“Having all of those stories and experiences that came before us, to then come together, [to] find each other as Friends, as ensemble-builders, storytellers, or people who are just very passionate about making change—that is definitely something that I found in Quakers and in Quaker community that speaks to me and helps drive me forward.”
Sara Waxman of Friends Journal explains how the theater opened a path back to her Quaker roots.
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One of my mentors in college, she mentioned angels as signposts and that there are these people in our lives that help point you towards where you’re supposed to be going, even if you have no idea where you’re going or you think you have an idea. And you know, I could recognize that I had these angels and signposts that were pointing me home but I’d always thought that it was there and it was in theater, but when I started looking outside of the career that I was in at one point that was really stressful, really unbalanced, I decided that it was time to really do a deep dive and come back to where I felt most grounded and the way for me in fully was by coming to Friends Journal.
My Journey Back to Quakers
My name is Sara Waxman. I live in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, and I’ve been working for Friends Publishing Corporation since 2012.
So, my religious experience has been a coming into and out of Quakerism my whole life, and my journey has taken many twists and turns and while it started at Chestnut Hill Monthly Meeting it really grew when I would go (when I was in high school and junior high) to Young Friends gatherings that were led by, at the time, Cookie Caldwell, and that had a really strong impact on me because I felt like I belonged there. I felt like I belonged with the people that were there.
We were just– as teenagers when someone really respects you and wants to hear what your opinion is, it– for me was life changing and I looked forward to those gatherings every month. It was like a reprieve and oasis; I knew when I was going that it wasn’t going to be anything like high school and I could just let all those insecurities from high school go.
Taking a Break From Quakerism
After I graduated from First Day school, and from high school and Young Friends, I went away to school and theater has always been a huge part of who I was and another pillar to myself and to who I am. And so I decided to go to school for the study of English and Theater Arts and I took a minor in Secondary Education because I felt that the experience of Young Friends and how I was treated was something that I wanted to carry into the world.
You know, the theater-making process was really a way into understanding other people and in telling stories, and it felt spiritual; it felt like an extended worship sharing sometimes, and the way that you can make connections with someone on stage or backstage when you’re putting on a show or building something, it’s very present and it has to be respectful and you know you’re doing something for a greater purpose. And so while I never spoke about it– I was never like, “That’s God!”– because of my Quaker upbringing I was always moved by that and I always respected that and it was always there; that, you know, the next, “Yes, and…” or the next impulse was coming from somewhere greater than the two of us or the ensemble or the booth or whatever. But it was a very — it’s a very impassioned and stressful business and so I feel like I grew out of that and I really needed to respect the calling that I had which wasn’t necessarily in secondary education, which I originally thought, or in theater which I originally thought. It was still in storytelling and in the sharing of experience, just in the form of the written word.
Reconnecting at Friends Publishing
So, being part of a faith community now and I consider Friends Publishing as part of my faith community — a huge part of it — it connects me with the things that I’m incredibly passionate about. One of those things is the Alternatives to Violence Project, which when I moved to New Jersey there was a New Jersey chapter and, you know, it’s finding people who are your people; that care enough to move the work forward in a way that is driven, purpose-filled, and rests upon what has come before.
So having — you know, I’m not a Quaker historian or theologian but having all of those stories and experiences that came before us to then come together; find each other as Friends, as ensemble-builders, storytellers, or people who are just very passionate about making change — that is definitely something that I found in Quakers and in Quaker community that speaks to me and helps drive me forward. And there is a lot of storytelling and a lot of theater-building in what we do as Quakers… We just don’t call it that.
- What has your spiritual journey looked like?
- Can you think of a time when you have been guided by “angels and signposts?” What form did that take for you, and how did it guide you to where you are now?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.