I’ve known Liz since she moved in across the road when my first child was a baby. She appeared at a time when I was a single parent and working, without family support close by. I had amazing friends, but Liz was my mother figure, arriving two years after my much loved and still missed mum died.
She would pop over to coddle the baby when I was tired and feed me soup when I was eating rubbish with one hand. As my boy grew, she taught him to cook, let him gather eggs from her hens and he joined her in digging potatoes and walking the dogs. She and I became friends, she listened, we talked, we laughed and we shared books and experience.
One day she invited us to a Quaker meeting. I’m not religious having been to church for a while as a young person and felt judged and disapproved of. In contrast we were warmly greeted at the Meeting House and my son was actually encouraged to play and move around as he needed to. There is no ‘leader’ in Quaker Meetings, anyone ‘moved’ can speak, otherwise, we sat in silence which as a meditator I felt comfortable with.
I didn’t often go to Meeting but on Liz’s significant birthdays, I would find myself at celebrations where everyone brought food to share and where my then-older children, would join in with the multi-generational community to dance and play games. So many of the people in that community were Quakers, very quietly so.
Then this year, in the summer holidays, usually itinerant travellers, the only place that we went after lockdown, was to visit Liz. My boys now tower over me and so we needed our own space, and also to keep us all covid safe, so Liz found us a lovely self-contained flat with some of her Quaker friends. As we walked on our socially distanced walks, Liz told me about all the enormous social changes Quakers have been part, if not initiators of (Oxfam, the abolition of slavery). Liz and her friends have over the years showed me how actions speak louder than words, how silence can be truth and how the spiritual is also political. I have found a Meeting House in fields surrounded by woodland not so far from me. I have only sat with them once, but I was welcomed then, and it is a place I felt like I fitted.
I’d love you to listen to my podcast conversation with Liz as she explains more about what Quakerism has meant to her and what it has to offer the world. I find it remarkable and absolutely necessary at this weird time.