I didn't hear this news until on my way home at gone six thirty, which is a daft time to be coming home when you've been up since six, but that's another story. I wasn't conscious of anything other than a profound relief that for quite some time now I have considered myself very much a child of God but not really a member of the Church of England. I attend church services in the same way that I attend Quaker meetings; I am not a Quaker, but I am happy to worship alongside. My main dilemma is whether I should continue to be an attender in the Church of England when I feel so uneasy with the discriminatory attitudes that are institutionalised in the church as a whole. I honestly don't know. I go because the church I attend is a place where I feel the presence of God, I like the people, I enjoy the hymns, I benefit from the preaching. The last time I left the church, I did find it was more of a struggle to maintain my faith and my walk with God.
But I have my Quaker worship now, and although I would miss so much about the Church of England, I have found in the silence of Quaker meetings a strong and sure sense of God. Having to be silent for a whole hour in the presence of others has taught me to move beyond prayer as a recitation or a list (I am a bit of a list person...) and to be still and know God. Quakers do not have creeds or a fixed set of beliefs. I do not think the believer is less accountable as a result, I think they are more accountable because the accountability is to God and their conscience, not to what someone tells them to think and do. At the same time, Quaker worship does throw people back on their inner resources and I suspect it works best for those who already have a strong spirituality. It occurs to me that maybe I am being patronising here - maybe we all have this capacity if we only take time to find it?
One of the things that I've understood more fully this year is that any religious group is just a group of human beings whether it is Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Quaker. There is no "church of God" because God resides not in structures but in human beings themselves, and certainly doesn't limit himself to human beings of any creed, race or religion. God is not defined by us and yet God chooses to make his- or her- dwelling within the human heart. This is the main lesson that my sense of disillusion with the Church has taught me. I think it was a lesson worth learning.