Mark Stanley Reflects on Discovering Quakers

Mark Stanley

Mark Stanley

This piece was originally published in the author’s blog.

I came to Quakers because I was looking for a Christian-based pacifist tradition, seeking companions and examples for the pacifist beliefs I had formed in isolation. I found the religious basis of Quaker pacifism very compatible with my own religious experiences. That there is “that of God” in everyone, and that everyone has the capacity to hear the voice of the Spirit and communicate it to others, was something I had felt for myself.

I was already worshiping alone in a way similar to the manner of Friends, sitting in silence and waiting for a religious experience like the two I’d already had in similar circumstances. While worshiping in Meeting I’ve had other profound religious experiences, though I’m not gifted with ministry very often. My personal worship is profoundly enriched by the company of my community.

I had a sex change many years ago, transitioning from female to male as a young adult. I’ve since described it as discarding that which was false, so that I spoke the truth with my words, my deeds, and my physical body. For me it was a powerful way to let my life speak, to act with the integrity Friends strive for. It was something I did years before coming to Friends, but it was another example of the way I wanted to live being the way Friends practiced their spirituality.

I became a convinced Friend very quickly after I started attending Meeting, though I waited a few years to take membership. The practices of the society made a lot of sense to me, and the accumulated wisdom of centuries of Friends is a wonderful spiritual and intellectual resource for me. When I’m feeling fearful, angry, or bereft, I can look to the experiences of people like me who have overcome their own human frailties to act with courage and love, upholding the values of peace and justice, speaking to the powerful and the powerless as children of God.