Why I became a Quaker - Peter Butler
I think my spiritual pilgrimage started when, as a young pre-teenage boy, I was invited to attend a small gathering of a group from ‘Christian Endeavour’. During that meeting we sang, “Jesus shall reign, where e’er the sun…” Even at that early age something in me was made to feel uncomfortable. It was to be the start of a spiritual pilgrimage that is still going on today. Then came the Billy Graham Crusades, which I attended out of a sense of duty. More embarrassing moments when I didn’t go forward to be saved.
All this time I had been attending the local Methodist Church. One day a friend asked if I would like to go to the local Baptist Church. Their new Minister, they felt, I might like to hear preach. It was to be a turning point in my spiritual life. This man, in the following years, was to give me, as I have said many times since, the University education I never had. What did he do? He taught me to think!
At the same time in my life I had fallen in love with another Baptist Minister’s daughter and when we married it seemed that the most natural thing to do was to attend my mentor’s church. This we did until he left. The Church had been disturbed too much by this man, and so they chose a new Minister who would not challenge them. By then we had two youngsters who joined the Brigades at the Methodist Church. Consequently on the monthly Brigade parades and services we went to the Methodist Church. Slowly we began to realise that our spiritual home lay with the Methodists and, in due course, we transferred our membership.
Over the following years we both were involved with the life of the Church, but as the time passed I began to realise that this particular Church was only primarily concerned with the three Ms – Maintaining the status quo, Maintaining the building and Managing the Churches decline.
In 1998, we were staying with a friend in Nottingham who at that time was attending a Quaker Meeting. He asked if we would like to attend a Meeting with him. We did and afterwards realised something had happened to us, such that we resolved that at the next opportunity, we would go to the Quaker Meeting in Wellingborough.
We walked in as total strangers, but were made so welcome that we felt we wanted to come again. The rest, as they say, is history.
But what was it about this Meeting that, for me, felt right?
As I got to know the members I found that I could express my thoughts without having to think that I might be offending them… the “you are trying to undermine my faith” syndrome. For many years I had read the works of Leslie Weatherhead, John Robinson, Don Cupitt, et al. I had found myself, to a great extent, on the same wavelength as them. Now in the Quaker Meeting, not only did I find they had a library, but that the members read and discussed what they were reading. I was experiencing a depth of spirituality that I had not known before. Also they were concerned with events outside in the real world. Then, the real friendship, fellowship and the love of the Meeting members. Although my wife still wanted to remain within the Methodist Church, she always felt part of the Quaker Meeting. So my spiritual pilgrimage has continued within Quakerism. Is this where my pilgrimage will end? Who knows where the Spirit will lead me? It may be that this is where I’m intended to be, but, whatever lies ahead, I give thanks to God for bringing me into the fellowship of a Quaker meeting.