Why I am a Quaker is first of all because faith took me over. About sixteen years ago, in response to trauma and in a dark time, something was going on within me that I did not understand but felt powerless to resist. I went into churches and ran out. Not what I was looking for. I remembered seeing the sign outside the Meeting House in St Martin’s Lane and decided to try it. At the time I didn’t think I knew much about Quakers, but I later found that there had been signposts along the way that I hadn’t been ready to see. I went into a Meeting, and found peace. At first I spoke to no one. Although I am a social person, I didn’t want my social self to trample on the shoots of something so new and tender. But I read books from the library – and couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had no idea religion could be like this – this was ME! Most of all it was a requirement to be my authentic self. What I had found was a response to what had been going on within me. An invitation to a direct relation with the Divine. That is what Meeting for Worship is for me. And it’s an invitation to a communal experience. I wasn’t looking for a community but I found one. And it was others in that community who enabled me to change my life.
How I was a Quaker, at the beginning, was to jump in with both feet, making up for lost time. I volunteered for Quakers, worked for Quakers, became clerk of this and that. I was also powerfully drawn to the desert, to contemplation. The balance between engagement and withdrawal is an important facet of my spiritual life and, at the time, I ran from one extreme to the other. Things have changed in the past few years. I hope I am more at ease now in a way of life that is withdrawn in the midst of action. I am less engaged in social action and find, to my surprise, that I am mostly engaged in writing and teaching. Most of all, I live my life as a Quaker in gratitude. It is not exaggerating to say that my life has been transformed, and it was through others that that happened. I can only hope that I can be an agent of change for others, in the way others have been for me.
Jennifer delivered this ministry at Westminster Friends Meeting for Worship for Business in 09/2011.