Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference
My mother was raised Methodist and Jewish. Her father was Jewish and would take her to high holy days at Temple. Otherwise, she was playing piano at the Methodist Church. My father was raised Baptist. They married as Episcopalians, and decided that their children should find their own way spiritually, so I did not grow up attending church with any regularity. It was kind of an Easter/Christmas scenario. I found my way to Eastern spiritual practices as a teenager. That’s what most appealed to me at first.
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Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:
I grew up as a Lutheran in Omaha, Nebraska, and my family attended what was then the Division of the Lutheran Church of America, predecessor to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and we were pretty faithful. I grew up going to church every Sunday, going to Sunday school. I was confirmed in the church, and involved in the Luther League — the “Young Friends program” of the Lutheran Churches-active in the church camp program. Then when I was in college and as young adult, probably in my 20s, I started searching for different churches. My family had left that particular home church, and that caused me to start looking around. I tried a lot of different faith places until I moved to Connecticut and started attending Hartford Monthly Meeting. I tell people it was the Peace Testimony that attracted me to the Meeting, but it was the matriarchs that drew me in. And in truth, it was really the spiritual formation of the Religious Society of Friends that called me.
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Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:
There was a pretty clear path through the Friends schools for my family to come into Quakerism. I grew up a member of Doylestown Monthly Meeting, and then took a long time, actually, in my late teens and early 20s, away from Quakerism. Then my family and I–my nuclear family now– joined Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting.
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Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:
I was raised Catholic, Roman Catholic. But my parents were, as I found out much later, because they practiced birth control, they didn’t go to church. They sent me to Catholic schools, it was an odd message to get, growing up in that way. I was very much a practicing Catholic through high school, but increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that the Church had such narrow and limited roles for women. When I went to college I decided that I didn’t want to be a part of Catholicism anymore, that there were too many things that seemed wrong to me about the dogma. I had always liked the mystical side of Catholicism, much more than the dogmatic side, which seemed to say, don’t think for yourself, the answers are going to come to you from somebody else.
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Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:
I was born a Quaker, in a Quaker household, and grew up in Friends United Meeting. My dad was a pastor of two programmed meetings or churches – Valley Mills Friends Church and then College Avenue Friends Church in Iowa. Mostly I grew up in Iowa, Iowa Yearly Meeting.
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Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:
I grew up a Quaker. My parents became Quakers when I was very young three years old or so. They had come from a Catholic background, but sort of a radical strain. We were living in Anchorage, Alaska, and they were really interested in doing nuclear activism-and the people that were doing that in Anchorage included a lot of Quakers. They got curious, got involved, and we moved to Seattle, Washington. Most of my childhood we went to University Friends Meeting in Seattle, which is a large meeting for the West Coast – a large unprogrammed meeting with a lot of liberals, and a lot of Eastern influence, people bringing aspects of Buddhist practice into it. The meetinghouse itself was Japanese-inspired in architecture, which I think helps with that.
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Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:
I grew up Quaker, in Charlotte Friends Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is a fairly typical unprogrammed meeting, pretty big. We were duly affiliated with Friends General Conference and North Carolina Yearly Meeting, Friends United Meeting (FUM), but we were unprogrammed.
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Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:
Until somewhere around fourth grade, I was a Presbyterian. And then my parents–I explain it that they made us go to Quaker meeting one Sunday. So since from 4th grade on, I grew up a Quaker. And somewhere along the way, I made peace with it, when I was a kid. I grew up in Haddonfield Monthly Meeting in Haddonfield Quarter, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
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Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):
I grew up in a Presbyterian Church, which my parents joined. They met up the Anderskoggen River at Bates College, both having grown up in good northern Baptist homes. They dutifully went off at the freshman mixer, and then married. After they moved to Rochester, New York and they couldn’t find a Baptist Church they liked, they found a nice family-friendly Presbyterian Church. I used to tease my dad that I became a Quaker because on Sunday afternoons after church I would listen to him about the unreconstructed Calvinism of the sermon.
At Haverford I mostly went to Fifth-day meeting, which was raucous-hardly reminiscent of a normal Quaker meeting. We were required to go four times a semester so a lot of people were there against their hope for Thursday morning. When I went to Temple University that’s when I start teaching and moved to Germantown, and I started going to Germantown Friends Meeting. I had no understanding of what I was walking into. I quickly came to understand that this is a big important old meeting full of Quaker families that were extremely powerful spiritually figures in that meeting. I started dating somebody from the meeting, and as we started getting serious, I wrote a letter to the meeting asking that I be considered for membership, but telling them that I didn’t know at all what I believed. I found the meeting a useful setting for my spiritual wanderings.
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Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:
I really didn’t grow up with a faith background. Our family didn’t have any serious connection to the church. We didn’t talk about God. God wasn’t part of any practical part of our lives. I think there was a period of maybe three years where my parents sent my sister and I off to Sunday School at a local church until we were old enough to start working on the farm. Then suddenly we were home on Sundays, working on the farm. I had some inkling, an interest in God, but there was no community of support around it, or encouragement.
For more of Colin’s story, click here