My Spiritual Journey
My parents were not religious, not atheists, more agnostic. I think it was more of a case of it not being important. When I was around nine or ten, my brother and I were invited to attend Sunday School with some children in our neighbourhood. As a social event I remember it being fun, and I liked the stories but I felt no real faith in what I was being told. In fact I remember hanging my Sunday coat up and thinking that religion might hold the same value as Father Christmas and was maybe a test to see if I would see through it.
I also remember that one day, walking along the High Street, we pointed out our Sunday school at which point my mother became quite agitated – we were pointing to a Methodist Chapel and she had assumed that we were attending the CofE Sunday School. However both parents got behind us when the annual play arrived and made costumes, so it evidently was not such a big issue. It often seemed to me that they were very anxious for us to attend Sunday School, and now I think there were ulterior motives.
When we moved I attended the Church of England church -a high Church – at the top of the hill. I loved it, the smells, the bells. Although I attended confirmation classes, the vicar was unhappy about my commitment. I did not get confirmed but I did go up every week for blessing and felt blessed, I had no doubts about God, though I had some about the Church. After I moved to Yorkshire I just stopped going to Church.
The Wilderness Years
For years I ploughed all my energies into politics – that way I could change the world without asking God’s help. Several times I met Quakers, admirable gentle people who usually had strong views about social issues. They were active in the peace movement (as was I) and in the World Development group I attended. Not only were they strong people: they all seemed so knowledgeable and also so ‘humane’. I decided to investigate this religion at some point.
In the late 80s I started to look for something more, some sort of spiritual journey. it started when a friend of mine suddenly got very heavily involved in the Mormon faith and persuaded me to go along with her to one of their meetings. I was not impressed, didn’t feel that it was the right path for me. I talked on the street with a Hari Krishna monk and went along to several of their meetings. I tried to follow the path that they showed but again it didn’t feel right.
I was beginning to feel that something was there, just out of my vision which was trying to attract my spiritual attention, but I never quite understood.
One day, I was in a cafe in Skipton and saw something amazing. A man, I didn’t know him, was carrying a tray full of cups and food and suddenly he turned the tray on its side so that I could see the underside which had a picture of a tree( or it might have been three trees, I forget the details now). It/They were stunted and grew to one side, a little Chinese in design. Of course he didn’t really do it, but I could have sworn he did. I told my hubby what I had seen and he did not laugh at me but asked me to draw the tree(s).
Around this time, one of my friends knew a Quaker woman who invited her to a coffee morning, and she asked me to go along. Again the people there were admirable and kind and gentle.
I used to love my Sunday mornings lying in bed and realised that I would never be able to commit to giving up my one time of sleep in. But I felt that I might just go along, I felt that I owed it to the lovely lady who spent so much time chatting to me, and who said that if I got nothing else out of it than an hours peace and quiet it might just be worth going. It took me a couple of months to get there but I started to attend Quaker Meetings in the mid 1990s.
The Experience of Meeting for Worship
Outside the meeting House, I had never noticed, despite driving and walking past regularly, that there were three stunted trees.
The first meeting was strange. I was unsure of the etiquette but I was handed a little leaflet about being in Meeting for the first time. I sat quietly waiting, not sure what I was waiting for. I looked around, not able to concentrate for so long on listening to nothing, and wondered about the little community I had stumbled on, It was not a family, clearly but seemed a very tight community. A woman stood up and started to speak, and the sound of it was amazing after so long of peace. I remember her first sentence to this day. She started to talk about what a community was, and what this particular community was about. You could have knocked me down with a feather.
I had to attend the next time, and again, I was just thinking about something and someone popped up and talked (‘Ministered’) about it. This didn’t happen every time, but often enough to make me think that something strange was going on. Was it just some sort of group telepathy or was there more to this? What surprised me was that though the Friends were polite, friendly and warm they never approached me about further involvement until I asked if I could be pointed to parts of the Bible or could borrow something appropriate to further my understanding. After that I was ‘let in’.
I was invited to a discussion meeting and I remembered being asked what I thought and I found words coming out of my mouth that explained it to me as well as them. I had no idea that I was going to say them. From then on I just trusted that what came into my mind, and I can explain it no other way, than that it is not my thoughts but a presence that I can feel. I am aware that some people would say I was mad, hearing voices. A realisation crept up on me that I knew now I had found a contact with what I had been searching for. I have had an experience with light that I cannot even put down – I cannot explain it, but I know that it was in answer to my search. I am on the path.
I am a Quaker.
Eventually I wrote the letter asking officially if I could join the Religious Society of Friends, and after a visit I was accepted into membership.
Years later I still attend Meeting for Worship whenever I can, I do not resent giving up an hour in bed, because I get so much out of it. Some Meetings are incredibly moving experiences where all of us feel at one with the Spirit (called a ‘gathered’ Meeting), others are silent. I have attended several different Meetings in the UK. I am now a member of a tiny group of Friends that is dwindling due to age and ill health. I cannot see my life without Meeting.
I am, at long last, a Quaker.
I will post some links here later .
Here is the link to Quaker forum:
The main ‘British Quakers’ site