Two Quaker paintings

Copies of these two famous pictures are found in many Quaker meetings and Sunday School rooms. In spite of their universal presence, few people know the story behind them. They were painted by James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932), a Quaker from Ireland.

The Presence in the Midst

This picture shows Jesus, seemingly standing in the middle of a silent Quaker meeting for worship.

The title of the painting is based on Matthew 18:20 where Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

The setting for the painting is the historic Quaker meeting house at Jordans, Buckinghamshire, England. Penrose said, “It seemed as I contemplated all those who had worshiped there in the past, to be surrounded by them in imagination as if they were gathered there. I pondered on what it was that gave them all their power; for they had power in those bygone times, and then I realized that it was the presence of Christ amongst them.”

None Shall Make Them Afraid

This picture shows a scene at Easton Friends Meeting in New York. In 1777 during the Revolutionary War, Native Americans were recruited by the British to attack settlements in the Hudson valley.

When most of the white settlers retreated into fortified towns, the Quakers stayed in their homes and went about their daily business unarmed and unharmed.

One Sunday, Easton Friends were gathered for worship when a war party arrived. One Quaker, Robert Nesbitt, knew their language and went outside and invited the Native Americans to join them for worship. Others Quakers went home and brought food to share with them. According to legend, when the war party left, they placed a white feather over the door, to tell others that the Quakers were people of peace.

The title of the painting comes from Micah 4:4, “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.”

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