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09. What's in the Meeting House? Come and see...
The congregation sits in 'line pews' that were built in 1825 to seat a typical family of five: two parents, two children, and one grandparent. The pews have doors to keep out the cold drafts. Originally, the church was unheated, and families made footstools to keep their feet elevated off the cold floor. The pews were numbered so that families who paid a 'pew tax' would always sit in their family pew. There is no longer a pew tax, and you are welcome to sit where you wish.
The table at the front of the Meeting House may be used to hold flowers, the Charles Joy bowl of sand for Joys and Concerns candles, the chalice, and other displays pertinent to the current worship service. We have also used it variously for panel discussions or for Unitarian Universalist Christian Communion services. It is not strictly speaking an Altar, though it could be used as one.
The speaking point up the stairs in the front of the church or apse. The 'high pulpit' of mahogany is not the original pulpit, which supposedly was much higher and thrust out into the congregation like the bow of a ship. Although now we use a microphone system, the church before electricity used the sound-focusing feature of the rounded apse behind the pulpit to project the sound into the congregation. If you stand at the pulpit and speak, try backing up (don't fall off the platform!) while you are speaking. You will reach a spot where the sound is magnified.
Engraved and cast plaques at the front of the church commemorate our past ministers. Plaques around the sides of the Meeting House commemorate past parishioners from the early days of the Stone Church.
The Deering Bible
The two large volumes that sit on the sides of the Pulpit were gifts to the church from Parishioner Dorcas Deering in the early days of the 1800s.
The Vinegar Bible
In a display case at the back of the Meeting House, the so-called 'Vinegar Bible' was printed in 1717. See if you can figure out why it is called 'Vinegar Bible.'
The Simon Willard gallery clock dates from 1802, and was originally installed in the earlier First Parish building that is referred to as "Old Jerusalem."
Cannon BallsWe have a small collection of 'hot shot' cannon balls that were fired at the city by Captain Mowatt in 1776, when the British burned Portland (then called Falmouth). The balls were removed from the walls of Old Jerusalem when it was taken down after the Stone Church was built. One cannon ball was welded into the chain of our chandelier to remind us of that incident. Several other cannon balls are collected under one of the front right pews. Be careful picking them up. They are of course no longer hot, but they are very heavy.