Tuesday 8 June 2021

My Quaker faith & my first Meeting for Worship

So my faith has been something that I haven't touched upon yet on my blog but my faith plays a key part in my life. 

Several years ago I felt that there was something missing in my life. I know about holistic wellbeing and I was attending to my physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural etc needs but I realised that my spiritual wellbeing aspect of my life was missing. When I realised that I set about searching for my faith and I delved into looking at some of the different religions that where out there to see what each one was sort-of about.

As a child I was brought up as a Christian; as a family each Sunday we went to church and I had a Christian upbringing such as saying grace before eating, saying a goodnight prayer, not swearing or blaspheming etc. But when I became a teenager I turned away from religion.

When I began to search for spirituality in my life again my Dad, a Christian himself, steered me towards Christianity but there are so many denominations I struggled to know which was the right one for me. Again my Dad guided me and I ended up going to a non-denominational church which was quite upbeat and modern compared to the more traditional Methodist church my Dad and step-mum go to that I'd gone along to but I didn't feel that church was for me.

I had connected with someone the "younger" adults at church through our weekly get togethers to chat, worship, sing and study the bible etc as well as sitting with them at church on a Sunday. However, as time went on many of that group got married and started families and those more my age helped with the kids church so I began to feel very lonely at church despite being in a room full of people. My attendance was also sporadic because of my health and there were incidences of my having seizures which weren't ideal. I don't like fuss and having a seizure in the middle of church creates fuss. There where also things I felt uncomfortable with and I also didn't feel that there was any room for my own spirituality and beliefs - I felt like I was being told what I should and shouldn't believe and sometimes this clashed with my own thoughts on certain topics. Then as my health worsened I reached the point where I became housebound but by that point I'd already pretty much stopped going to church but I still felt something spiritual in me.

After a period of time I came across Quakerism through a YouTuber who's video's I like watching and I learnt a little about Quakerism from her videos - Jessica Kellgren-Fozard: Quakerism 101

I began to become interested and wanted to know more. I enquired more about Quakerism and I contacted Quakers in Britain who sent me a bunch of literature to read and which was really helpful along with watching Jessica's videos and also listening 'A Quaker Take' podcast (by Quakers in Britain) to understand Quakerism a little more and it did seem like it was what I was spiritually looking for.

Not long after I was then in hospital for 6 months and I made good use of the hospital's chaplaincy team who were so good and we talked but also spent time sitting quietly together as Quakers do when they meet for worship.

Once I was home I got in touch with my local Quaker group and as due to the coronavirus situation they weren't meeting for worship; instead on a Sunday we was just meeting on Zoom for a social chat which really helped ease me into Quakerism especially as on reflection if I went straight into Meeting for Worship it might have been too full-on. In the social groups I was able to ask questions which we discussed such as Quakerism and Christmas and at Easter.

With Quakerism it's not about definitive answers but more about seeking (if that makes sense?!) everyone's views and take on matters are different and we respect one another and don't judge. The core principles or values of Quakerism are: Equality & Justice, Peace, Truth & Integrity and Simplicity and Sustainability  - you can find more out here.

After a while some friends (how Quakers refer to one another) from Grimsby where joining another Quaker meeting's for worship on zoom but I didn't feel ready yet to meet for worship.

Then this week I messaged someone I knew to ask if his Meeting House was still facilitating worship on Zoom so he put me in touch with the lady who co-ordinates the virtual Meeting for Worship. So I emailed her earlier in the week and I explained a little about my journey towards Quakerism and how I now felt ready to meet for worship on zoom.

So that's brought me to today (Sunday 30th May). I finally joined my first Meeting for Worship via zoom. There were other who where there on zoom and one laptop in the meeting house where others had come to worship in person. I found it easier to have my camera off and we all had our microphones off too so background noise didn't disturb anyone. I also thing Meeting for Worship on zoom was another step to help ease me in.

I'm still very new to Quakerism so I'm not an expert in the ins and outs of things but when Quakers meet for worship we sit silently together - when Quakers worship in person they sit in a circle or a square rather than traditional pews like you'd find in a church. Usually when there's not a pandemic a Meeting ends when two people shake hands. In today's Meeting for Worship some people did speak - this is called giving ministry. (I'm still learning these things).

I was worried if I could manage the whole hour of worship but I surprised myself and I got a lot out of it both personally but also sharing worship with others which all-in-all obviously helped me spiritually.

It was a big step for me to feel brave enough to join a meeting as it's something I'd put off doing for a while as it felt quite daunting but it's wasn't half as challenging as I imagined and I now look forward to more meetings. My hope is that when I feel well enough and also safe enough given the coronavirus situation that I can Meet for Worship at my local meeting house.

Spiritually I feel like Quakerism is the right faith for me and I'm happy to say that I'm a Quaker. I now enjoy declaring on forms like on my medical records and the census that I'm a Quaker. More often than not I get asked what is Quakerism, like when I went for my pre-admission assessment for an operation that I'm having in a few weeks. My Dad always jokes about Quaker Oats but I can firmly say that my faith has nothing to do with oats, and no we don't dress like the man on the Quaker Oats logo!