Quaker exhibition in Spalding shows World War I ‘absolutists’

QUAKER EXHIBITION: Roger Seal (right), of Spalding Quaker Meeting, with the Rev John Bennett at St Mary and St Nicolas Church where an 'Alternative Voices' exhibition is running until November 20.  Photo by Tim Wilson.  SG101017-110TW.
QUAKER EXHIBITION: Roger Seal (right), of Spalding Quaker Meeting, with the Rev John Bennett at St Mary and St Nicolas Church where an 'Alternative Voices' exhibition is running until November 20. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG101017-110TW.
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The hardships faced by men whose beliefs stopped them from fighting in World War I can now be seen at a new exhibition in Spalding.

Alternative Voices, now on display at St Mary and St Nicholas Church in The Vista, is a visual account of the consequences for the Quaker movement of Britain declaring war on the “Triple Alliance” of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in 1914.

It wasn’t just the voice which simply said ‘Your Country Needs You’, but another voice which said ‘humanity, your brethren and God need you to question what path you should take

Roger Seal, of Spalding Quaker (Friends) Meeting

Organised in partnership between the Quakers of Spalding and Brant Broughton, between Sleaford and Newark, the exhibition shows how members of the religion had a “conscientious objection” to being called up for war.

Roger Seal, of Spalding Quaker (Friends) Meeting, said: “When conscription became compulsory in March 1916, there were a number of voices making a claim for people’s allegiance.

“It wasn’t just the voice which simply said ‘Your Country Needs You’, but another voice which said ‘humanity, your brethren and God need you to question what path you should take’.”

Quakers or “absolutists” who tried to claim exemption from military service faced a tribunal which often punished Quakers with imprisonment for them and their family.

Mr Seal said: “We’re very grateful to the Reverend John Bennett and St Mary and St Nicolas Church for hosting this exhibtion which is making people aware that their ultimate umpire is their inner voice and God who will show them the path to take, if they listen and are attentive.”

The exhibition is open to the public until Monday, November 20.

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