by Rhiannon Grant
I am a Quaker both by accident and by design. I didn’t set out to be born into a Quaker family (although perhaps my parents had it in mind!), but nevertheless I was, as it happened, a cradle Quaker. Later in life, I made a few half-hearted attempts to leave the Quaker fold, but none of them really took; I discovered that what I had learnt from Goddess worship and Buddhism could be accommodated within Quakerism, and that the other kinds of Christianity which were on offer on a university campus didn’t really suit me. If anything, attending an evangelical service in a school hall, complete with a sermon on Jeremiah which made me want to stand up and shout back, made me feel more Quakerly!
I am a Quaker both in practice and in principle. I attend Meeting for Worship regularly and I enjoy attending Meetings for Worship for Business or Learning. The process of waiting in worship seems to me to be Quakerism’s greatest gift.
I sometimes wonder how visible my Quakerism is in my life and actions. In some ways, I think it’s very obvious: if you have a whole picture of the things on which I spend my time, even if you only have a snapshot of a couple of months in 2012, you’re going to see my attendance at Meeting for Worship, and Elders’ meetings, and Meeting for Sufferings, and Quaker Outreach Yorkshire, and many more. You’re going to notice the fact that I’m writing a PhD about Quakers and how they use religious language. With that evidence to hand, no jury of my peers would have any difficulty in convicting me of Quakerism.
A lot of people, though, don’t get that picture: they only see me at work, where they might know about my PhD subject but not my community involvement; or they know me at Brownies, where they might know that I have a church and commitments but not be clear about which church it is; or they meet me in a shop or at a bus stop, and they probably just think of me as a strangely dressed woman who talks posh. Maybe my Quaker badge makes a difference here. I suspect, though, that practices of honesty – doing what I have said I will – and equality – of people of all ages and genders, of all colours and creeds – and peace-building – especially ways of handling conflict truthfully – are more important.
In the end, I’m not sure that I can separate the why and the how of my being a Quaker. I came into membership as recognition of the fact that I was acting and speaking as a Quaker; I try to root my speech and actions in our collective, and my personal, discernment through the process of Meeting for Worship. I often slip up, but the routine of collective worship helps me to keep trying.
During the course of 2013 Rhiannon is blogging the Quaker Alphabet. Read more at Brigid, Fox and Buddha.