‘Biggest Quaker congregation’ marking 60 years in existence

A party was held during the summer at the South Belfast Quaker Meeting House to mark the 60th anniversary
A party was held during the summer at the South Belfast Quaker Meeting House to mark the 60th anniversary

An open day is to be held marking the 60th anniversary year of what is thought to be the island of Ireland’s largest Quaker congregation – but if you pop in, please make sure not to mention porridge oats.

South Belfast Quakers – whose open day will be held today – were first formed as a congregation in 1967 by people including Queen’s University professor Sir Charles Carter.

Bronwen Haire, a proud member of South Belfast Quakers, said the organisation – also known as the Religious Society of Friends – was often misunderstood.

She said: “What most people seem to know about Quakers is the porridge oats.

“But in fact Quakers have nothing to do with porridge oats.

“The porridge oats people stole the name because Quakers were known for their honesty and integrity, so they wanted to use those values to promote their brand.

“More accurately, Quakers are known for their philanthropy.

“For example in Belfast, Forster Green Hospital was given by a Quaker named Forster Green after five of his children died of TB.”

She added: “For me, being a Quaker means that I feel valued and accepted. It is amazing to meet regularly with people who share my most important values.

“I value meeting together in silence, when the good in each of us has a chance to be raised up.”

Of the South Belfast Quakers meeting she said: “We are the largest meeting in Ireland, however in comparison with other churches we’re small.

“We’ve about 50 adults and 20 children.”

There are around 14 Quaker meeting houses in Northern Ireland, and close to 30 in Ireland as a whole.

Mrs Haire said the Quakers had set up an organisation called Quaker Service which works with families, particularly families of prisoners.

She explained that the Quaker vision was for a Northern Ireland “where all people are valued and fulfil their potential, regardless of their circumstances or choices in life”.

An open day will take place at the South Belfast Quaker Meeting House at 22 Marlborough House today from 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Mrs Haire said everyone was welcome to call in.