Finding Quakers - Caroline Tisdall
19th April 2023
I cannot remember when I first heard about Quakers but I do remember discovering ‘Towards a Quaker View of Sex’ on my clergyman father’s bookshelf. I was in my 30s and surprised both by its content and where I found it. This pamphlet from 1963 was (to me) ahead of its time. I was impressed.
There were other nudges. Through various organisations I was part of I heard about social action being supported or even led by Quakers. Some Quakers were founding members of, for example, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and Oxfam; and of course there were the chocolate companies!
A more personal nudge towards Quakers concerned a dear family friend, Elizabeth. Looking back, why did I not know she was a Quaker, living out her value of simplicity? All her worldly goods fitted in a suitcase. She went to the subsided swimming pool so she could shower rather than taking a bath at home, and so save water. She sent us letters written in tiny but completely legible writing, and cards that held a piece of paper on which greetings were offered so that the cards could be re-used. We all loved Elizabeth though sometimes found her directness rather a challenge. She was unusual, creative, generous, open and supportive. Elizabeth walked alongside me as I questioned the faith of my childhood and explored a different path. She offered deep wisdom that inspired, yet could challenge. Elizabeth gave me courage. However I only learned she was a Quaker at her funeral, a combined Anglican and Quaker celebration of her life. This also gave me experience of hearing vocal ministry for the first time.
For years I had thought ‘Sometime, I’ll go to a Quaker Meeting’ but other things always got in the way. Then one day I was at a community meal when I overheard a couple at the table speaking about Quakers. I expressed an interest and was invited to go with one of them the next time they attended meeting. Two weeks later I entered the lovely Beccles Meeting House garden. I was warmly welcomed and told something about what to expect. I don’t remember much about the meeting itself, but I do remember some of those I met. After meeting, over tea and biscuits, I could ask questions. There’s not much more to say. That was more than 20 years ago and I’ve been with Quakers ever since. I immediately felt that I was in the right place. And I still feel this is where I belong.
Caroline Tisdall - Beccles Quaker Meeting