By Paul Levy
For me being a Quaker is about thinking about others and the world when I make decisions, not something I find easy, I think that in me there is a very selfish person whom Quakerism helps keep in check.
I found Quakerism because of spending a life changing two weeks with a group of inspirational, articulate, passionate Quakers on a Leaveners residential event in 1996. While I had spent 7 years at Quaker school I had very little contact with actual Quakers and learned little about Quakerism.
I was looking for a spiritual home, and for the first time I found a group of people who not only shared the same social and ethical views I did but were also on a spiritual journey. One of the most important things for me about Quakerism is that we are a learning community, as Quakers we like to discuss, explore and disagree by doing this we keep learning and growing.
An extremely important aspect of my Spiritual Journey has been my work with Quaker young people. Advices and Queries 19 challenges us to rejoice in the presence of children and young people in our meeting, recognise the gifts they bring and to invite them to share their insights and learn from them. I really encourage you to do so – but be warned! You may be challenged, inspired and even feel a little bit ashamed at your inadequacy. Young people are visionaries, they see a future without war and hate where people treat each other and the environment with respect, and they are not intimidated by bureaucracy or jaded by other people’s failure to act.
It is liberating to witness young Quakers’ passion to make the world a better place by living the testimonies of Peace, Equality, Simplicity, and Truth; their open mindedness to talk about God, and not worry about stepping on anyone’s toes or making someone feel uncomfortable; their willingness to accept the views of others but the fearlessness to question.
Sometimes people thank me for working with their young people, it’s really me that should be thanking them for the opportunity. Being able to watch a generation of Quaker grow into their mid 20s, and seeing how their Quaker values inform their decisions as adults has inspired me at every part of my own spiritual journey.
As Quakers we might not all believe the same thing about God, but that does not matter, it’s how we treat each other and the earth that matters standing up to prejudice, war, and hate. These are the things I believe are important.
In the quiet worship of a Quaker meeting I find space to nurture my spiritual journey, Quakerism also gives me the freedom to gain insight from teachings, writings, music and conversations from all people both Quaker and non-Quaker.
If I was not a Quaker I think I would be a worse person, my Quakerism helps me consider the impact of my actions on other people and the environment.
Paul Levy is coordinator for the Leaveners, a Quaker creative arts organisation that runs 35-40 projects a year.