We have something beautiful, which people want and need. We should share it.
Often Quakers will say “We do not proselytise” as if that were a claim to maturity, or even virtue. Church Government of 1931, on visiting applicants for membership, advises Should the teaching and practice of another religious body appear to meet his spiritual needs, it is unlikely that his right place is among us. To me that indicates suspicion, which still lingers: will this new person dilute the Quaker magic? So people have difficulty finding us, may not know about us, and feel nervous about entering our door. Yet when some infant schools practise “Circle time” and the NHS teaches Mindfulness, when Buddhist meditation groups spring up around the country, we should not rely on “natural Quakers” seeking us out. John the Baptist preached, Change your life, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near, and people joined him, even becoming disciples, and were led to Jesus. We might not stand in the street offering leaflets like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do, but we could be more visible.
Someone in health services, knowing nothing about me, recently told me to start mindfulness and referred me to a blog post with six possible exercises. I find mindfulness, when unsupported, potentially dangerous, even retraumatising, bringing up matters from the past which we are not ready to process. A meeting could provide a safe and supportive space for exploration of inner spaces which are not all Light, rules on how we are when we are there, and others holding the stillness while we dive, which is reciprocal. After one Meeting we were joking about a possible slogan for Quakers- a good place for your midlife crisis. That sounds risky. “Spiritual seekers” is better. The incohate dissatisfaction of “There must be more to life than this” can start people on a spiritual path.
I found Quakers at exactly the right time for me. I realised I was on a spiritual path, that spiritual growth was important to me. People I knew helped me find places for exploration, where I found others who introduced me to their Meetings, and an Enquirers’ day, and I went to my own local meeting. It seemed to me like a leading from God, but others who might enrich our meetings and benefit from them do not find us.
Quakers stood in churches and interrupted the sermon- I have read the stories of my local instances in Joseph Besse’s A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers. Then we were tolerated, and local Quakers built a meeting house three miles from my home. They built a high wall because locals stoned them, and went quiet. Now we provoke indifference and incomprehension rather than hostility.