12th October 2023
For most of my life I knew of Quakers only indirectly through a family friend named Nancy who was Quaker — a woman my mother described as the first person she’d search out if there was ever anything like nuclear armageddon because, according to my mom, if anyone, Nancy would know what to do. Nancy had been all over the world working for Save the Children, in the most war torn and difficult places imaginable, was both incredibly hard working and totally down to earth, and I’d always found her, and her work, inspiring.
In the past 3 years since I began regularly attending Meeting myself, there have been times when I’ve felt compelled to break the silence and give ministry. The first time came just after Nancy passed. I was moved to stand up and to share a memory of her to her kindred spirits, sitting around me in the stillness. They hadn’t known her, but, I was sure, would be glad to, as I felt glad to be able to share her with them.
In that experience of giving ministry, as well as others that have since followed, I felt the same forces at work in my heart that I recognise from other spiritual experiences I've had — in nature, while travelling, making art, doing nice things for people, in the work I've done with children. They are forces that shape and give meaning to life. I've felt them with a certainty about what is essential and true that no theory or dogma could give me.
These forces to me are interconnectedness, they’re meaning, love, truth, what Quakers, from their very beginnings have called the Light, what some call God, but the name given is not as important as the feeling of understanding. They've come from being at peace and open and giving of myself. They are what is at the centre of my faith, really my heart, and also at the centre of Quaker Meeting - not as a theory, not as words even, but lived in experience and through connection.
At home, around the table before dinner with my partner and our children, we now take a moment before we begin eating to be silent and then express our gratitude for the food before us and for other things in our life, often each other. It’s a small moment, and honestly, sometimes it doesn’t get the reverence I might wish it would, but we do it more or less every day, and I’m always grateful we do.
I am also sure that having the opportunity to minister at Quaker Meeting has provided — and provides everyone who attends a Quaker Meeting - in what I feel is its most profound, essential, simple and beautiful way of honouring the radical commitment to spiritual equality that’s at its core - that opportunity has helped me feel the strength to minister in more and more areas of my own life outside of Meeting, and to create opportunities for it, for myself and others, such as around the dinner table.
Whereas before the idea of doing something like “saying grace” while in theory might have seemed appealing, I was too worried I’d seem like I was acting at something or even being inauthentic, and so I never really attempted it, but now, with a community and a spiritual tradition lending me support, I feel the strength to wade into those waters, authentically. I’m eager to see where my burgeoning sense of being Quaker will propel me and what ministry I will be led to offer in years to come.
Sean Jacke – Hampstead Quaker Meeting