A Quaker Journey

I was raised Catholic in the USA. I had never thought of the Quakers as anything other than the graphic on the cardboard tub of oats.

At some point, as I was gaining awareness of the world, I grew apart from the Catholic church of my youth. I went along with friends to their own churches on Sundays. I attended Baptist, Methodist, Unitarian, and Messianic Jewish services. My closest friends were atheist, pagan, and Muslim. I joined a mission trip with the Methodists, helping re-roof a house of a parishioner from a sister church in the south of the US and absolutely loved the community spirit and the coming-together — but I still didn’t feel like I belonged.

I didn’t believe in the Christian God as I was taught about in Sunday school. I believed that “God” was a metaphor, a way of understanding the universe and its mysteries. The word “God”, to me, meant the personification of the sum of all things. I felt like I could call myself agnostic, atheist, pantheist, or even pagan, and felt like I could say that I led a life of Christ — but I still didn’t feel like any of those labels quite fit.

I took philosophy classes and an ethics class in college. I spent a lot of time thinking about my own beliefs and looking at those of others. When I moved to the UK for university, I continued trying to find a church that felt like “home” in the same way as my friends felt at home in their churches, with a community who felt how I did rather than seeing me as someone who needed to be “brought in to the bosom”, an outsider.

I attended Catholic services, Anglican services, a Church of Scotland service, and then found the Humanists when I moved to Cambridge. I felt at home with the Humanists there and enjoyed a Sunday brunch where we’d discuss ethics and philosophy and “goodness” and such things. When I moved back to Scotland, though, the Humanists didn’t meet at a café, they met at the pub, and they would still discuss ethics and philosophy but it didn’t feel the same, it didn’t feel like “home”.

I had children and started getting involved with the new-parent community. I met a mum at the train station in Edinburgh who had a lovely carrier and I’d invited her along to a baby sling group that I organised in Falkirk — and she came! We became close friends and, when conversation turned to ethics and philosophy and “goodness”, she said she was raised a Quaker but her life had gotten busy and she hadn’t attended in a long time. She said that my own philosophy of “God” wasn’t at all dissimilar to her own, and that the community was absolutely like the community I had lamented not finding. She found a Meeting that was close to where I lived and we attended together with another close parent-friend.

I’ve found the community feeling that I had been searching for and I do feel completely at home with the Friends that I have met. My husband, a “devout atheist” also feels comfortable at Meetings, and my children absolutely adore attending. I still feel like I’m settling in and feeling my way around, but I do absolutely feel like I’m at home.