Why I am a Quaker There is a wide range of belief and outlook among Quakers, and as Quakerism is not defined by a creed, it is perhaps best understood by the actual experience of Quakers. In 2010 the Quakers at Hartington Grove Meeting were invited to write short statements, preferably in not more than 100 words, about “Why I am a Quaker”. The statements were displayed at an exhibition for Quaker Week in October 2010, and later printed in a popular booklet. They are now available here for anyone interested in what these Quakers actually think and feel. Angela Dyer I am a Quaker because sitting in silence at Meeting For Worship has become as necessary for my well-being as food and drink; because I like to examine the issues of the day for myself and many Quakers are independent thinkers. Quakers do not waste time debating theological matters but rather get on with reforming unjust systems and negotiating the resolution of conflict and so on. Quakers do not preach, they practise their beliefs. Ann Barnes Perhaps I should be asking ‘Why did it take me so long to find the Quakers?’ For finding it has felt like a homecoming. I have found the beauty of silent worship - the silence where I may find my Inner Self and seek to listen to that deep, Inner, Sacred Voice. I have found the challenge and freedom of a form of worship that holds no dogma, creed, liturgy, ritual or clergy. And yet this has been no home-coming - rather a stepping out on a new phase of that most challenging of life’s journeys, the search for Truth, for inner peace and for a better understanding of what it means to belong within the Christian faith. Ann Hemsley I’ve been a Christian since I was 20. After qualifying as a teacher I moved around teaching in various schools in different counties. I always sought out a lively church, regardless of denomination. As I’ve grown older I’ve not always appreciated being told what to do in ‘church’: stand up, sit down, sing, be quiet! Rather, learning to meditate has developed my enjoyment of times of quiet contemplation. Now, as a member of the family of Quakers, the deep silence and thoughtful spoken ministry, together with a strong peace testimony and love of social justice, is helping me to wholeness. A Local Friend In Meeting I enjoy the simplicity, the silence and lack of doctrine and dogma. In the presence of Friends, I “come home” to myself and feel accepted as I am, in the moment. And as part of the world-wide community of Friends I am comforted and strengthened by a sense of longed-for belonging, which allows me to hope and trust that my quiet presence, seen or unseen, can and will in its turn communicate comfort, strength and courage to others in our world who share this longing. Bob Diamond I am a scientist, and a former colleague of mine once referred to religion as “organized ignorance”. He was referring to the historical tendency, as he saw it, of the Church and non-Christian religions to ‘explain’ everything in religious terms, which built concepts based on supposition, and which, at best, only replaced the unknown with another unknown, God. Jesus said “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in Truth”. This says nothing about the origin of the universe or the origin of life; questions which are best left to cosmologists and molecular biologists. Nor does it describe that Spirit, which, I think, is the Spirit which led Jesus to lead his life the way that he did. I find in Quakerism a community focused on the teachings of Jesus, which is respectful of life and the universe, but free of an outmoded view of creation. Celia James I became a Quaker in my forties because I like the freedom of a universal approach to Spirituality. Advices and Queries 7: Spiritual learning continues throughout life, and often in unexpected ways. There is inspiration to be found all around us, in the natural world, in the sciences and arts, in our work and friendships, in our sorrows as well as in our joys. Elizabeth As a child I regularly attended church with the family, first Methodist, then Anglican. I was confirmed as a teenager. At University I initially drifted away from church, but after a personal life changing experience it again became part of my life, and continued to be in my first home. Meanwhile I had met Kevin, who was uncomfortable with the church, but had a deep faith of his own. We decided to try Quakerism together, and were both comfortable with the form of worship and the Quaker beliefs. We applied for Membership together, and 25 years on we’re definitely Quakers! Finola O’Sullivan Respect for the unique ‘Light that is shining’ in each human being lies at the heart of our Quaker faith. I try to follow this guiding principle in every situation which I encounter daily! Hannah Morrow I’m a Quaker because I feel Quakerism sees to the heart of Jesus’ teachings and turns them into a modern way of life. All people are equal, women, men, young and old, people of every race and status. Respect for all. We should speak the truth and especially speak “truth to power” ie challenge those in authority, especially over abuse of power We should wage peace ie by negotiation rather than guns. Finally, we should live simply. In a nutshell, Quakerism helps me live my faith…. a bit at a time. Hilary Painter I am a Quaker because it is the only branch of Christianity which has invested itself in peace, equality, truth and simplicity right from its inception. And because as Quakers we believe that all can experience the Light and that this is the source and guiding principle of our lives. It works for me. Imogen Ecclestone Most of my life I have attended a Church of England Church. In my childhood we went to an Anglo-Catholic Church which shaped my spirituality. For many years I had felt unhappy with C of E services and was mostly helped by being a member of a Charles de Foucauld Fraternity which centred its life on Silent Adoration, mutual sharing and concern for the socially deprived. I came to the Quakers a few years