Why I am a Quaker - Axel Landmann

I ought to be a Quaker! I owe them my life but that is not the reason I eventually joined. There was a big reunion at Friends House of children brought to England via the Kindertransport to escape Nazi persecution because of their Jewish connection. Some had retained their Jewish faith, some had lost faith and some had become Quakers. Quaker help is given unconditionally. They see a need, have a concern and do something, without some other motive and certainly not to increase their numbers – but that’s not why I joined.

Through force of circumstances I joined families who were Baptists and Congregationalists, and digs for my first job was with a Methodist landlady, so I was exposed to a variety of Christian denominations. I attended the Sunday school and took the only exam which gave me a 100% rating. I enjoyed the hymns and still miss them now but although the tunes were great, the theology made it difficult to sing the words with conviction. An evangelical group of young people brought out the need of personal responsibility required if there was a real belief and I realised that I was taking part in a performance rather than worship. The ordered service left no period for personal worship and I turned back to try the Quaker worship.

The unprogrammed Meeting for worship was just what I needed. This of course means more personal responsibility for biblical knowledge, and I rely on a thorough knowledge of Mark and the first 15 chapters of Acts to an agnostic teacher who taught these bits of the bible as English literature for School Certificate. In my first digs I shared life with a probationary Methodist minister and we argued about the bible, pacifism and creeds. It was a good testing ground for my real beliefs. I enjoyed the services, but with time realised that it was a service in which somehow I was not a part.

Then a memory came back of times spent in the Northampton Quaker Sunday school and I started attending Eccles Meeting on Sundays. I had found my spiritual home. There in the silence I was a part of the group and the Advices and Queries gave me a challenge without being prescriptive. Taking me down a bit, I remember the advice: Think it possible you might be mistaken. That is why I am a Quaker.

Axel Landmann