Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 - L for Learning

How do we learn about Quakers and Quakerism? The obvious answer, for me, is by reading, but when I have thought more I realise that this is far from the only way. Over the years I have certainly read a lot of books about Quakerism but also books - and diaries, letters and other less formal writings - by Quakers both past and present. Some of these have spoken to me more than others but in their variety they have built up a picture of Friends not just in 'Quaker grey' but in a whole rainbow of colours.

When I first fell among Friends I was working in Friends House Library in London  and there I learned a lot about the history and structure of the Society of Friends as well as meeting a wide range of contemporary Quakers - not always a wholly positive experience! I went to meeting for worship - at first to the brief meetings for 'staff' and later to the Local Meeting where I lived.

When I first attended Meeting for Worship in Reading I went on my own and didn't talk to anyone, going straight in to the meeting room and straight home afterwards. If anyone had approached or tried to involve me at that stage I probably would not have gone back. I thought that the worship was all I wanted or needed. Later we made a decision to go regularly as a family and it was at that point that I began to get to know people in the meeting and the way that Quakerism worked in practice. Of course I soon found myself on a committee and that was another learning experience. Working with Friends towards a common goal was not always easy but taught me a lot. I also began to go to Meetings for worship for business and saw the Quaker business method in action. Eventually I learned to take on some roles of responsibility within the meeting.

One of the first things that I had learned about Quakers was that local meetings were part of a whole structure and I have always found my experience of other meetings positive, even when difficult. Yearly Meeting, General (now Regional) Meeting and Monthly (now Area) Meeting were and are all part of my learning experience, even when things do not run smoothly. I have come a long way from the individual on a spiritual journey that I did not see the need to share with anyone else!

So have I learned about Quakers through osmosis (a long-standing excuse for not needing Quaker education)? Yes and No. It is true that sitting in meetings, getting to know individuals, working together, has not involved formal learning but I have also had a lot of things explained to me that I did not understand, and sometimes did not know that I did not understand. Eventually I became more comfortable with asking questions and am now very happy to answer other people's. Learning can come to us in many ways and the important thing I think is to be open to it whenever the opportunity arises.

1 comment:

Doreen said...

This is a particularly good one, Gil.