June MFM News – A Sampling

Finding Friends

By Kent 

One day when I was about 7, I asked my mother if she thought people who didn’t worship the way we did would really go to hell.

She answered by asking, “What do you think,” and I simply said “No, they don’t.” It didn’t make sense that God would love some people and not others, no matter what was said in church or in my catechism classes.

In my adult life, very much on the periphery of Christian faith, I had several powerful experiences that I simply couldn’t explain with logic. Each experience was brought about by a simple, easy-to-miss act of love or kindness in a place where neither love nor kindness seemed likely. These moments spoke to me of the love Jesus taught us. They were small acts with big impact, and proof that real love for others does not discriminate.

To the outsider, they may have looked like mere coincidences, but each spoke to my condition so profoundly it was almost overwhelming. These were moments that moved me, moments that changed my perceptions and the way I am with others. I knew others were not having the same experience but, at the same time, I also knew the experiences were not unique to me. I wanted to find people who would understand a desire to pursue an ineffable force that can embrace without arms, communicate without words, and leave one speechless on a street corner, forever changed. So, I did what anyone would do: I asked the internet.

There I found a Quakerspeak video featuring a young man who spoke about going to his first Quaker meeting with no intention of participating or ever returning, only to find himself moved to tears for reasons he couldn’t explain. He told his story with such peace that I knew I was on the right track. I found I already identified with the idea that there is “that of God in everyone.” I understood the testimonies to be common experiences that come from living one’s faith, and felt at home with these much more than any doctrine that tells one what to believe or how to live.

Quakers appeared to welcome study and dialogue with other faith traditions. Rather than limiting who could participate or dictating who could be saved, Quakers put the ineffable at the helm in their lives, and many seemed to have a sense of gratitude and joy as a result. Upon realizing this, I developed a hunger to learn and grow spiritually, and believed the Quaker meetinghouse was my starting point. It was a different kind of motivation than I’d ever had. I’d opened my heart up enough to be spoken to, and here were others who were doing the same. I reached out to Memphis Friends Meeting, and found a warm, welcoming home.

Note: The J Balla photograph on this page is the cover art feature for the May 2024 issue of Friends Journal, available for free online access at www.friendsjournal.org