When I first came to Quakerism about 25 years ago, I was looking for a spiritual community that would accept, if not welcome, the theology I had grown into and the glimpses I had experienced of the Beyond.
I was curious about the “sitting in silence” piece. Although I had a little practice with both individual and group meditation, the idea of sitting for an hour in silence seemed a bit adventuresome. To my surprise, at my first Meeting for Worship, I experienced what I have since learned is a quite frequent response—I felt I had come home.
I found a great relief in not having someone up front preaching, in not having to cope with words of (often well-beloved) hymns that no longer fit my beliefs, and in finding my experience of a very real Greater-Than-I not only taken seriously but actually fitting into historic and present-day “orthodoxy.”
I knew little about modern-day Quakers, apart from their association with pacifism and conscientious objection to war, and while I considered myself a pacifist, that was not primary in my mind at the time. I have gradually discovered that Quaker testimonies on peace, simplicity, and integrity, and the recognition of the Divine in every person are important to me, not particularly because they are Quaker but because they are descriptions of belief-practices I have come to seek in my own life.
A sense of community develops among any group with common values, and I depend on those who attend my Meeting—and other Friends in the larger fellowship—to “be there” for me. I expect to be there for them as well, not only on Sundays, but during the week. We laugh and mourn together, sing and work and eat together, and struggle with how to live well in the world.
But the main thing for me with being a Quaker is, and probably always will be, the worship. The possibility, not always fulfilled, of experiencing a Meeting for Worship in which some measure of All-That-Is is palpable in the midst—either directly or more through a sense of being united with the others in the room—is enough to keep me coming back week after week. Perhaps, after all, it was the chance of experiencing this sense of being in the Presence for which I was searching when I first came to Quakerism.