ago having over time met some very impressive Friends and felt that I should like to learn to be a little like them. Their social concern and silent prayer appealed strongly. Jackie Bartlett The Quaker notion of “The Indwelling Light” makes absolute sense to me and offers a form of Truth that is capable of being challenged and yet which returns to the same place despite doubts. On a good day or in a gathered Meeting for Worship the Light is a tangible presence; on a less good day or when Meeting has appeared to be more fragmented, the Light remains as a promise waiting to be rediscovered. Janet I am a Quaker because I have found a peaceful home amongst Friends. Experience of bereavement has lead me to share their view that everyone has a spark of Light within that should be cherished. As a lifelong student and sociologist, I share their understanding that life is a process of discovery and appreciate their emphasis on equality, acceptance of competing perspectives and freedom from dogma and ritual. Jill Quakerism offers me the space to develop my own spiritual notions and values arising from my own experience. I am able to do this because Quakers refuse to tie their beliefs down to a creed or set of rules, and as they meet together for silent worship, each one can interpret their experience in their own way. A Quaker Meeting is a caring community of like minded people with a diverse understanding of the meaning of God, prayer and worship. Hence there is room for me! Jonathan I’ve been a Quaker for all of my life having been brought up in a Quaker family. It’s become part of my life now and has helped shape my view of the world. Now, meeting is more than just part of my routine, I find that it is an opportunity to break away from the busyness of my life, and find the hour of silent worship very useful. It’s also a really good way to meet other young people who share my views through Quaker youth events. Kevin Until I discovered that Quakers hadn’t all sailed to America and disappeared (as was my flaky understanding from school RE), my religious beliefs, for what they were, were a deep trust in “something that might be what some call God” but I’d an insurmountable discomfort with the paraphernalia and doctrination of conformist religions. As a Quaker I have the same beliefs. Indeed I am a Quaker because I have these beliefs, emphatically not vice versa. Now I can share with others a self-honest way of worship from which I can truly draw strength and guidance for my daily life. Laurence Ambrose I read Harvey Gillman’s book A Light that is Shining and found that Quaker values: straight dealing, simplicity, pacifism, conservation, toleration, were the same as mine. That was in 1990. Out of curiosity I attended a Meeting for Worship, was immediately made welcome, felt I was among friends and have hardly missed a Meeting since. A fellow Quaker, Eileen, became my wife and we enjoyed perfect happiness till she died in July 2009. Since then the Meeting has given me unobtrusive, sympathetic support in my loss. Finding Eileen was the happiest event of my life - closely followed by finding Quakers. Liz Since my 20’s I was continually bumping into influential and memorable Quaker founded groups. I came from a fully involved Church going family but this was followed by alternating periods of spiritual commitment and none. My searching led me to Hartington Grove Quakers with a wonderful sense of relief and “coming home” Why? The silent worship; a belief in, and personal realisation of “something other” but without binding dogma and creed; seeing “that of God” in all people; being part of a worldwide movement acting out its beliefs with love and care on a daily basis. And so much more. Liz Megson In my 50+ years, everyday life has become noisier, faster, more demanding. I’ve been a practising Christian in a ‘conventional’ church all that time, but now need opportunities for quiet independent exploration of spiritual matters, with some guidance, but at my own pace. Attending Meeting for Worship currently meets my spiritual need, complementing the more formal ministry of my church. It’s early days, but I feel I’m beginning on a gentle, liberating journey, which is already bearing fruit, moving towards a calm resolution of long-standing concerns in my life. Lizzie Twose I discovered Quakers just before I retired and so found myself in the extraordinary silence of their Meeting for Worship. Being brought up in a Methodist Manse and used to rousing hymns and sermons the silence felt surprisingly safe as well as inviting. It was a joy to join this group of spiritual seekers, people apparently unfettered by religious dogma. I spent a great deal of time at Quaker Study centres discovering the 4 great Quaker Testimonies, to Truth, Equality, Simplicity and Peace. Many Friends by “letting their lives speak” have contributed to making our society a more just and compassionate one. The Society of Friends is a very busy, warm, caring community, where many of us feel we have “come home.” Margaret Banks When I came to Quakers I found much more than I expected or hoped for. The value of silent worship is not just the absence of noise but a listening silence, and a freedom - not a free for all - but a freedom with discipline. There was also a loving and caring community, where there were friends with whom to share all this and more. Margaret Smith It was the Quaker way of silent worship that first drew me to attend a Friends’ Meeting House on Sunday mornings. During my first visit I felt that I belonged to the meeting and that I had found a spiritual home. From babyhood I was brought up to attend noisy, expressive and exceedingly exuberant Sunday gatherings with drums and bands, banners and tambourines, hearty singing and much speaking. This was all very enjoyable until in one such gathering, many years ago now, I first began to long for the quietness of a Friends’ meeting house. The silence and simplicity of Quaker meetings is healing and revitalizing