3rd Feb 2023
I’d been attending Quaker meetings in Norwich for a few weeks and rather enjoying the break from the noise and bustle of everyday life they provided; but I began to worry. At the Church of England you knew exactly what people believed, because they dutifully recited the Nicene Creed every Sunday morning. (This starts with; ‘We believe in one God, the Father almighty maker of heaven and earth.’) I was not sure if I could hand on heart say the same with any conviction..
At the Quaker meeting there was no order of service; no prayers, hymns, sermon or readings to help me. Nor did Friends who stood up and spoke in the meeting give any clues either. They were as likely to talk about the sunshine and flowers as they were to refer to the gospels. I began to feel that I was perhaps a fraud and undeserving of the warm welcome I’d received and the friendly handshake with which I was greeted every Sunday morning.
So one day I plucked up the courage to ask. I cornered John, one of the older members in the meeting over the coffee that most stayed for after the week’s meeting had finished. ’What do Quakers believe,’ I asked him, ‘and what should I believe if I want to join?’ He laughed, took my hand and said: ‘If you asked everyone in the room what they believed, you’d get a different answer from each one. Some are Christian and read the bible each day, others are Jewish, and many don’t believe in God at all.’
What I later realised is that Quakerism is a journey, not a destination. Friends are searching for meaning, receptive and collectively curious. They use the term ‘the light’ to embrace whatever it is that is greater than ourselves, that some call God.’ I found that hugely reassuring, as perhaps also will you!
Robert Ashton - Leiston Quaker Meeting, Suffolk. You can find more from Robert on his website at robertashton.co.uk