by Eleanor Coss
Quaker Meetings for Worship are one of the things I find hardest to explain to people who have never experienced them. It sounds so dull: you sit in silence for an hour and try very hard not to think about what youâ€™re going to have for lunch. Then someone stands up and says something which may be relevant to you and may not. Then you go back into silence and try not to think about what was on TV last night. And so the hour goes on. Anyone who has attended a few Quaker Meetings knows that that is what happens sometimes. And sometimes, there is something in the room that is so powerful, so life-changing, that to deny it is to deny the best part of what it is to be human, what it is to live in Godâ€™s world. Someone once said to me that I should go to every Meeting open to being changed. It is that change, that ability to take me from my petty absorption in my own troubles and fix me more firmly in the world, which keeps me a Quaker.
For me, being a Quaker is also indivisible from being part of the Quaker community, and particularly immersing myself fully in the community at residential events. First this was my Area Meetingâ€™s annual camp, then later Young Friends General Meeting and Yearly Meeting Gatherings. At these, I had my first kiss, got my first job, and slowly and painfully took so many other vital steps to travel from the religion I had inherited from my parents into a life and faith of my own. Most importantly, all the developments in my outward life were supported and enabled by the changes God was working within me.
I did not originally use that language. I was an independent-minded teenager, adamant that I was a Quaker but not a Christian. As I grew older and experienced more, I found I could no longer be so adamant. I realised, much to my disgust, that I was both a Christian and a Quaker. Now, my journey has taken me further still. I find I am a Quaker who, through gathered worship, joyfully knows we can enter the presence of Christ within, and be transformed by him. To deny or refuse this experience would be to deny a part of myself â€“ and one of the better parts, too.
So, I am a Quaker because being a Quaker has made me who I am, and cannot now be untangled from my character. I am a Quaker because being a Quaker gives me the means to be a better human being, and compels me to keep trying even when I want to give up. And I am a Quaker by joyfully joining my community when itâ€™s easy, when itâ€™s hard, when I have to disappoint a whole raft of people just to go, when I can only join them online. Whatever and however I can, I do, open to being transformed.
5 thoughts on “Why? How? Eleanor Coss”
Thank you for sharing this moving reflection Eleanor. It would be good to hear more from you.
In Friendship, Craig
i quite enjoyed your sharing your transformative process with Christ….
i’d like to meet more friends that have experienced this.
Dear Ellie, What you write speaks so truly to me. I too moved from being an agnistic Quaker to a Christian Quaker. All the time I have been grateful for the community which gave me the stability to make that journey, and to move deeper into faith. That seems to me to be the great strength of Quakerism – we are not a “one size fit all”, nor are we “anything goes” – but we do as a community try to give everyone who visits us the space and strength to explore their faith more deeply.
Hey Ellie, I also find it difficult explaining Quaker meetings to others, but you have done it fantastically.
It has really helped me in the way I explain Quaker Meetings to others.
I was a Quaker in my teens, and the power of that silence stays with me today. I am amazed at how reticent others are in taking a moment to simply wait in His presence! I fear that they will never understand that they are drowning out the one voice they need most desperately to hear. Thank you, Elanor!