My Quaker story begins a few years before I was born....
My mother fell in with Quakers in New York City, during the 60s protests against the Vietnam War. I was born in the mid 70s. I grew up in a completely secular household, but both of my parents had what I would now call a secular Quaker style of parenting my brothers and me. They gave us moral guidelines and lots of leeway to think for ourselves.
I remember when I was small, asking about heaven. They explained how it was an important idea to many people, but they didn't believe in it. And maybe it's up to us to create heaven while we were living on earth.
They taught us about ecology and the web of life, treating everybody with equal respect, and the importance of personal integrity.
Through high-school I called myself agnostic, because I felt I had no evidence for or against the Divine, though I switched from atheist to believer a few times as well. But when I went away to school, my mother said, "Ithaca has a Quaker Meeting. You might try going to it some time." Being 18, I basically replied, "Sure mom, whatever." But some months later, I did some library research and found that I was open to the idea of Quaker Meeting, even if religion still made me quite suspicious.
It was nearly a year before I made my way "so early" on a Sunday morning for 10:30 worship on the edge of campus. I found the building, found the room, and nearly immediately felt like I was rejoining a group I already somehow knew.
I remember how difficult it was to quiet my thoughts for an entire hour; I was sure I was doing it wrong.
I remember hearing messages that made me think; and messages that bugged me; and gradually learning how to listen to the Spirit under the words.
I remember how friendly and accepting so many people were. At that time, I was making an effort to "come out of the closet"— and it was remarkably healing to be part of a non-student group that accepted me just as I was; even people my parents’ and grandparents' ages.
I remember how much going to meeting "Just Fit"—and how clear it was to me this had been a missing piece in my life. I gradually became more aware of the still, small Voice that was speaking—to me—and my rationalist agnosticism eventually melted away in the presence of that Voice.
I remember how impressed I was at the audacity of the idea behind Business Meeting—and how it had been working for 300 years! And also sometimes how frustrating it was in practice, even after I started decoding the acronyms. I fell in love with Quaker process, within a few years, after I had experienced a number of Covered meetings— covered by Spirit's loving embrace.
So I kept going as often as I could, even though 10:30 was still quite early in the morning. How could I not?