Descriptions of the way in which early Friends came to Quakerism identify several stages. First of all the individual is 'reached' by the message of Quakerism or by the behaviour and example of particular Quakers. Next comes the first part of convincement in which she or he is, to use an equivalent term, convicted - in the sense of a criminal conviction - that there is a darkness within, a failing that must be changed before convincement can proceed. This failing is different for everyone. Examples given in Friends' spiritual autobiographies include dancing, reading novels, drinking, putting too great an emphasis on one's own status and 'lightness' or insufficient seriousness. I think that my own failing, from which many others sprang, was a refusal to allow for the possibility of change.
|Badge for UK Quaker Week 2012|
In the past and sometimes even today a distinction has been made between 'birthright' Friends who have been born into Quaker families and 'convinced' Friends who have come to Quakers from outside, with convinced Friends often seen as somehow inferior. This is a false dichotomy as Friends have always recognised that even those brought up in Quaker families are still in need of convincement. Samuel Bownas was a case in point, carefully brought up to behave, dress and speak like a Quaker but unable to understand the heart of his faith until he too was convinced.
I am glad that convincement and becoming a Quaker is a continuing process. I am always heartened by the idea of 'measure' - that Light is given to each according to their capacity, or measure, and that if we live up to what is given then it is possible for that measure to increase.