Migration of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) began in around Randolph County, Indiana in 1814. In May of 1873, Quakers in Winchester City began meeting in City Hall until a large church building was erected at the corner of Washington and South East Street in 1874. Quakers in the area grew to the point where they were set off from New Garden Quarterly Meeting and churches (meetings) gathered together to became Winchester Quarterly Meeting of Friends.
In 1897 the original meetinghouse was torn down and replaced with the current building in 1898 that could seat up to 1,500 individuals.
Elkanah and Irena Johnson Beard, the first pastors, gave their home located next to the meetinghouse to the church be used as a parsonage at the church dedication in May of 1898. It remains as a parsonage to this day. At that time, membership in Winchester Quarterly Meeting of Friends was the largest in the world, with almost 4,000 members among 30 plus meetings in Randolph and Delaware Counties.
In 1912 Friends at Winchester became a full Monthly Meeting. After a split in Indiana Yearly Meeting in 2013, Winchester Friends became an independent Quaker Meeting, supporting Friends United Meeting in Richmond, Indiana.
Winchester Friends had the first organ in a Quaker meeting in the world….
…. and was among the first to have a bell tower and the 1875 cast iron bell still rings today. In 1925 the platform under the pipe organ burned and the meeting met in the City Hall once again until repairs could be made and the pipe organ replaced. An educational unit was added to the building in 1970, otherwise the structure has remained unchanged.
In 2010 the State of Indiana installed a Historical Marker in front of the meetinghouse recognizing Quaker contributions in social reform to the county and the world through temperance, woman suffrage and education for American Indians and African Americans.
In 2016 the meetinghouse installed 32 solar panels on the roof to help reduce energy consumption and to encourage green energy usage.
A Short History of Winchester Friends
The first Friends meeting in Winchester was held in City Hall on May 4, 1873, with Elkanah Beard as preacher. At the request of Thomas Richmond Moorman (nephew of James Moorman), Thomas Ward and other area Friends, Elkanah and Irena Beard were asked to move to Winchester to preach and organize the new Friends Meeting. Beards were natives of Lynn, Indiana and from Cherry Grove Monthly Meeting. They had recently returned from three years in India with the London Missionary Society for Friends. Prior to that, they had served for six years during and after the Civil War working with freed slaves in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and founding Southland Institute, a teachers college for freed slaves.
In May of 1873, Elkanah Beard wrote in his journal:
“I believe we are in our right place and the Lord will bless our coming here. It could be a long time before we will see much fruit of our preaching and pastoral care, but I claim what we do for the Lord will be blessed…. Attendance in these first meetings is about thirty to fifty, in a room large enough to seat 500. It looks like a small audience and if I was to only look at the vacant seats I would be discouraged. But my thoughts must run higher than chair backs….
The Friends work in and around Winchester was so successful that in 1874, Winchester Quarterly Meeting was established with seven meetings, including the newly organized Winchester Friends.
A meetinghouse was built on the southwest corner of Washington and East Street as a home for both Winchester Quarterly Meeting and Winchester Friends Monthly Meeting. This new meetinghouse was dedicated on Sunday, December 20, 1874.
By 1897 there were 27 Friends meetings and a membership of 3700 in Winchester Quarterly Meeting. With this growth it was decided to tear down the 1874 meetinghouse and build a larger more modern meetinghouse on the same corner. The last social gathering in the old meetinghouse on May 4, 1897 featured a supper that “fully sustained the reputation of the good ladies of that church for catering to the inner wants of their patrons”. That meal was followed with an old-style Quaker wedding reenactment by Elkanah and Irena Beard (married in November of 1852 under the care of Cherry Grove Monthly Meeting in Lynn, Indiana).
The new (present) meetinghouse was dedicated on May 15, 1898. The cost of the building and furnishings was $15,000. In 1904 a new pipe organ was installed which is thought to be the first pipe organ placed in any Friends meetinghouse in the world.
In 1912 Winchester Friends became a Monthly Meeting. Until that time, it was a preparative meeting under White River Monthly Meeting.
