I started to attend the Quaker Meeting in Wahroonga 22 years ago, when my daughter was 2 years old. I was working full time and her baby sitter was a devout Catholic woman from Malta who often took her to services at the Catholic Church. My daughter had asked her baby sitter why Jesus had blood on his toes, had he hurt himself? I decided that it was time that we joined a Christian church so that she would have a religious foundation and I was also interested to connect with a church community. I had seen the Quakers’ banner at the Palm Sunday Peace rallies in Sydney, held by sensible looking, older women in cotton dresses and wearing flat sandals. I had known about Quakers through my Mennonite background in the Netherlands, although I had not personally met any.
The faith and values of Quakers have become the framework for my daily life. Many of the Quaker sayings are now woven into me, such as ‘recognising that of God in everyone’, ‘be patterns’, ‘live adventurously’. I have also become fond of Micah 6, verse 8: ‘and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ These understandings apply to everything I do from standing in the queue at the supermarket to what I reflect on in Meeting for Worship.
I have worked as a social worker all my working life. The Quaker framework has also become my work framework. At times I have to watch myself so that I don’t start to use ‘Quaker talk’ at work. I have left jobs that required me to work in a way that is too different from the person I have become. Currently I am in a position that is very ‘Quakerly’ in its approach to people who live with mental illness and have become marginalised in society.
Being part of Quakers has provided many opportunities for me and opened doors. I enjoy being part of ecumenical work and have been part of the NSW Ecumenical Council’s Social Issues Commission for about 10 years. I am also part of the National Council of Churches in Australia’s Social Justice Network. I grew up in the rural part of the northern province in the Netherlands that had a well established social stratification by religion and social class, so being part of healing ancient rifts and cruelty in the Christian world is important for me and I enjoy working together on projects. The light hearted and collegial banter between the representatives of the churches does me good. By being part of the Quaker world I have learned about bush regeneration and permaculture, overseas aid and United Nations work, interfaith activities and Aboriginal concerns, AVP and the religious education of children, singing, property management and now about developing an on-line journal. Yearly Meeting has become a gathering of the clan for me and I have my annual dose of current issues in education by reading the Friend’s School report.
Of course, one can have too much of a good thing and at times I get enough of Quakers, with all the inconsistencies, pedantic antics, taking the moral or religious high ground to push an opinion or action. I then need to remind myself that Quakers are normal folk with all the usual human shortcomings and foibles. And what does that say about me, that I have become so settled amongst Quakers? What does the Lord require of me?
Wies, it is lovely to read your journey, which like mine started with Wahroonga Friends. Now you are approaching retirement, I hope that opportunities will open for us to work together, especially on issues around the international face of Friends’ witness and action. It was your thought to nominate me as an FWCC representative- and look where that took me! I am currently in Providence Rhode Is, and soon to move to Boston where Abel and I will conclude our involvement with the “Being Salt and Light” workshops which the Section of the Americas has sponsored. Love, Valerie Joy