What is important to you now about Quakerism?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

I think a major piece was that I was looking for a spiritual tradition that affirmed gender equality and racial equality. I was looking for a spiritual tradition that affirmed direct access to God as a primary piece. I was also really concerned with having an involvement in a spiritual tradition that was based in progressive witness. I was looking for a tradition that was open to multiple paths to God, which among Quakers I have a found receptivity to. In many ways, I was skeptical of Quakerism. I learned about it in college, while I was at a Catholic university, and it sounded a little too good to be true. I spent a lot of time reading about it. It took me six years between when I heard about Quakerism and when I first attended a meeting, because my experience of western Christian traditions was not what I might have wished. However,  I was grateful to find out, when I started attending, that even though Quakerism has its cultural quirks, its base tenets and its practice lined up pretty well with my experience of God.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

I think it’s the notion of the lived faith, the lived Gospel, the idea that there is an immediacy of God in our lives, God in my life, that I can have a sensibility about. That is informed by a community of people with whom I worship, informed by the faith tradition of the Religious Society of Friends. The traditions of the Religious Society of Friends that speak to me, of course, are the Testimonies. They offer us a pretty broad understanding of how to operate in the world without setting rigid structures for what we must do, and I find that appealing. I find worship to be an incredibly hopeful part of my week. The idea of being with other people who are together, listening for God, is kind of miraculous to me. Particularly as I see the secularization of the world, it becomes perhaps even more precious. I think that there’s a way of being, I suppose for most people of faith, there are both the traditions that we have in some cases grown up with and adhere to, but also the choices we make of who we want to be with and be around. Meetings have a social dynamic as well as a spiritual dynamic which can be really important and informative, and that happened for us. When I started attending meeting I was a young mother. It was a place for us to have a community of support as a family, and it was the thing that we all did together as a family every week. So that became really important, because it was a consolidating element for us. I think the fact that there is a continuing practice of being a Friend, and a continuing revelation of what it means to be a Friend-both for me personally, and for the Religious Society-that isn’t driven by a council of elders, but is fomented and fermented by people around the country. It’s a challenge to us to steep ourselves in practice and in worship. You don’t have to be a Quaker head, or even a weighty elder, to do that. It’s there for everyone.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

Trying to unify the inner life, the inner landscape, with outer action, and how those two layers sometimes find a friction-but in that friction or tension is the life of the Spirit, for me. I wouldn’t want to be purely inward, and I wouldn’t want to be purely outward, but in marrying the two, and noticing what happens when they become decoupled, and trying to bring them back together, I find myself really joined and held in Quakerism. I value the ongoing prompts of Quakerism to re-evaluate, look again, continuing revelation. The coming-back as a sort of group aspiration really draws me. And being in silent worship is a real draw and special feature of this faith community for me.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

There are two things that are important to me. One is the idea that we are all seekers on a journey, and if we ever believe that we have all the answers, that would be a sign that we have quit looking. That we always have something else to learn, always have something else to change about what we believe, and that we ought to be open to changing our minds about things based on experience. Including spiritual matters: that those are things you can learn from experience, and try. The other part that’s important to me a commitment to try to live your life in accordance with what you say you believe and not just have a Sunday morning faith, in which you go to church and socialize and then do whatever you were going to do.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

I love the whole Quaker idea of waiting on God and listening to God’s voice. It’s like Quakerism gives us permission to be more intuitive-and when I haven’t listened to that, it’s always been disastrous. I don’t have energy, and I’m not motivated. My personal motivation has always come out of that spiritual place, for all things. I just love worship. In London we go to evensong in cathedrals, and I hear Quakers say, “What a waste of space, what a waste of money.” But I cry every time I enter because it’s just… all of that to the glory of God. It’s amazing to me: no matter how simple, no matter how grand, it’s all the same to worship God. I’ve often thought what I would do if I wasn’t a Quaker, how would that be to have a different perspective? Because Quakerism offers a perspective of how to be in the world.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

