This is the second part of our interview with Arch Street Meetinghouse‘s Executive Director, Sean Connolly. The first interview was published two weeks ago. The current story deals with the Historic Arch Street Meetinghouse’s planning for a new outdoor interpretive exhibit. [Read more…] about Part II: Interview with Sean Connolly, Executive Director of Arch Street Meeting House
Arch Street Meeting House
Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust preserves, operates and interprets the meetinghouse and grounds which will serve to increase public understanding of the impact and continued relevance of Quakers and Quaker history. Executive Director, Sean Connolly talks to us about his work at the historic Meeting House. [Read more…] about Interview with Sean Connolly, Executive Director of Arch Street Meeting House
The Board of Trustees of Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust is pleased to announce the appointment of Sean Connolly as its new Executive Director, beginning June 9, 2020.
Sean comes to the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust from Pennsbury Manor, where he oversaw the Education Department. Formerly, he was the Assistant Director for Historic Philadelphia Inc.’s Once Upon A Nation program and the Executive Director of the Manayunk Theatre Company. He has also taught in the Department of History at Drexel University. [Read more…] about Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust Welcomes Sean Connolly as Executive Director
On July 27, during the Democratic National Convention, a ceremony was held at the Arch Street Meeting House to dedicate a historic marker that has since been installed along Arch Street, east of Fourth Street. It is the first such marker issued by the City of Philadelphia, and reads:
Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of the Equality Forum, related that “[i]n 1979, when this conference was held, we were ‘toxic.’ There was no other meeting place,” Lazin said. “The Philadelphia Quakers were the only ones who embraced the LGBT rights activists.”
In his welcoming remarks, the clerk of the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust, Wally Evans, recognized that years ago the LGBT community “at a critical time in history, needed and deserved Friends’ ‘understanding compassion’ and support.”
The Society of Friends have often been noted for their opposition to discrimination and have actively led or participated in numerous civil rights and reform movements in the United States, including: the equality of women, Native American rights, prison reform, the abolition of slavery, the Underground Railway, and woman’s suffrage. In the 1970s, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting focused on LGBTQ equality.
In 1972, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting appointed a Committee on Homosexuality under the Meeting for Social Concerns to work for the assurance of gay civil rights. A year later, the Yearly Meeting went on record as opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation, stating:
“We should be aware that there is a great diversity in the relationships that people develop with one another. The same standards under the law which we apply to heterosexual activities should also be applied to homosexual activities. As persons who engage in homosexual activities suffer serious discrimination in employment, housing and the right to worship, we believe that civil rights laws should protect them. In particular we advocate the revision of all legislation imposing disabilities and penalties upon homosexual activities.”
In conclusion, Evans related that “Friends are uncomfortable in seeking acknowledgment or validation of our social activism. But this is a marker that praises your historic accomplishment; and we take pride that we were able to provide a stage for you thirty-seven years ago. Congratulations for the progress that we have been privileged to witness since 1979 and the anticipated strides that will move us forward.”
The ceremony concluded with the Keynote Speaker, Dustin Lance Black. An American screenwriter, director, film and television producer (Milk, J. Edgar, When We Rise) and LGBT rights activist, Black provided an emotional recounting of personal struggles during his youth as a “closeted student”, a life changing visit to Philadelphia where he learned of the LGBT movement in the city, and his vision of raised awareness of civil rights in the LGBT community He was truly inspiring.
Photo (l. to r.): Wally Evans, ASMHPT; Paul Steinke, Preservation Alliance; Malcolm Lazin; Richard Burns, original attendee of the 1979 conference; Keynote Speaker Dustin Lance Black; and Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla.
I try to put myself in their shoes to see the meetinghouse with new eyes. Is there adequate signage out front? Do people know what the word “meetinghouse” means? Is it clear that the meetinghouse is built on a burial ground? Do they think it is a sacred place? A great place to walk their dog? Just another old building? Are they looking for a spiritual experience or to hear about the Underground Railroad?
One of many special PYM landmarks was recently featured in Friends Journal, in an article called “Ministry of Tourism” by Lynne Calamia, Director of Arch Street Meeting House. In this story, Lynne explores the unique role that Arch Street Meeting House plays in the Old City Philadelphia tourism circuit, and what it’s been like for her to have the opportunity to share about Quaker history and beliefs with the general public. She also highlights a bit of what’s in store for the future through Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust.
Arch Street Meeting House attracts more than 25,000 visitors come to from all around the world. Read the whole article on Friends Journal to learn more.
On Saturday, June 4, 2016, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission unveiled a new historical marker honoring Anthony Benezet (1713–1784). Benezet is remembered as a Quaker abolitionist and advocate for the education of women and African Americans. The Philadelphia Tribune published a news story covering the dedication ceremony that commemorated his life and work:
“The dedication event organized by the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia was held on Saturday. The ceremony was held the park across the street from the new historic marker, which has been placed at the site of his former home, 325 Chestnut St.
“‘This marker draws deserved attention to Anthony Benezet, an unsung hero who had a great impact on the lives of the African Americans of Philadelphia and beyond,’ said Lynne Calamia, director of Arch Street Meeting House.”
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is unveiling an historical marker to commemorate the life and work of Anthony Benezet (1713-1784), a Quaker abolitionist and pioneer in the education of women and African Americans. The dedication event organized by the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia will be held on Saturday, June 4 at 11:00AM. The ceremony is free and open to the public and will be held in the park across the street from the new historic marker, which has been placed at the site of his former home, 325 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.
“This marker draws deserved attention to Anthony Benezet, an unsung hero who had a great impact on the lives of the African Americans of Philadelphia and beyond,” Lynne Calamia, director of Arch Street Meeting House, said. He was tireless and unwavering in his opposition to slavery, writing numerous pamphlets and correspondence on the subject. Benezet is credited with convincing many, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, to promote abolition. He also provided free education for African American boys in his home and started the first public girls’ secondary school. He is buried at Arch Street Meeting House burial ground located at 320 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19106. Attendees do not need to RSVP for this event. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-605-3660.
About the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia
The Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia is a vibrant Quaker congregation located in Old City, Philadelphia. Throughout history, Quakers have been guided to a commitment to work for peace and non-violence, to live simply with integrity, and to treat each person with respect.
For more information, visit archstreetfriends.org.
About the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Created in 1945, they are responsible for the collection, conservation, and interpretation of Pennsylvania’s historic heritage.
About Arch Street Meeting House
Arch Street Meeting House is an historic Quaker house of worship and National Historic Landmark located in the heart of Old City Philadelphia. Built in 1804 atop Philadelphia’s first burial ground on land deeded to Quakers by William Penn in 1701, Arch Street Meeting House welcomes thousands of visitors from all around the world each year to learn more about the impact Quakers have had on the United States. For more information, visit archstreetmeetinghouse.org.