Quaker Week: My Journey to the Society of Friends, by Sheila Galligan
When I first visited Southport Meeting in 1990 I definitely felt a sense of ‘home-coming’. This seemed to be a place where I belonged and could grow. It had been a long and searching journey with some sadness which I still feel at the loss of my original church.
I was born in 1951, the fourth child of a family of seven children. We were all baptised in the Catholic Church and were active members of the congregation and attended the local Catholic primary school. My grandparents and all the family on my Mum’s side ‘belonged’ to our church. I loved my faith and, perhaps in other circumstances, would still be a keen member of the congregation.
As I matured, there was a time when I felt I had a vocation to become a Carmelite nun. However, there came a day when I felt ‘released’ from that feeling. I knew that emotionally I wouldn’t have been able to live that life and that it wasn’t for me. I am still in touch with a 96 year old nun in the Carmelite Monastery in Liverpool. We’ve been friends for fifty years.
In my twenties I read an article in the Times about George Fox and the beginnings of the movement which became the Society of Friends. I was very drawn to the ideas and sent for an explanatory booklet. However, it was another ten years before I first set foot in Wigan Meeting and later in Southport Meeting. My three sons became regular attenders and had great fun at Rook How, Glenthorne and Ellesmere in Shropshire where we had ‘Quaker weekends’. Southport meeting was full in those days and I heard some truly inspiring ministry which made me want to ‘stand up and be counted’. The Meeting is much quieter today – these are different times – but Quakerism is still my spiritual home and the call to silence is still a powerful force. Though I am very much an ecumenist, keeping up with what is happening in other churches and other faiths, I have never regretted my decision to become a Friend.