Why I am a Quaker - Ruth Whitehouse

My parents were brought up as Anglicans but were seekers and became Christian Scientists before I was born. One of my first memories is of riding on a seat on my father's cross bar as the family pedalled to the Christian Science church every Sunday morning. I attended the children's class and did so until I was 12 years old. By then I was well indoctrinated into the way of Scientists and it did not sit comfortably with my inquiring mind. I begged to be allowed to stay at home on Sunday mornings and this my parents eventually agreed to.

My quest for something 'other' then began. My peers attended a youth club run by Congregationalists so on a Sunday I joined them for evening worship. This lasted for several years before I switched my allegiance to the Baptists though I never fancied being baptised by immersion!

When I decided to train as a teacher I chose St. Mary’s College Cheltenham because it was a 'church' college. Here I was in the college choir but sometimes attended a local ‘high’ church and grew to enjoy the smell of incense and the associated ritual. This led me to become confirmed into the Church of England back home at the age of 19. First I had to be baptised and I can still hear my mother saying, "I wish we’d had you done as a baby"! Then getting married a couple of years later with full nuptial mass was almost more than my parents could bear.

There followed occasional attendance at local churches as Derrick and I moved around the country but also a growing dissatisfaction with the Anglican service. I wanted time to think about the sermon, perhaps to discuss its contents but this was not possible. At some stage Derrick acquired the pack from Friends house about Quakers and kept suggesting I read it. Eventually I did and have since never looked anywhere else. I attended my first Meeting for worship one Christmas after which we were invited to a New Year party to be held at a local agricultural college. My lasting memory was of the welcome I received, being accepted for myself. (I had low self-esteem at that time). That Friend had seen that of God in me.

In one way it could be said that I had found what I had always been looking for. As I got to know more about Quakerism I knew that I was being led on a spiritual journey which suited me because of who I am. I have much to thank my parents for. They brought me up to be truthful and have integrity, to be fair and have a sense of adventure. I sometimes wonder what the outcome for me would have been if they had found Quakerism instead of Christian Science all those years ago. Maybe I would have rebelled against that and become a Scientist!

Ruth Whitehouse