It started with a young man's quest for God.
George Fox was a seeker. A deeply spiritual young man, he sought in vain to find solace in the rigid doctrines of the established churches in 17th century Britain.
Where to turn? What to believe? Fox struggled in despair until he heard the answer to his prayers: "There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition." Fox took that answer as a divine revelation, leading to the conviction that the spirit of Christ is a living presence within all people.
To Fox, this meant that the rituals and practices of the church, while comforting to many, were not essential to obtain Christ's saving grace. All that was necessary was to follow what Fox described as the "Inner Light" of Jesus residing in each person. It was a revolutionary idea for its time.
Fox soon gathered like-minded believers into a fellowship which became known as the Religious Society of Friends. It took its name from the statement of Jesus at the Last Supper: "You are my friends if you do what I command." (John 15:14-NIV) Fox did not intend to start a new denomination, but a "society" of Christians reclaiming the spirit of the early church.
Opponents of the new movement ridiculed them by remarking how members would "quake" while experiencing the presence of the living Christ in their worship. Rather than take offense, Friends proudly adopted the derogatory nickname and are known to this day as Quakers.
Friends in Muncie
Friends had a history of several decades in Muncie before they built and dedicated the present meetinghouse at Adams and Cherry streets on Feb. 2, 1908.
The first meetinghouse built for Friends worship was constructed in 1879 at Mulberry and Wall (now Seymour) streets. It was soon too small.
Friends Memorial Church took its present name on Feb. 4, 1912 when the new meetinghouse on West Adams Street was rededicated in memory of Mary Goddard, wife of long-time presiding clerk Joseph Goddard.
In 1917, Joseph Goddard purchased a residence to the east for a parsonage. In 1950, it was converted into a youth Sunday School and remained in use until it was razed in 1963. Other properties near the meetinghouse have been purchased and, in some cases, razed for additional parking.