How Equality Changed my Religion

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

My family/clan came out last week with the news that we have left our conservative evangelical denominations and become convinced Quakers — and we are gathering together to be a new little church! And nothing could possibly have surprised us more.

Since we moved to Mexico, we’ve been searching for a church home. We went to one for about a year. It was the only bilingual church in the area. It had “solid doctrines.” It was also extremely hierarchical. Some of our family members were hurt by that aspect of the church. I felt suffocated there. It was a literal physical feeling that got worse as the year went on. The people that go there are all completely lovely and we enjoyed conversing with them. But we never felt at home. Which was also true for me and Brian at our last church. And the one before that. And the one before that. (We don’t church hop – we have just moved a lot.) We want to worship in a church that celebrates the freedom Christ brought us. We have experienced His grace and freedom so deeply in the past few years that it feels wrong to attend a church that acts like that freedom doesn’t exist.

And we realized – we can’t raise our kids in a church like that. We want our kids to know to their CORES that God loves them all and that He called them to freedom in Christ – our girls in particular must not grow up in a church where they have to smother themselves to “stay in their place.” We want our kids to listen for His voice telling them what to do with the beauty He put in them – not the voices of humans telling them what God can and cannot call them to.

My dad asked me last year, “What are you looking for in a church?”

I said, “I’m looking for the Holy Spirit. I’m looking for a church where people listen to the Holy Spirit and everyone is allowed to follow Him wherever He leads them. I’m looking for a church where everyone is allowed to fully worship.”

We moved to a new city this past April, and we started the church search. We decided to ignore denominational considerations – we were looking for a church that loves Jesus and includes women as equals, which we thought was a pretty low bar. We called, had email conversations, visited websites, scoured Facebook pages. We couldn’t find a single church that embraced Jesus’ example and the practice of the early church by including women in leadership. (Not to say there are none here, but we did not encounter them.)

We learned that the neighborhood church was called the Friendship Church. We thought that meant Quaker – and Quakers like women, right? So I researched. The church – definitely not Quaker, and definitely not a place we’d feel comfortable. Before I found the church’s website, though, I started reading about Quakers (who are called Friends).

I had this idea (as did my family) that Quakers were a sect outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. What a pleasant surprise to discover that isn’t at all true! And the more I read, the more I was drawn into these beautiful ideas. Many Quaker church services (they’re called Meetings for Worship) are spent entirely in Silent or Expectant Waiting. What are they waiting for? THE HOLY SPIRIT!! They literally just sit there for an hour and wait for the Holy Spirit to show up! They speak (or sing or dance) when they feel the Holy Spirit leading them to. Just like the New Testament church, which I’ve been longing for! I was entranced.

Quakers believe that there is some of God in every person. Which made sense to me – He made humans in His Image – He breathed His own Spirit into us at creation. Because of this belief, they believe that all people are equal and can equally be led by the Light of the Holy Spirit. There is no division based on race, gender or even age – children are seen as equal brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Of course anyone who knows us can see that these beliefs are completely consistent with what we believe and how we live in our family. And it only got better from there.

I spent the next several weeks praying and reading everything I could find. I made a OneNote notebook to keep it all organized. I read about Meetings for Business and Yearly Meetings and Quaker terminology and the different branches of Friends. I watched videos about Quakers’ experiences and thoughts and beliefs. I read about Quaker testimonies, like Peace, Equality, Simplicity, and Integrity. And most importantly, for me, I read the writings of early Quakers, in particular George Fox and Robert Barclay. And they were COMPLETELY orthodox Christians! I learned that, while there are some branches of Quakerism that only remember their Christian roots, there are others that are orthodox Christian people living out their faith in the Quaker way!

Brian was in coding school at that point, working 12-15 hours days, so I would condense what I had learned that morning or day when I saw him for meals. I would read to him very significant passages. We talked and prayed. My sister did some reading on her own. And we very quickly realized… We had found our people!!

We don’t feel that we BECAME Quakers as much as we discovered that we ARE Quakers. Our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior hasn’t changed at all (except for an ever deeper knowledge of His beauty and grace). But the outer practice of our faith, our religion, has changed. Becoming Quaker allows us to live outwardly the love and freedom that we have experienced in our hearts in Christ.

We searched our city for a Meeting of Friends, and there was none. But we really wanted to go to one. So we thought… why not start one? It seemed very natural to us. Which was really the shocking part of all this. Brian and I have actively rejected the idea of starting a church before. The thought had never even occurred to my sister and brother in law, not for a moment! But this idea didn’t feel scary at all. It seemed like just the next thing to do.

We prayed about it for the next month or six weeks. Brian definitely wanted to wait until he was done with his school before deciding anything. And when he graduated — we decided to do it! If you would like to read a little more about our baby Meeting, you can go to our website. If you have questions that the website doesn’t answer, please send me a message! 🙂 And if you pray, please, please pray for us. Pray for wisdom and protection. Pray that God will bless our Meeting and use it to bless our City.

Published by Nikki Holland

I am a Quaker wife, mother, pastor, and writer. I work as the country branch director of a fabulous NGO in Belize City and I recently graduated with an MDiv from Earlham School of Religion. I love my family, and I love my community.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: