I am now a Quaker. Wow. It feels so amazing to be able to write (well, type) those words. Despite having said similar statements for many years – all my life really – whenever I’ve said those words in the past, they’ve always been followed by a qualification: ‘I’m just an attender’, ‘I mean I don’t go to meeting, but I identify with their ideals’, ‘I’ve recently been drawn back to it but I’m not an “official” member’. Those provisos are no more: tonight I have been ‘accepted into membership’, as the phrase goes.
Nothing momentous has happened to mark this, nor does it entail anything sacramental or other rites of passage associated with religion; there’s no confirmation or eucharist, or even a baptism. Instead, membership marks a public declaration that the ‘Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)’ (to give them the official name) is a group that I feel I belong to. This is where I am at home. On a personal level, it’s also about a sense of commitment; words are easy, but this indicates that I support the community from which I’ve gained so much. It’s about sharing; giving back some of what has been given to me – such as friendship & support. This was in evidence even just at the event that I’ve been to this evening; there was so much encouragement and good wishes – even from people I’ve never met before – that it felt like my birthday. Maybe it is like a birthday. It’s a huge moment in my life, despite the lack of fanfare and ceremony. For me, it feels as important – possibly more so – as getting married. The fact that it lacks the hype of a wedding is no bad thing. I was actually told while sneaking in the back of the room; I’d gone to the meeting with a friend from my local Quaker meeting & we were late due to traffic. Someone opened the door for us as they’d heard us in the entrance way. It was someone I know & he just beamed, managing to declare despite whispering ‘You’re a member!’. That instant will remain carved in my heart and in my soul until the day I die.