Quaker Week 2020: What Does Being a Quaker Mean to Me?
With Quaker Week 2020, Southport Friends have been reflecting on what being a Quaker means to them.
I have been a Quaker now for almost thirty years – and as I wasn’t born into Quakerism, I still feel ‘new’ to membership. There has been a lot to learn – procedures, business meetings, what is acceptable and what is not, standing up and being counted for various causes, keeping oneself informed about the state of society in general, etc. etc.
The most important part of being a Quaker is the Meeting for Worship. The peace and the silence mean so much more to me than the incessant words of other Christian worship, and the ministry, however humble, always seems to resonate for someone.
I feel supported in my faith and rely on being a small part of a greater whole. Friends House and many local members and attenders persuade me into thinking about all sorts of matters that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s not like just turning up and sitting in a pew each week. We are kept informed of important national and international affairs and are encouraged to think deeply about care for the earth, the plight of the poor and disadvantaged, non-violence and peacemaking within our own circles and wider society and many other subjects. We are also, importantly, encouraged to act.
On all these fronts, I am failing for the most part but in my own small society of family, friends and neighbours I hope that I’m living in a Quakerly way. I cannot imagine being without the Society of Friends . I greatly value the Southport f/Friends I have come to know well over the years. This network of support and friendship enriches life in general and spiritual life in particular. We all learn from each other.
If ever I am unable to get to Meetings in the future, I do feel I could adjust reluctantly to being a member of another denomination but I don’t think anything would ‘fit’ quite like Quakerism.
It seems a strange thing that during a time of Lockdown and restriction, an hour’s silence can seem so beneficial.
My first Meeting after 4 months of Lockdown was very special and helpful to me. In a way, it was like coming home. It was peace and silence but, in the presence of others, it had a depth and comfort which I really found helpful.
I appreciate the Quaker ideals of finding God in everyone; holding people in the light and accepting the differences in us all, especially the conflicting views within myself.
I like the freedom to find my own way to God, albeit in the accepting company of others.
I like the fact that I am, hopefully, appreciated for what I am and not criticised for my shortcomings.
I feel I have a possible path to follow which is open and available.
Life as a Quaker
I think that a religion should be two things, it should be a comfort and a challenge.
The Religious Society of Friends does pose a challenge to us. It challenges us to think for ourselves and it calls us to act. Pound for pound Quakers generally contribute a lot to their community.
We are challenged to be aware, to be responsible, to be honest and to act with integrity.
I have been in business for many years although I am now recently retired. Scruples and integrity are so important now in the business world.
We are challenged not to follow dogma or the teachings of other men and women but to “work it out for ourselves”. Now if that isn’t a challenge I don’t know what is.
Since becoming a Quaker in 2010 I have become a Samaritan, they even asked me to be the Director at Southport Branch for 3 years. It was very rewarding, I continue as a Samaritan doing a lot of work in prison, a cause very important to Quakers. I also want to start an AndysManClub in Preston. This organisation works with men only getting them to talk in an all male environment.
I feel very comforted and proud to be a Quaker. The peace and security it offers me is invaluable.
I feel that the emphasis of the question is on ‘today’ – today, now, this moment. What is its resonance as I write this? Many feel a time of fear – coronavirus, children at risk as they return to school, fear of unemployment, of homelessness, of a lingering half-life as I get older. Fear of the future. But surely it was ever thus, the human condition. The cave dweller looked at the approaching mammoth with dread as it rushed over the horizon!
I am aware of the hymn ‘through all the changing scenes of life’ and that the ebb and flow of sadness and joy, good and evil are constants.
I have attended Anglican services all my life and still do but the Quaker MFW brings a gift of time for reflection and worship, personal and gathered. The gifts received come into the rest of the week unbidden and enhance each hour. MFW helps me to ‘knit up the ravelled sleeve of care’ without censure or a stricter teaching. Quaker insights give space and unjudgmental friends, a sharing, inclusive atmosphere. For the present my path lies with the Quakers, with them I have permission to think ‘outside the box’ and to view the world with optimism.
‘We can characterise humanity as savage, lustful and basic, but that is to make strangers of everyone. We are not wolves but lambs astonished in the margins of the fields by sunlight and summer.’ (S. Barry, ‘The Secret Scriptures’)
Or, to put it another way, ‘there is that of God in everyone’. What a joyful message to have in this turbulant world.
I have been coming to Southport Quaker Meeting since 1992, and became a member in 1996. It especially appeals to me that Quakers have no hierarchy, and that everyone is valued equally. Also that there are no creeds, and that the focus is on our own spiritual experiences and insights, rather than beliefs. Also important to me is the special value Quakers have always placed on the testimonies of truth (or integrity), equality, simplicity and peace, and that these testimonies are meant to be lived as faith in action. When trying to live by these testimonies oneself, it is so helpful to be meeting regularly in worship with others, who are also living by the same values, and to be enabled to give and receive mutual support and comfort. I have very much missed coming regularly to Southport Meeting in the last few months because of the pandemic, but look forward each week to receiving in the post my copy of The Friend, which helps to keep me in touch with the Quaker family in Britain and worldwide.