Why I am a Quaker - Derrick Whitehouse
When I look back on my life from a reference point of 82 years or so, I realise that it was inevitable that I should become a Friend. As an only child I became used to coping with solitude and spent much of my childhood and adolescence walking the fields and woods on a Cotswold country estate. Despite the influence of the military during WW2 and the muscular Christianity of being a boy scout (even becoming a King’s scout) there was an incident when I was about 14 years old, in 1946, that I now realise was significant. It was at the time when I was being confirmed into the Church of England with all my mates. The mother of one of them recounted how she had worshipped with Quakers in Cheltenham and described the worship and how within the stillness people would minister. I recall now saying, "That seems to be a good way of worshipping to me."
Later, during service in the RAF Medical branch for five years and at certain points dealing with the wounded from the Korean War, I came to realise how brutal war is. This led me into training as a teacher where my first job in 1957 was in a secondary modern school in Warwickshire. It was there that, despite my enthusiastic involvement with the Church of England, I sent for pamphlets about Quakers. One leaflet was on Quaker Fundamentals and four sections leapt out to me, namely, silent worship, the priesthood of all believers, the sacramental life and the inward light (which I now interpret in my protean way as – Spirit, God, Transpersonal, Morphic Resonance, Seed, Cosmic Intelligence, Universal Consciousness, to name but a few possibilities). I knew this had to be my spiritual path.
So here I am over fifty years later, a seasoned Friend, having served in a variety of ways on national and local committees, and travelled with and for Friends to the United States, New Zealand and Sweden. During this time I have experienced Quakers at their spiritual best and at other times becoming very frustrated with their actions and outlook. Where are we going I constantly ask? Will we ever progress spiritually towards that which goes beyond the 'haggling' of theist or non-theist towards a sense of unity with the transpersonal? Will we ever set up processes on a regional basis where latent talent can be tapped, trained to lift the knowledge and interactive skills truly to benefit struggling meetings so that they may flourish and grow? How can we help Friends to become a people of prayer where everyone has the skill to faithfully go inward, be still and wait and listen for the guidance that comes from the inner teacher?
You may well ask if I have ever contemplated resigning my membership. The answer would have to be 'frequently'. However, I am still there, believing that I have a vocation to speak truth to power, which I shall continue to undertake diligently and with love and as much weight as I can bring to bear on our beloved Religious Society at both a local and national level. Yes I have been accused of being arrogant but also innovative and I know that I have been a quiet but persistent maverick in my professional life and to some extent continue to be so in my private life. I believe that is my sacramental calling and my spiritual mission.