Alice over at Public Quaker has been answering questions about her Quaker experience as preparation for yearly meeting, which I'm not going to.
But, I wonder if answering the questions for myself might help me to reflect on my own experiences as I've adventured into Quakerism.
1. What Quaker testimonies are most important for you?
Which list of testimonies am I supposed to draw from? Ok, probably equality - because all the others stem from that for me. As I seek to live in a way that affirms the humanity and value of each person, it has enabled me to develop a broader more open approach to others - accepting other faiths, embracing those around me whose cultures may be vastly different from my own, learning to value relationships for relationships sake and not because of the genders of the people involved, and probably most prominently in challenging the way I work as a mental health professional (well, soon to be anyway) wanting to affirm the dignity and value of all people's experiences.
I think it is this committment to equality that leads me on to the other testimonies - compassion, green issues (its not my planet to corrupt, it belongs to all so I better look after it for others), peace (if my neighbour is equal, what right do I have to take up arms against him, or her) etc.
2. What difference do they make in the way you live your life?
I think I've probably covered some of this above.
Recently I've been considering how equality should impact on
-the way I work (how do I ensure that I do not exploit my powerful position as a professional when working with people who are vulnerable - how can I work towards equality between staff and service users? How do I practice equality between myself and my research participants.)
-the way I shop (do the goods I buy exploit other human beings?)
-the way I relate to my wider community, building interfaith and cross racial relationships. Back home in NI I was involved in cross community activities that are probably taking on more meaning for me now than they did when I was actually involved.)
3. In what ways is this difficult?
The jump from ideals to practice is a big one is it not?
Trying to put equality into practice where I work can be difficult - I'm often aware that I am in a very powerful position as a researcher and that I work in a system that is driven by the medical and scientific establishments and isn't always very person focussed (whatever the gimmicks on our mission statements might say.) I'm also very much aware that as I progress in my career, it will be a challenge to live the ideals.
Of course, if I believe all are equal, what right do I have to buy goods that are the fruit of child or sweatshop labour - but have you tried fairtrade shopping - if I stuck to it rigidly I'd be quite naked.
Then there are the people who although I believe all are equal, I also find to be most irritating. That of God might be in everyone, but in some he or she is very well hidden!
I also think political involvement and awareness is really important, but its utterly exhausting to keep up to date with the complexities of politics both local and national and trying to think critically about it can sometimes be nigh on impossible to squeeze into my day.
4. How are you helped by being a Quaker, or involved with other Friends?
Kindred spirits are always inspiring. I think in finding Quakers, I've found people who understand my own quirkiness, who give space to discuss matters of importance in an open and supportive context. It is a humbling challenge to me to meet so many people who are deeply committed and actively involved in their communities, making a positive difference in the world.