Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 - V for Variety

How much variety (or diversity) is there among Quakers in the UK and worldwide, and is it a good thing? This is one of the questions being discussed at the moment on the Facebook group Quaker Renewal UK in a very wide-ranging and (on the whole) good-tempered way.

It is obvious that Quakers in Britain Yearly Meeting now have a much wider variety of spiritual experience and belief than has been the case in the past. This variety is beginning to echo the variety  among Quakers worldwide, of which Friends in the UK have often remained unconscious. Different Quaker traditions, with their labels of Liberal, Evangelical, Conservative etc., have in the past led to splits and schisms and this can still happen. However if we can manage to remain open, to really listen to the hearts, lives and experience of other Friends as well as to their (often difficult) words, then variety can be embraced while we still retain our differences.

The variety of life experience encountered among Friends in Britain may be less evident. The vast majority of us are well educated, white, getting on in years, comfortably situated. This perceived lack of variety can be off-putting to those who feel themselves to be different from the status quo. Do Quakers as a group welcome 'people like us' while often unconsciously rejecting the 'awkward squad'? Even if we are insiders in some ways, do we stay silent about aspects of ourselves which might make others feel uncomfortable?

I became a Quaker because of what I found in Meeting for Worship and that experience, with all its variety, is still a sure foundation for my life and faith. From that foundation I have slowly learned to value the variety of people who I worship with. Living in community with Quakers in my local meeting, my area meeting, my Yearly Meeting and in other groups, both face to face and online, has been a valuable but often difficult path to tread. For me it has been about learning to listen to and learning to love a wide variety of sometimes inspiring, sometimes infuriating Friends. It is a continuing journey on which I sometimes take one step forward and two steps back but I know that it is worth my perseverance.

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