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Kalamazoo Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

A Fixture of Kalamazoo's Religious History

Kalamazoo Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Located at 508 Denner Street, the Kalamazoo Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (aka Quakers) has been a fixture on the religious landscape of Kalamazoo since 1946, when a small group of members (Robert Friedman, Bob Bowers, Helen Masters, Carnie Bagnall, Marianne Julius, Esther Nyland) informally came together to worship at Friedman’s Lovell Street home. Before building their current facility, members met at the First Methodist Church. Over the coming decade, the group began to put the organizational pieces together, including the creation of a board and a school.

Their meetinghouse was built in 1958 at its current location in the West Douglas Neighborhood, just north of Mountain Home Cemetery. In 1954, the group was formally recognized by Friends World Committee. According to a 1994 article printed in the Kalamazoo Gazette, it “is believed to be the oldest currently used Quaker meetinghouse built for that purpose in Michigan.” (KG 15 October 1994). In addition to functioning as a gathering place for its congregation, the group has “sponsored refugee families, held work camps, counseled conscientious objectors, conducted peace witnessing, operated a neighborhood playground (Adda Dilts Peace Park), and sponsored a summer meal program for youth.”

Adda Dilts
Kalamazoo Gazette, 9-5-1970

The nearby park and playground owned by the group is named after Adda Dilts, a longtime member of the congregation whose vocal opposition to war and injustice lead to the honor. The park was developed in 1965 and later renovated in the 1990s. Dilts was a teacher for many years in the Kalamazoo area before she struck out as a peace and social justice activist in the early 1940s. Dilts was a longtime member of ‘The Friends’ from 1958-1971. She described the church as a “liberal branch of the Quaker movement which believes in the equality of man, the continuing revelation of God’s spirit and pacifism.” In 1979, to commemorate the group’s silver anniversary, Dilts penned a brochure of recollections that provides the reader with a thorough timeline of the group’s evolution, including history of its members, activities, practices and philosophies.

 

 

 

Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, February 2023

Sources

Articles

“Adda Dilts retiring for the third time”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 5 September 1970, page A2, column 5

“Quakers celebrate 40 years here”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 15 October 1994, page A6, column 2


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Quakers

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