The other day, Betty Warner asked me a question: “What is the percentage of Quakers at Kendal at Longwood these days?” She wanted to know, because she may be writing about it in the context of Kendal’s 50-year history. (Kendal was founded by Quakers, but even in its earliest days it never had a majority of Quaker residents.)

Betty’s question got me thinking. There are two obvious sources for the information she asked about. One is the directory that Kendal Friends Meeting keeps; the other is the “Religious Preference” entry in the “Who’s Here” directory of the campus. They each approach it differently.

Kendal Friends Meeting directory. The Kendal Friends Meeting directory (which I have access to as a Meeting member) provides a good starting point. There are only 27 Kendal residents who are members of the Meeting (not counting two from Cartmel), but more than that attend meeting every Sunday (either in person or via Zoom). This is a reflection of the fact that “membership” is a somewhat fluid concept among Quakers and often there are people who are very active in a given Meeting who aren’t members.

In Kendal’s case, there are 52 “attenders” and 9 “affiliates” in the directory (many of whom retained their membership in another Meeting, where they no longer attend, after moving to Kendal). That gives a total of 88 members, attenders, and affiliates. Those who attend Kendal Meeting on Sunday mostly fit in one of these categories.

In addition, there are 23 Kendal residents who are listed in the directory as Quakers but who do not fall into one of the categories above. 17 of them are members of some other Meeting; and in most cases, it is a Meeting relatively close to Kendal where they generally attend.  The remaining 6 consider themselves Quakers but the directory does not indicate membership in any Meeting. Adding these 23 Quakers brings the total to 111.

Quakers in “Who’s Here”. Another source of information is our online directory, Who’s Here. Who’s Here consists of 22 PDF pages. Given that “Religion” or “Religious Preference” is a field that is present in a majority of the entries, you might assume that it would be simple to search for Quakers. But you would be mistaken: Who’s Here is only partially searchable, and the results are unpredictable unless you are just searching for people’s names.

A search for “Quaker” yields only 10 residents, a search for “Quakerism” yields 6 more, and “Society of Friends” (the official name of the denomination) yields another 10. That’s a total of 26. And yet, there are dozens more entries that have those words in them and that don’t show up in any of the searches.

Betty, who understands how the Who’s Here data is compiled, was well aware of the search limitations. She was also able to warn me that there was no easy way to download the data into another format.

I didn’t want to try to count Quakers by looking through all of the 400+ records in Who’s Here, and so (without much hope) I decided to explore alternative methods. To my surprise, I was able to extract the text of Who’s Here, one PDF page at a time, and paste it into Excel. From there, with a fair amount of messing around, I was able to extract just the “Religion” and “Religious Affiliation” fields. 312 of the entries contained one of these fields.

Your religion? At Kendal, it’s not that simple. One striking feature of the Religious Affiliation fields is how much they vary. Many residents listed more than one affiliation. In some cases, they mentioned the religion they were raised in, but didn’t indicate their current preference. Some people provided a list of various religious influences. Some provided answers such as “theology in transition” or “eclectic”. Some said “none”. An analysis of these diverse responses could be the topic of a different blog post.

I did my best to sort out those who were Quakers, or whose primary affiliation was Quaker, and that gave me a total of 92. So based on Who’s Here, there are about 92 Quakers here.

There are about 410 residents at Kendal, including both independent living and the health center. In percentage terms, that means Quakers are between 27% (based on the Kendal Meeting directory count of 111) and 22% (based on the Who’s Here count of 92) of the resident population. If someone asks you about the proportion of Quakers at Kendal, you can safely say “approximately a quarter”.

Quakers are, as they always have been, a minority at Kendal; but they are still the largest minority. Based on the Who’s Here data, Episcopalians are a strong second (51 residents). They are followed by Presbyterians (26), Unitarians (23), and Catholics (23).  

I’d be interested in hearing your opinions about the Quaker influence at Kendal. Is it important? What impact does it have? Is it waning? You can type your thoughts into the comment box under “Leave a Reply” below.