In December of 1925 a fire in the church destroyed the organ and piano and did considerable other damage. Sunday services were held in the Court House while the church was repaired. A new pipe organ was installed (now the only working pipe organ in Winchester) and repair work was completed so that services returned to the church on Easter, April 4, 1926.
The education wing was added in 1970 by contractor, Richard Hinshaw, member of the meeting with help from Pastor Raymond Breaker.
For 150 years, this faith community has gathered together for Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor meetings, Ladies Aid Society meetings, Messenger Society meetings, Missionary Society meetings, Home Comings, Mother’s Day celebrations, Father’s day breakfasts and lunches, singspirations, revival meetings, Rally Days, Friendship Sundays, Sunday School picnics, Vacation Bible Schools, United Society of Friends Women meetings and Bazaars, Apple Dumpling workdays and booths, Sunday School Class parties, church dinners and potlucks, weddings, baby dedications, memorial services, educational lectures, Christmas programs and cantatas, Easter Services and Sunrise Breakfasts, Youth groups, Junior Church services and choirs, trustee work days, Mission Conferences, Yearly Meetings, Quarterly Meetings, choirs, orchestras, Missions and USFW rummage sales, parking lot car washes, and many, many other gatherings. For a century and a half, Friends at Winchester have been a presence in the Winchester City center, participated in the Community Ministerial Associations and worked to be a Christian presence in Randolph County, Indiana.
Today, Winchester Friends Church is one of the oldest church buildings in the city of Winchester.
For 150 years, Friends at Winchester experienced God’s help and Christ’s presence as a faith community. In May of 2023, an Ebenezer Stone will be placed in the front yard of the annex in recognition of God’s help thus far and as a witness to future generations of God’s presence and help in this faith community.
In every way possible,
Winchester Friends seeks to carry out its calling
to make Christ known through meaningful worship, obedient witness,
and sacrificial service, welcoming all who are willing into friendship with God
and into redemptive community together.
Best Special Projects
In 2000, the monthly meeting began seeking ways to express God’s Kingdom in this community with available financial resources. To honor of Ed and Bashia Best, a fund was created to support ministries and concerns with trust distributions “making Christ’s Kingdom and reign tangible – beyond ourselves.” Ministries to receive Best Special Projects funding are prioritized to ministries beyond our Meeting in which our church and/or our individual Friends are significantly involved or have meaningful relationships. Emphasis is placed upon “adding to” efforts that other people have undertaken for the Lord, to help them do it bigger or more effectively. Since 2001, $356,000 has been given away in the name of Christ beyond this faith community.
Earth Care and Social Justice
In an effort to increase awareness about energy conservation, Winchester Friends began seeking ways in 2008 to reduce their carbon footprint. Installing efficient light fixtures, insulate and seal building envelopes and in 2015, Winchester Friends applied and was awarded a $24,000 solar grant through Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light in Indianapolis. 32 solar panels were placed on the annex roof by Third Sun from Athens, Ohio. 28 solar panels were added by Lorhum Electrical in 2022.
Winchester Friends support the Winchester Area Churches and Community Food Pantry through volunteers and a grant for a portion of the cost of the construction of the energy efficient, solar powered building on the Ascension St. Vincent Hospital grounds.
Over the past 25 years, 1200 tree seedlings have been provided to Friends for Earth Day, and a Compassion Garden created in the parking lot of the meeting to grow vegetables and flowers in exchange for donations to support Heifer International.
Our Christian faith calls us to care for creation both for the world’s wellbeing and for our own.
Winchester Friends believe the significant amounts of money they save through energy conservation will be better spent in the Winchester community to feed the hungry through the pantry, to support a representative of the Salvation Army and provide funds for those with shelter needs as well as providing support for other ministries in the community.
Quaker practices form the foundation for our witness in the world. Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship and service are core Quaker values referred to as the SPICES. Winchester Friends seek actively to live those values as a Quaker witness and proclamation of the gospel of Christ.
Winchester Friends Timeline
April 1873 Elkanah and Irena Beard move to Winchester
1873-1891 Pastors: Elkanah and Irena Beard, Henry Merrill.
