Coanwood Friends' Meeting House

Simple worship is more beautiful that elaborate ritual. Entering the presence of God through the promises of Christ recorded in His own word offers more comfort and satisfaction than vestments, bells, liturgies and incense.The Lord Jesus told the Sarmatian woman of John 4:

“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (NKJV)

The Lord anticipated the time when neither the Jewish Temple nor any Samaritan high place would be deemed necessary to commune with God. Although our worship should be orderly and thought-through, there is no need for it be choreographed with ceremonial formality. This approach was encapsulated in the early Friends’ meeting houses, of which Coanwood in Northumberland is a fine example. Apart from some standard artworks at the rear, such as a copy of Hunt’s Light of the World, the plainness and even austerity of its design is its very essence. There is no imposing furniture, no item or decoration demanding the eye’s attention. The worshipper is compelled to see Christ as He revealed Himself in His word- through the eyes of faith.

Modern Quakers are blind to the gospel; one would find more saving grace in a paper bag blowing in the wind. A plain and empty room is no guarantee of worshipping in spirit and truth. Our own chapel, though not short of eye candy, is plain enough in that regard. Yet Coanwood is, I think, the ultimate expression of Protestantism. “Away with your trifles, trinkets and trivialities!”, I hear it call. "Look rather unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith."