Why Am I a Quaker? Why Are You?
by Ted Bongiovanni
“Start with why.” That’s the wise advice leadership expert Simon Sinek gives to people to sharpen their thinking. It makes me wonder if he might be a Friend.
Almost 25 years ago, young and fresh to New York City, I had the good fortune to meet Scott, an attender from Brooklyn Monthly Meeting. After my umpteenth question, and many patient answers, Scott just said, “You know, why don’t you come to meeting sometime?” His casual invitation changed my life.
I was seeking—a place to fit in, a place to be myself, a place to connect with others. I found it.
Well, the idea of “that of God in everyone” seemed right. The stern Catholic tradition of my youth framed it differently. We are all made in God’s image. We have fallen. If we are good, we’ll get into heaven and live an eternal life. The Friendly framing spoke to me—a spark of the divine in me? In everyone? Well, what an animating and useful principle. It spoke and speaks to my heart and mind.
Because if we believe that there’s something of the divine in everyone then I am on equal footing with you. Another pithy message from Bono—another latent friend? "We are one, but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other.”
We believe in “continuing revelation;” in other words, we favor questions over answers—and the answers that we find are provisional, until we find better answers—together. Not one text. All texts. All people. All voices.
Because we seek in silence—and everyone can be a source of truth—a messenger. We just have to be still and listen. Being still is not easy in today’s modern world of digital tethers where distractions are a screen away. A Quaker meeting dedicates a time and place for us to sit, and listen—for our own inner voice, and for a message from a F/friend that might speak to us.
Because I am weary of promises of the next world. I am certain that this one needs our attention, in a way consistent with us serving as just stewards for the generations that will follow us.
Because the problems are bigger than us, but solvable by us. Together we can figure it out.
Because I think that if we all treated one another as though there were something of the divine inside that we’d listen more—we’d care more. This is also a wish for me—I am seeking, and need reminders.
Because I am inspired by what our beliefs have led us to do—whether it was an early renunciation of slavery, or providing relief to those harmed by war—regardless of what side they were on. Because there’s still a vast gap between what we believe and what exists. The Jacksonville shootings of three Black people are a reminder that white supremacy is alive and well.
Because together, Friends, we can work to close that gap, to love one another and build a stronger community.
Why are you a Friend?