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Clear Creek Quakers have been here since the 1830s

Neil Mesner and Grace Mesner take time to reflect at the Clear Creek Meeting house.
Neil Mesner and Grace Mesner take time to reflect at the Clear Creek Meeting house.

MCNABB – The Clear Creek Quakers have been a quiet, steady presence in the Putnam County area since the 1830s. Many of the families immigrated to the area and settled in the Clear Creek part of Magnolia Township.

After holding meetings on an informal basis in family homes, the group organized into a formal Monthly Meeting, which is the name for their local church. The group initially built a meeting house as well as a cemetery. As the group grew and time passed, the initial Meeting House was outgrown and in 1867 a larger building was built nearby to the old Meeting House. The Clear Creek Friends then grouped with other Quaker organizations in Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois to form a Yearly Meeting in 1874.

"The meeting house today is the original Quaker meeting house for the Illinois Yearly Meeting," said Grace Mesner, a member of the church. "They then purchased some land across the road and made it into a campground."

To complete the needs for a Yearly Meeting, the Yearly Meeting group purchased the house next door to the present building and had renovated it according to their needs.

Mesner estimated there are six to eight Yearly Meetings across the United States a year. These Yearly Meetings are made up of the smaller groups throughout the area they are based in. The Clear Creek Quakers have stepped up to assume the responsibility of maintenance for the properties.

There are two types of Quaker services. One is pastor led; and one is not. The Quaker faith is based in peace. Members practice simplicity, integrity, equality and community service. Early on, Quakers have helped in reforming prisons, helping free slaves and giving them an education, working toward equality for women and also promoting care for the earth.

Locally, a typical Quaker service has people sitting in silence, communing with God on a one to one basis. According to Mesner, God will reveal a message to the individual. That message is sometimes shared and sometimes not.

"It is almost the opposite of other services," said Jeannie Marvin, a member of the church. "Instead it is more listening or something. It's a small distinction but you are listening as an individual."

The Clear Creek Quakers average about an hour for their weekly services. A wedding service is totally in the hands of the bride and groom.

Marvin said, "We had one where they got up and married themselves. Afterwards they signed the certificate."

The Quaker services also address the needs of the kids in the congregation. Children are often brought in for the last 10 minutes of the worship service so that they can share what they have learned earlier.

Attendees for the weekly Clear Creek Meetings come from Ottawa, Bloomington, Washington, Lacon, Granville, Peoria and even Burlington, Iowa.

The Illinois Yearly meeting was held starting June 19-23. The theme for the event was "Joy: Still a Gift of the Spirit."

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