Quakers don’t talk about conversion or outward baptism. Instead we say that we’ve become “convinced.” What does that look like?
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- Walter says that after we become convinced, we “live in the world in a different way.” Is this your experience? What changes when convincement happens?
- Walter uses working on racism as the example of something that he became “convinced of” after years of already being a Friend. In your ongoing journey as a Quaker, what have you only recently become convinced of?
Convincement is that moment when the idea of being a Quaker becomes a lived reality of being a Quaker, in which the Quaker way comes into the heart and finds a home and makes a nest and settles. It’s a subtle thing but it’s everything also. It’s everything.
Walter Hjelt Sullivan
When Jesus said, “I am the way,” my understanding of that is that when we come to Spirit and we say “yes” and we allow Spirit to be in us, we live in the world in a different way, and it becomes our way of being.
Overcoming Our Limitations
There is this human way of deciding things that is driven much more by ego, by fear, by our addictions to food and sex and all of those human things. And that way of being creates oppression and separation, where some small group in our culture gets to drive the agenda for their own self-interest. So it’s the source of racism, it’s the driver of climate change, it’s what has caused oppression from the first days.
The Quaker way is not the only way to alleviate that human energy that colonizes the world and colonizes our minds, but it is one particularly skillful, particularly elegant, particularly powerful other way for us to make community together.
Convincement Is Ongoing
Maybe many people in many traditions, religions, say that convincement is a one-time thing: “I was convinced and now I am.”
So I am now a Quaker and I am a member of this tribe and I’m committed to its health. But every time I say yes to something, there’s a new level, a new arena, a new something that I’m ready to learn that God is calling me into, and there’s a deeper connection to Spirit.
So when I first came into the Religious Society of Friends, I was not conscious of the need to work on issues of racism, to have that work be part of the perfection of a religious society, but recently I have become convinced that that is a part of my piece in this fellowship. And I don’t even know what are the future pieces of convincement that need to happen in me that I need to be open to.
And so, yes, I’m a Quaker. But I’m not yet fully the Quaker that I might be. And it’s when I stop and say, “Been there, done that, it’s over” that I think I stop being a Quaker. And I need to maybe become convinced again.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.
8 thoughts on “Becoming Convinced”
My Grandfather was a minister, also my Step Father, my Mother a missionary nurse. I am a Christian, Jesus is the way.
I am now a convinced Quaker.
Before this I was an occasional attendee at a Protestant church. During my pre adult years I was very active in this denominations church life, several weekly services, summer camps, social activities that included many of my school mates but as I grew older I moved away from it. It was no longer spiritually satisfying. There grew a contempt for what I perceived as people that professed Gods Love but did not seem to have Love For God. I also began to wonder what was the point for all the hub-bub and rigmarole that went on during services. This was what attracted me to attend meetings, the Quaker worship enveloped me in a serene feeling of closeness to God and as time passed I realized that I was convinced that I must welcome Quaker practice into my soul.
With me there was no change in my religious belief and very little in my personal life including political beliefs. Many of the issues of Friends such a racism, death penalty and war have changed only to the extent of being exposed to a different group of peoples viewpoint.
Unlike Walter I have not had to face these things but like him I am not a complete Quaker. I don’t think I am a very good Quaker in the sense of practicing the principals of Quakerism. There is a gulf between convinced and birthright Quakers. For example, I am military veteran and have been a police officer and have never met a lifelong Quaker that has.
To Carl Alexander, regarding your comment : It seems like you are concerned that because you didn’t have the same experience as a birthright Quaker that it somehow leaves a gap in your ability to be a complete Quaker and the fact that you were in the Military separates you somehow. First let me tell you that my Dad, an 11th generation Quaker, joined the Navy when WWII broke out. He felt it was the right thing to do. At the end of his life, however, it was clear that of all the things he did in this life the war was the most damaging to him. …. As for me, the offspring of a Quaker father and a pentacostal protestant mother I found myself doing a lot of searching. I was a Bahai was quite a while. But when I had an epiphany one day while watching a PBS special, I realized that a great deal of who I was I owed to my Dad’s Quaker values and sensibilities. I came back to where I started only to find it for the first time. And by the way, I spent 26 years as a Police Dispatcher. Take care.
Thank you for your comment. Each person has to find her own way. My parents and their parents were Episcopalians, so my father couldn’t figure out how his 3 daughters became a Quaker, a Mormon, and a Buddhist. I became convinced while studying in California at UC Berkeley.
I have been reading about Quaker practices for several months, first drawn by the posts of Parker Palmer.
I find a lot that speaks to me. I really appreciate the videos and articles from the Friends Journal and quakerspeak.com.
Thank you, Walter, for opening in me the conversation I am always drawn to, which seems to be how is the experience of the path I am on related to the deepest truths in me, and what do I need to answer “yes” to right now in order to stay on that path? I found I had to re-direct my work on oppression to creative expression of the deep truths behind the oppression as well as accompanying the oppression. My human inner drivers continually bring me back to a need for convincement, and a commitment to the conversation and the actions that are life-renewing. Thank you for finding the words that open.
Carl Alexander, we are all equal as Quakers in our convincement, and birthright Quakers need a kind of convincement too. Convincement is a matter of spiritual opening rather than longevity. I am a convinced Friend now participating for close to years. That people come from different backgrounds and life experiences adds a richness and diversity that I find very valuable.
Remember the parable Jesus told of the workers in the field, with the most recent to come getting equal wages.
Beautifully put. What a wondrous gift is given by the Spirit, not all at once but over a lifetime.
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