In the last five years or so I recommitted myself to an active practice, where I’m not just showing up and attending and taking it for me, but really trying to figure out what I have to give to a community. I’ve been a member at Green Street Monthly Meeting for a few years, and I find at Green Street that the range and variety of people is more diverse than I have in other aspects of my social life, in age, race, class, the gender spectrum, and sexuality, too. Being among different people who are all seeking in the same way, and intentional about wanting to be a community together, who help each other in practical and spiritual ways, and who try to be positive influences in the world around us, that is really important for me. Having exposed my children to that, and having them have the chance to be around other people that see the world through a similar lens as I do, is a helpful support.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I think the emphasis on everyone having a personal relationship with the divine. Though I really appreciate and get a lot out of programmed worship, whether it’s Quaker or in other denominations, I also really deeply appreciate the experience of unprogrammed worship, and the expectant listening and expectant waiting that come along with unprogrammed worship.   I’ve had some really profound experiences of that kind of worship. As much as I appreciate and seek out other kinds of worship, that feels like my home grounding, probably because it’s how I was raised. Just being part of a tradition, period, it is important, but particularly being a part of a tradition with such a long history of prophetic witness in the world. I really identify with the aspects of Quaker tradition that are about living outwardly an inward reality. Our history and tradition of witness around that is certainly imperfect, but I still think that’s the tradition that I resonate with, and I’m happy to claim. Those are some of the things that have continued to be really important to me.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

As a younger person, I always found myself kind of at odds with the way people were behaving, if I think about being in school as a kid. The thing I remember most is just not quite getting why everybody was so mean to each other where I grew up. I know there were other people who thought that, but the only place that seemed to offer any alternatives to all of that was the Quaker meeting. The older I got, and the more I read about it, the more I internalized what the Testimonies meant and what I should do with them; the more I thought, “Well, this is the team I’m going to side with”… regardless of the fact that it’s a pretty small team and most people look at us funny.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

The assurance that I’m not alone in thinking that God speaks to us today. That in a nutshell is what Quakerism offers Christianity. We’re not alone in believing that, but we’re almost alone in lifting that up so centrally.
For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

I became a Christian in college, after years of depression and struggle. I had a really profound religious experience in my freshman year of college. I wound up quitting school, moved home for a while, got involved in a local church, and was loved well there. But it wasn’t quite what I was looking for in terms of what I had come to experience inwardly, what I had read in the Scripture, what I understood the church to be about. I kind of bounced around a couple churches for a while. I wanted to find a community that would push me to be as faithful as I felt I was called to be, and I knew, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t live into that. I really wanted a community that was passionate about its spirituality and passionate about its witness in the world, and had a growing sense of what seemed like integrity to me before God. So I ran across the Quakers, and I thought, “That’s them! That’s my home.” At the time, I was working with street kids and kids in prison for a para-church organization, and I was starting to feel called to pastoral ministry, so I was looking for a spiritual community I could call home. I checked out both the unprogrammed Meeting and the programmed Meeting. As I said, I had this call to pastoral ministry, and I thought, “Those unprogrammed Friends aren’t going to have any openings anytime soon.” So I cast my lot with the programmed community, and they became home for me. That was in Northwest Yearly Meeting, in a little church called Sherwood Friends. That’s how I came to Quakers.

What drew me to them was that, at our best, we take seriously the idea that Christ is actually alive, that he is not some character in a book, he’s not some memory, not someone we just sort of try to emulate. But there’s a real living spiritual presence, there’s a power that animates our lives, and we can live into that, and know it, and it will guide and teach and change us. I was really drawn to the Peace Testimony. I felt like I became a Quaker before I knew who Quakers were. In my time of prayer and scripture reading and studying, without being able to give it those names, I had become a pacifist. I had a really strong commitment to simplicity. I had a desire to live with integrity. I had a sense of what equality was starting to mean. Things that are part of our self-understanding as a spiritual people were alive in me. So when I read about Quakers, I went, “That’s exactly the group I need.”

For more of Colin’s story, click here

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