“I felt an energy, and it was just kind of a love at first sight,” John Spears says of his first visit to a Quaker meeting. “I still appreciate the freedom of it, the direct dial to God, so. And you know, also there are a number of people that just socially I like.”
Though he doesn’t always see eye to eye with other Friends, John observes, “I think that God’s Big Quaker Tent, at its heart, has a Christian spirit. Jesus I think of as opening his arms to all different types of people…. I think it’s a loving idea. If it was my tent I’d say, ‘Come on in! Have a beer!'”
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I would say that the Quaker idea of integrity and encouragement to be honest has been, in a way, a source of conflict with some of the social group aspects of our religious society, because I am different. And I’ve just become maybe more open about that difference and there’s sometimes been a tension. I’ve often thought of quitting and yet I’m still oriented towards Quakerism as a way to God.
Fitting into “God’s Big Tent”
My name is John Spears. I live in three different places – Naples, FL; Hopewell, NJ; and the place we’re in right now, which is a newly constructed house in New Hope, PA. I’m a member of the Princeton Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Princeton, NJ, and I’ve been a member there for over 40 years.
My first introduction to Quakerism, again going back roughly 40 years ago, was my wife suggested it to me, and I was just sort of blown away by it. The very first time I felt an energy, and it was just kind of a love at first sight, just a great experience the first time. I still appreciate the freedom of it, the direct dial to God, so. And you know, also there are a number of people that just socially I like. We may have lots of other things not in common but… [Laughs] There aren’t that many of us!
Valuing Different Perspectives Among Friends?
The value of different perspectives, different orientations in our religious society? Yes, I think it’s very valuable. Now I don’t think it necessarily exists all the time. Certainly at my meeting, Princeton Meeting, I think that out of– I don’t know how many members there are– I think that maybe one or two of us (I know I’m one, there might be another) who is a republican, and I just think there could be room for different perspectives on these political topics. I kinda go, oh. It’s just not a republican point of view; it’s kind of a left-wing point of view and that’s fine but I think that the idea of Quakerism, it should be a welcoming idea. Christ is a welcoming idea.
“God’s Big Quaker Tent”
I think that God’s Big Quaker Tent, at its heart it has a Christian spirit. Jesus I think of as opening his arms to all different types of people. But I just, I like that idea. I think it’s a loving idea. If it was my tent I’d say, “Come on in! Have a beer!”
- When we discuss welcoming and inclusion in our Quaker meetings, who do we mean?
- What does “God’s Big Tent” mean to you?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.