Have you ever been asked why you're a Quaker? Often I find my mind goes blank when I'm put on the spot. So I had a think, and came up with five reasons I continue to be a Quaker:
1. Meeting for worship
Quaker meeting – a shared time of silence – is a wonderful, simple way to set aside everyday thoughts or distractions and to reach deep within. Quakers' experience is that when we still ourselves, we can hear the promptings of love and truth in our hearts. For me, Quaker meeting is how I reconnect with my guiding spirit, reaffirm the values I care about and get set up for the week ahead.
Since the pandemic started, there are more ways to worship together than ever. You're never far from one of the 470 Quaker meetings in Britain, and many Quakers are meeting online too, including international meetings like the ones Woodbrooke runs.
2. Anyone can be a Quaker
Everyone is welcome in a Quaker meeting. There's no set form of belief, or creed you have to sign up to. The spirit (some people call it God) can speak to anyone in the silence. One of the things I value about my Quaker community is that I can come as who I really am – I don't have to try to fit in, or pretend to be someone I'm not. And I'm not told what to believe – that's something we explore alongside each other.
Quakers are comfortable with uncertainty, and with the idea that we might ourselves be mistaken – learning and seeking together in community. Quaker communities welcome people regardless of their background, ethnicity, sexuality or gender identity. Last year, our Yearly Meeting made a strong commitment to being an anti-racist community, and to welcoming and affirming gender-diverse people. We're not perfect – like everyone else, Quakers have biases and assumptions – but we keep working to address areas where we fall down.
3. It's not just about Sunday mornings
The thing about having faith is that you have to do something with it. So being a Quaker is as much about how you live your life as about what you believe. When I first went to Quaker meeting, I found people putting their faith into practice in all sorts of ways – working for peace around the world, teaching, campaigning for nuclear disarmament, working for gender equality, mediating and looking after people in the local community. Don't expect coming to Quaker meeting for worship to be enough on its own – Quakers find it leading them into all sorts of work in the world.
4. Quakers are working for a just and sustainable world
Once you've experienced – in the silence – what a just and sustainable world could be like, then you want to do everything in your power to create it.
Quakers in Britain are joining with others to call for climate justice, building on the work done at COP26 in Glasgow last year. With Quakers around the world, we work quietly at the United Nations and in the European institutions to foster peace, protect human rights and press for justice.
Quakers across Britain work to build peace education into our schools, provide chaplaincy in prisons, offer mediation and rehabilitation. Nationally, we campaign for a more equal society and work to protect our democratic freedoms.
5. It's an adventure
All of the above make it an adventure to be a Quaker. From the edge-of-your-seat silence of a Quaker worship, where anything seems possible, we can be led to new insights, new relationships with those around us, and new engagement in the world.
We can be guided to work we didn't know we'd be doing, using spiritual gifts we didn't know we had. We can find community with people very different from ourselves, and be enriched by each other's insights. Sometimes that means letting go of old ideas, giving up things we once cared about, or taking a leap of faith – what could be more exciting than that?