By Emily Bishop
Good afternoon, friends. My name is Emily, and Iâ€™ve been attending the Wednesday Meeting for nearly two years. I was really touched to be invited to speak today, so thank you.
I was originally drawn to Quakers by the testimony of Peace. The Peace movement has been a big part of my education and my work and I kept coming across Quakers associated with events and institutions I was involved in. Iâ€™ve been very wary of organised religion, but I was curious about a community that seemed to be so closely in line with my own values. Since I first started attending Meeting nearly two years ago, Iâ€™ve often said that the question is not so much why I started coming, but why it took me so long to get around to it. Once I did come to Meeting, I felt at home straight away.
For a long time, all I knew for sure was what I was not â€“ I was not, Iâ€™m still not a Christian. I first came to Meeting feeling certain that I didnâ€™t believe in very much spiritual at all. Now I actually feel less certain of what I believe, but Iâ€™m really glad about that. I would hate to think that Iâ€™m missing something. Knowing that I can be a Quaker, and not know what I believe spiritually, while having the principles I believe in so strongly upheld, is what made me feel so certain so quickly that I was in the right place. The space that Meeting and the community around it has given me to ask those questions is the main reason why I encourage other people to consider attending.
I love the silence in Meeting. Iâ€™m a very verbal person, anyone whoâ€™s been around me for tea after Meeting knows that. But I loved the silence from Day 1. What I struggle most with in the Christian church are the words. The silence gives me the freedom to worship in my own way. It reminds me that I donâ€™t need to come up with the words for it, ever.
Some of the words that have had a big impact on me since first coming to Meeting, though, are the ones that describe the idea of holding people in the light. Itâ€™s become incredibly important to me. That image has helped me have a real sense of supporting people rather than just making a mental note of their situation with some sympathetic noises.
The framing of principles as testimonies is also very important to me. Itâ€™s helped me look at new ways of living my commitments, especially my commitment to peace. I still struggle with the idea of simplicity, and I still feel like I have a lot to learn, but Iâ€™m relishing the prospect.
What I know for sure – I know that when I worship, I want to give thanks and celebration for the wonders of nature and human achievement. I know that I look for guidance in being a positive force in the lives of my loved ones and in the world. And I know that being a Quaker helps me to do those things.
This talk was delivered at Westminster Friends Meeting for Worship for Business on 10/04/2011.