A.J. found Quakers as a young adult. He describes the powerful mystical experience that had him crying in the Meetinghouse, and kept him coming back.
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So the first time that I went to Quaker Meeting, to visit West Hills, I pulled up—I was running a little bit late actually and so I was planning on just sneaking in the back—but I get up to the door and, probably one of the most mystical experiences of my life: I just started crying. I hadn’t heard anyone talk, I hadn’t had my hand shaken yet. I was just crying.
How I Found Friends
My name is A.J. Mendoza. I’m part of West Hills Friends Church in Portland, OR. I went to George Fox University, which is an evangelical Quaker school just outside of Portland. I started working a lot of with the LGBTQ students there, and while the school only has about a 3% Quaker student population, overwhelmingly the straight allies who would show up were Quaker, so that left me with a really big question mark: why are these the people that are showing up?
I think the first time I realized there were so many Quakers in the club was we had to make some sort of a decision and I don’t remember what it was at the time, but somebody said, “Why don’t we take a vote on that?” and there was kind of a wash of uncomfortability, and I was like, “What is that all about?” My friend leans over and was like, “Uh, a lot of the people in this room are Quaker and we tend to not vote.” I was like, “Oh. News to me!” So that was kind of my initial introduction to Quakers.
Finding a Meeting
I sent an email to a guy at my Yearly Meeting, asked if I could have coffee with him and he said that there’s actually one monthly meeting in Northwest Yearly Meeting that has minuted being welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people, and I was like, “Woah. Welcoming and affirming? Northwest Yearly Meeting? I know George Fox University as a school… not so generally an accepting place.” And so I had to see this.
I had to see this and it was going to be very academic. I was going to walk in, sit politely through the service because I hadn’t been to church in like, 4 years. After the service was over, find the pastor, shake his hand and say, “Well thank you for being welcoming, and good day to you.” So that was my intention.
And I pulled up there on a Sunday morning and started walking towards the meeting house. Before I even got in the door or heard a single person talk, just started crying. Just tears. It felt like my soul coming home after a really long time being away.
Then I sat through that meeting just, “guuuuhhh” in the back, and came back the next Sunday and the Sunday after that, and now I’m a member.
God is Still Speaking
I think what has resonated most with me about Quakerism is that idea that God is still speaking and is present now, and there’s equal access to that. That was not my experience of faith or my understanding of it growing up. God was locked away, and some people knew, and some people didn’t, and there were lots of rules. Quakerism just shakes up rules and I love that so much.
I love that the Jesus that I was sold as a kid that is exclusive and condemning is not the Jesus that I think existed at all. That’s not a God that I can relate to.
The God that wasn’t well liked by people, that was kind of hated, the Jesus that stood in front of people who were about to hurt another person, that’s a Jesus that interests me.
Being able to live into that faith, not as a spiritual refugee, but as an equal. It’s been really incredible. Really healing, actually.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.