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.

The meeting has grown gradually, reaching an average Sunday attendance of about 30, with enough children that we now have separate first day school classes for older and younger age groups. Members of the meeting strive to make the teachings of Jesus a part of their everyday lives. This is expressed through many social concerns ranging from peace issues and opposition to the death penalty to efforts on environmental issues.