On Saturday, September 17th, I had the opportunity to attend the United Society of Friends Women (NCYM) annual gathering with Wess Daniels. Growing up in an unprogrammed meeting in Seattle, the Bible and Christianity were not central to my experience as a Quaker. So, attending a gathering of Christ-centered Quaker women was a little out of my comfort zone. Although I am coming to value and love the Bible as a part of my faith, I am still not used to sitting in pews and hearing Bible readings during Quaker gatherings. It is sometimes hard for me to connect this type of Quakerism to the faith that I was raised in. One of the only things I am sure about my Quakerism is that it believes in the Light (or the Light of Christ, the Divine, the Spirit, that of God, etc.) within all people, and the women of USFW are clearly living out this belief through their service and mission work. Their support of Friends Campus Ministry NCYM, Friends Center, Belize Friends School, FEMAP, and of many other wonderful programs is an inspiring testimony to their commitment to their faith and to Christ-centered service. The theme of their gathering was “Joy in His Presence” (Psalm 16:11). Not only were they joyful, but they were passionate, loving, powerful and incredibly welcoming. There was a deep sense of community which I felt was extended to me without a moment’s hesitation.
I grew up completely disconnected from Friends outside of my Beanite, unprogrammed yearly meeting. Most of the Quakers I interacted with had theological beliefs and practices very similar to those of myself and my family. I love and appreciate that community which has been so generous and supportive, but my beliefs about what it means to be a Quaker were not often challenged. Programmed Friends were “the other branch”, and I almost never interacted with them. Moving to North Carolina and seeing what it means to be Quaker for others, like the women I met at the USFW annual gathering, has pushed me to think about my faith in ways that are exciting, sometimes difficult, and always fulfilling. I am so grateful for the women of USFW for their gracious welcome and for their support of Friends Center.