My Quaker Journey - Barbara Childs

14th October 2023

I first attended a Quaker meeting in my early 30s. Our country was going to war, my local vicar supported the war and I couldn’t believe that the Jesus he believed in would have supported it. I knew Quakers were against war and so I went along to my local meeting.

I felt at home with the people I met. Some of them were people I already knew. I fitted in socially and politically. If asked about Quakers I would say they believed there was that of God in everyone. But I didn’t really understand what that meant. And I didn’t really understand a lot of Quaker writing.

Then, after attending for about 15 years, during which time I had a Quaker wedding and 3 children who were all welcomed into our meeting, I read Rex Ambler’s “Light to live by”. This short book, which can easily be read in one sitting, changed everything I thought about Quakers.

Rex Ambler had asked himself the question “what were the early Quakers doing that was so important to them they were prepared to risk their lives and livelihoods to continue?” And one answer seemed to be that they paid attention to what was happening inside themselves when they were still and silent. This enabled them to see the truth and reality of their own lives which then changed the way they lived. They were paying attention to the Inward Light and used other words as well – God, spirit, the seed.

Rex Ambler and others came up with some words to help us do this ourselves. Mind the Light. That is pay attention to what happens when you are still and silent. Open your heart to the reality of what you are shown. Wait in the Light. Submit to the truth. There are many versions of these words and the words are not essential.

I describe the experience as listening with the heart, not our thinking brain. Just sitting with a thought, or feeling, or problem without trying to solve it or analyse it.

The outcome for me, the first time I tried this, was amazing.

An answer to a problem appeared that I would not have come up with by reasoning. So I tried the process again and again. Going and sitting with an issue, or just sitting in that special state of being became my regular spiritual practice.

Something inside me could give me peace, strength, guidance if I was still and paid attention. This something I was happy to call God or spirit or light. For me it is the “That of God within me” which gives me comfort, strength...

Having experienced this I often felt compelled to record what I was shown. Mostly this is in words. I find it difficult to draw but have had some wonderful images too.

So back to Quaker writings. I found that I could now understand these more. The writings of those who had had similar experiences of waiting in the light now made sense. I could understand where they were coming from. It now made sense why Quakers seemed passionate about so many issues. In the stillness, paying attention to what they were shown, those early Quakers were, as we are now, led to behave in certain ways.

Enough people have been convinced by what has come to be known as Experiment with Light (EwL) that small groups have arisen around the world. The practice was shared and introduced at workshops.

We now have online groups, a website and an app. So wherever you are you can listen to a choice of meditations.

At an EwL group we have a structure which has proved to work over several years. We gather to do the meditation, we spend time reflecting on what we have experienced and then we share, if we wish to, with others in small groups. By following guidelines for confidential listening these groups can become close and deep as we put our spiritual experience into words.

Many local meetings have in person groups so do check if you are interested. Also look at our website for details of our online groups, recordings of meditations, and further reading.

Barbara Childs