I want to be associated with Quakers, especially the British kind of Quaker. I share many if not all of the values that are commonly held by British Friends. Here is am responding in part to a blog by Rhiannon Grant (https://brigidfoxandbuddha.wordpress.com/2020/05/07/search-terms-quaker-values-as-a-unifying-force/). For me, values are not abstract but motivators for action. When I make decisions about what to do, which choices to opt for, then it is the values I hold which determine the way I go (at least in theory, I know subconscious factors often play a significant part in our decision-making).
However, I do not necessarily share the same beliefs as other Friends. This is of course well known and obvious to those who know British Friends well. None of us share the same system of beliefs, but we are glad to be together none the less.
I do like the Quaker style of worship (or silent communal reflection, or whatever else you might think it is). Partly, I confess, because of what it isn’t. It doesn’t involve assenting to forms of words and beliefs that are expected or even mandatory for believers. It doesn’t involve sharing in arcane rituals (though there are of course Quaker rituals). The experience of lockdown has been a revelation to me, because I am not missing the weekly gathering for Meeting for Worship, and I have not felt the need to engage in online sessions with others. However, when it is possible to share again in person, then I will.
So why do I want to be associated with this community of Friends? Well, I suppose it’s partly that I value community and the relationships with people I admire and want to support. I do not want to be a solitary human being. I need relationship with others and the benefits that belonging offers. This sounds very selfish, but I am ready and willing to make my contribution to the health of the Meeting. I realise that most of us belong to a variety of groups, which give expression to the various aspects of our personality. I enjoying singing, so belong to a community choir. I value gardening and appreciate the way in which my allotment also leads to a sense of community with my neighbours. My family is important to me and so to spend time talking with them and being with them is precious.
Given the choice of faith groups to belong to, I think the Quakers in Britain are the best. Not everyone will want to be associated with a faith, and to be honest I have reservations too. But on balance I would rather be known as someone who has a faith, who believes, who lives by values and who tries to discern and create meaning and purpose in life, based on love.
There are tensions with the British Quaker community, and by what I have written already I have exposed and added to some of them. But that is a positive and healthy situation to be in. Creative conflict enriches community. As long as we are truly committed to one another and wish each other every good, then our community will be strong.
Whether other Quakers will be as positive about my belonging as I am, remains to be seen.
I am content to be a Quaker. .