“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?
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