May 1873 First Sunday Meeting for Worship held
Dec 1874 Winchester Quarterly Meeting house dedicated
Feb 1875 Winchester Friends first meeting as a recognized Preparative Meeting in Quarterly Meetinghouse.
June 1875 Cast iron bell from Buckeye Foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio was purchased ($172.14) and placed in meetinghouse.
1893 Pastor: Abijah Wooten
1893 Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor began
1883-1894 Pastor: Simpson Hinshaw
1895-1902 Pastors: Charles E. Hiatt/Elkanah and Irene Beard
1897 27 Friends Meetings in Winchester Quarterly Meeting with membership of 3700 Friends
June 1897 Winchester Quarterly Meetinghouse torn down to begin construction of the present building
Oct 1897 First cornerstone laid for present meetinghouse
May 1898 Present meetinghouse dedicated and present parsonage given to meeting by Beards.
1903 Pastor: Edward Woodard
1903-1909 Pastor: William J. (and Flora) Sayers
1904 First pipe organ installed in the meetinghouse
1909-1911 Pastor: George C. (and Emily) Levering
1912 Winchester Preparative Meeting becomes Winchester Monthly Meeting
1911-1925 Pastor: Frank Cornell
Dec 1925 Fire in meetinghouse destroys organ, piano and northwest corner of the sanctuary
1926 Fire damage repaired and Meeting for Worship resumes in the meetinghouse with a new Wick’s organ
1927-1934 Pastor: Fred E. (Ethel) Carter
1934-1946 Pastor: Aaron (and Inez) Napier
1946-1947 Pastor: Inez Napier
1948 Winchester Quarterly Meeting deeded meetinghouse to Winchester Monthly Meeting
1947-1950 Pastor: Kenneth (and Ruthanna) Pickering
1950-1953 Pastor: Wilbur (and Lois) Kamp
1953-1958 Pastor: Kenneth (and Ruthanna) Pickering
May 1957 Purchase of property joining church on the west for a future addition
1958-1960 Pastor: Charles (and Lucille) Thomas
1960-1961 Pastor: Inez Napier
1961-1965 Pastor: Homer (and Rebecca) Vail
1965-1975 Pastor: Raymond (and Georgia) V. Breaker
1970 Educational Annex completed
1976 Parsonage completely remodeled and updated
1976-1985 Pastors: Keith and Judy Kendall
July 1978 Purchase of property to east on Washington Street for future parking lot.
1982 New pews and new carpet were installed in the sanctuary
1984 Pipe organ upgraded with new pipes
1985 New sound system in sanctuary
1985-1989 Pastor: Bruce (and Brenda) Bray
1989-1990 Pastor: Harold Smuck
1990 Outside steps to basement covered with glass enclosure
1990-1993 Pastor: Ralph O. (and Diane) Lohman
1993-1998 Pastor: Max (and Kathleen) Huffman
1998- Pastors: Ron and Pam Ferguson
2000 Compassion Garden created in parking lot
2003 Meetinghouse air conditioned
2004-2005 Foundation placed under parsonage back utility room, new roof and inside renovations
2006 Meetinghouse balcony remodeled and three floor lift/elevator installed, new carpet in downstairs parlor and balcony
2007 Steel shingles placed on sanctuary roof
2010 Indiana State Historical Marker placed in front of ‘Meetinghouse, bell tower and chimneys tuck pointed
2011 Energy audit and foam insulation placed in parsonage and meetinghouse
2013 Indiana Yearly Meeting Reconfiguration – Winchester Friends released from IYM
2016 32 solar panels placed on the Annex roof
2016 Parsonage exterior insulated and stuccoed
2017 New boiler in Annex/LED lights installed throughout meetinghouse
2019 Bell tower renovated including roof
2020 COVID 19 – Sunday morning service time change from 9:15 AM to 10 AM – Introduction of Zoom to worship services and semi programmed worship sharing format
2022 New standing seam roof on annex/parsonage garage
2022 28 solar panels added to the annex
2023 Ebenezer Stone placed in annex yard