Why I am a Quaker - Robert Ashton
I was invited to speak to the Quaker Quest group last night about why I became a Quaker. My parents used to take me to the local Anglican Church when I was growing up. That style of worship is however too directive to appeal to me today; I prefer to make my own spiritual journey and not be told what to believe, say or even sing.
My first visit to a Quaker Meeting was in response to curiosity. Why were so many of the ethical, yet successful, entrepreneurs of the 18th and 19th century Quakers? Cadbury’s chocolate, Clark’s shoes and Barclay’s Bank are just three examples of Quaker founded successful businesses. Quakers also lead in the field of social reform, and as pacifists, successfully secured the right for people to conscientiously object in times of national conflict.
As I sat in my first Meeting for Worship, I quickly realised that this was where I could truly belong. I realised that my life has always been guided by the Quaker values of equality, peace, simplicity and truth. It’s why I’m a social entrepreneur and why I am quick to act when I see others excluded from opportunity by prejudice or habit. There is something also uniquely special about the collective act of Quaker worship. It’s hard to explain, but a joy to experience. I’m not sure I said this as well as I might have last night, so hope that those present, and others will be encouraged by my words here to find out for themselves how transformative living a Quaker life can be.