Why I am a Quaker - Elizabeth Redfern

For me it’s to do with tolerance, and no ‘we know we’re right’ culture.

Quakers are always ‘seeking the truth’, they know that they will never find an absolute answer, and that your whole life is spent working to get at least a small insight into what the truth might be.

I like the combination of the Quaker principles (known as testimonies) and the keenness to contribute to the world around us through work. This is often referred to as ‘Being Quaker: Doing Quaker’. The testimonies are straightforward; truth (or you could say honesty), equality, simplicity and peace. And I find that these simple concepts influence my everyday life including my work. My work is my living testimony to these concepts.

Quaker worship is truly inspirational. We sit together as a group in silence for an hour each week. No prayers, no hymns, no clergy, no creed or dogma. And each person waits to see how they are spiritually guided. Somehow the fact that we do this together makes a vast difference to sitting on your own. Somehow the gathered group has its own force. You may get a person stand up and say something that the ‘spirit’ has guided them towards, and it’s surprising how what is said in these short interruptions ‘speaks to your condition’, as in it makes sense to you and especially at that particular time.

As a group of people, Quakers are very calm, considerate, and very open minded. This is especially obvious when something goes wrong, in whatever situation. Nobody gets accused of anything: no finger pointing. There is a general feel that we need to understand a situation so we all learn for the future. And the opportunity to learn is another significant reason why I’m a Quaker. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with people from a far wider range of backgrounds than I had previously, and to work on subjects that are completely outside of my previous experience. I also contribute my knowledge, and hope that someone learns something from me. We’re all keen to learn, and I suppose that goes hand in hand with ‘seeking the truth’.

I came to Quakerism (in my 40s) from an atheist background. Many Quakers come from other religions. My lack of religious knowledge has been absolutely no barrier to my being accepted in the society. My interest in Quakers initially came from hearing many times over the years about the successful and ethically well run Quaker businesses, such as Cadbury, Fry’s, Rowntrees and Clarks shoes, and banks such as Barclays and Lloyds. Although by modern standards the treatment of their staff, customers and suppliers would be seen as fair but not outstanding, in their time they were seen as great examples and pioneering industry leaders. Today many businesses are trying to emulate their ethical standpoint within a modern context.

So why am I a Quaker? Because Quakerism to me in this country is straightforward. I can live a Quaker life and get a lot out of doing so.

Elizabeth Redfern