To say that I have been busy over the past eighteen months or so would be an understatement. During that period I have become an active member of my local Quaker meeting, re-married, sold all of my real estate properties and moved. While these activities have not left much time for writing, I have grown a great deal personally.
I have been thoroughly enjoying my Quaker experience. Often, when I tell people that I am a Quaker, it is clear that they don’t know much about the Religious Society of Friends, Quakers. I get responses like, “Oh yeah, they make really nice furniture,” or, “Don’t they make their women wear bonnets?” My knowledge was pretty limited before I started doing a little research, but many people confuse Quakers with more conservative groups like the Amish or Mennonites. The reality is that most of the Quakers in the United States are very contemporary, socially active and often rather liberal.
For me, this fellowship is incredibly comfortable, but two things are of particular importance. First, there are no doctrinal creeds. So, I have the freedom to openly embrace my own understanding of the divine. Second, one of the core beliefs is that “there is that of God in everyone.” This promotes a wonderfully spiritual community where there is love and mutual concern among the members and toward the world at large.
It is a spiritual environment that promotes personal growth and development with no pressure to conform to prescribed beliefs. Instead, there is a focus on “Quaker testimonies.” These are core values that include simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality. I find this to be a much more rational approach to spirituality because values, after all, are the most important aspects of religion. The stories are merely the symbols used to convey the underlying spiritual truths. Yet, too often people argue about the details of the stories while the underlying values are trampled underfoot in the tumult.
My hope for our world is that we can progressively move towards a greater acceptance of our differences, a greater awareness of our shared dreams and a greater sense of our interconnection and mutual dependence.