to spirit and mind and body while those present send out their positive, caring, supportive and prayerful thoughts for each other. Martin I am a Quaker because I was brought up a Quaker, but that does not explain why I still attend Meeting for Worship, nor why I chose to become Clerk of Junior Yearly Meeting 2010. Over the years my belief has changed but Quakerism has always been accepting and encouraging. Even now when I could barely be called a Christian, the diversity that exists amongst Friends means I feel included. The silence is powerful, perhaps because of the presence of some kind of God or Spirit but also because it is a time to reflect and sort through your thoughts. Michael Snellgrove First of all I am very much a seeker. I come from a Christian tradition. My late father (lost when I was 6) was a Lutheran minister in the ‘Confessional Church’. My stepmother was an inspirational Quaker for me for many years. I love the silence of the Quaker Meeting for Worship, which gives the space for the light to shine through from everyone. I love George Fox’s - “to come to walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone”. I delight in James Nayler’s - “There is a spirit that delights to do no evil nor to avenge wrongs”. The Quaker testimonies inspire me. I try to believe in the power of goodness, of justice, mercy love and truth as the meaning of life and thereby “to walk humbly” with my God. I am ‘at home’ with the Quakers (well, most of the time!). Pat Revell A seed was sown when I attended a Quaker wedding when was in my twenties and began to grow when I attended Jesus Lane Meeting in my forties, (curious about what went on during the time there). During one Meeting a piece of Ministry made me realise that there was not any proof of God, but that one knew that there was a Spirit that was in us all and in the universe whom we called God. Of this I was convinced. It tore me apart that I had wasted all those years trying to escape and deprived my children of that knowledge. During the intervening years since then Quaker Meeting has been my nourishment and my extended family. Patricia Vliestra Why I am interested in Quakerism: At meetings I experience moments when the intangible becomes tangible. It is here that I can seek the Truth free of dogma. I feel accepted by the community not for any reason other than being just as I am. Peter Banks For me a Quaker Meeting is a group of people, each with their individual outlook, who worship together and support each other. We don’t need leaders who insist on certain beliefs. We learn from each other, and from our Quaker past. The calm atmosphere of Meeting for Worship is both an inspiration for and an expression of equality, peace, and sometimes even simplicity. Ralph Nimmann Why not? After having been an attender for 6 years, one day I discovered that I could not find any single argument against joining the Quakers. So I joined. This one hour of silent gathering, experiencing a sacred space inside as well as around us, is a refreshing oasis of peace in my otherwise busy life. I admire the tolerance, courage and persistence of my fellow Friends getting actively involved in so many good causes - Quakers really walk their silence. Rosie Robison Quakers think about things. However, they do not necessarily feel the need to reach definite conclusions, or to be ‘right’. Everyone’s answers to questions of how to live will be different, and that is fine. I find Quakerism encourages an active interest in the world, and the people in it. In my experience, Quakers are often older than they seem! I find their long-lived mental and physical well being, and their wisdom, very inspiring. Sheila J Gatiss I am a Quaker because I feel I am given freedom to be myself. I am able to make my own decisions about my faith based on my experience and in dialogue with those who share values of truth, peace, simplicity and equality. I am committed to the Quaker way–Silence for the basis of worship, the Meeting for Worship for Business, and the discipline of “right ordering”. Simon I guess a more relevant question is why am I still Quaker? I was brought up in a Quaker family but not forced into Quakerism. I still value the silence incredibly as an antidote to the bustle of daily life and try to live my life by the testimonies, I believe whole-heartedly the principle of equality. But I also respect the freedom that Quakerism gives you, with no set beliefs or creeds I feel free. Free to live life. Stewart Hemsley Having been involved with a number of ‘fundamentalist’ fellowships with rigid views of ‘scripture’ I finally had the courage to break from this rigidity and viewed the issues of peace and justice as being central to the teachings of Jesus found in the four gospels. To work this out requires space and freedom from dogmas that perpetuate systems that have little to do with peace and justice and rely on unquestioning membership. The Society of Friends gives me room to work out my own ‘salvation’ holding a peace testimony along with a strong social justice commitment. Sue Dicks I became a Quaker because I wanted to express and practise my Christianity in a different way. It was a way I associated with inclusiveness, the equality of all worshippers, and individually imaginative interpretations of the basics of our faith within a corporate discipline and a supportive community. Tony Higgins I am attracted to Quakerism because: I feel at home in meetings devoid of dogma and preaching, and when I read George Fox’s Diaries about his spirit-led and uncompromising life, about “meeting that of God in every man”, “seeking that spirit which inspired the bible to be written”, “opening to the spirit” I found this spoke directly to me. In my time as an attender I have met numbers of people who honestly try to follow GF’s example in inward waiting and outward action - supporting prisoners for example and other oppressed minorities - this has impressed me and made me want to be a part of the Quaker tradition.