Smaller Faith

A couple months ago I was visited by a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door (again). We had a conversation that really didn’t go where they wanted it to go (it rather dulls their efforts if the person they are speaking with has actually read and studied the Bible and already has some thoughts about its ramifications). However, they were pleasant enough and we had what seemed like the necessary dialogue. At one point, one of them asked if I was a person of faith. I said, “Yes, I’m a Quaker.” She paused with a bemused expression. It was a cross between now, who are the Quakers again? and we should probably make a hasty retreat down the street; he’s some kind of cult member!

As they left and I returned inside, I thought it must be a challenge to be part of a small marginalized religious community in secular Australia. Then the irony of that thought came to me; there are surely more Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia than Quakers, yet I never really feel marginal at all. I think this comes from years of once being part of a church movement that placed such an emphasis on numbers in the pews. One sits in church surrounded by others who are of a similar mind and spirit; it’s reassuring to know that you are all there in an equal state of ‘rightness’ (I’m not saying that as a condemnation; it’s not just a ‘church thing’).

However, the Quaker focuses one down to the smaller confines of a very personal faith; back to the mustard seed. We are around others who share a common tone of the spirit; however it's not necessary to completely harmonise to one accord. On Sunday, one of the Friends spoke of singing in a massed choir here in Sydney. She said it is so uplifting to mix one voice with so many others and magnify it manifold (or, in my case, at least nullify my flat tonality). In Quaker Meeting, we sit in silence. Each silence augmented and shared by the gathered Friends; a quiet collective (I wonder how people would respond if we went door to door and just stood there silently when people answered...)