Communities > State-Wide

For a large portion of my life, I have felt that everyone knew exactly where they fit in with respect to religion/spirituality. This was one of the many areas of my life that confusing and unknown to me. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, but rarely ever really thought about it’s relationship to myself. As with many people, I began to question many aspects of my life after I left home, graduated from college, got married, and moved far from my family. For quite some time, I truly was lost in the forest of religions.
Approximately a dozen years ago, I took BeliefNet’s “Belief-O-Matic” online quiz. I’ll be the first to admit that the simplistic name of the quiz is rather off-putting, but taking the quiz really did start a new path in my life. The one result that did not surprise me was that there was a 16% correlation between my beliefs and those of the Roman Catholic Church. However, the correlation that came in at 100% left me a bit dumb-founded.
According to those results, I am 100% “Orthodox Quaker”. To be honest, my reaction was initially two-fold: first I thought “What the heck is that?!?!” and then I thought “Me, orthodox anything – are you kidding?”. Over the next several months, I began to look more into what (on basic as well as profound levels) being Quaker means. Eventually, in 2012 (on my 40th birthday to be exact), I found the local Quaker community and have been attending Worship on a mostly-regular basis ever since.
At this point, I can whole-heartedly say that I believe I have found “where I belong”, that I am a Quaker, and that I am STILL learning what that means.
As Quakerism is a very personalized faith, all I can present is what it means TO ME:
• It means trying to be ever mindful of the words that I use and if I am using the words correctly to mean what I mean to say. Integrity, in it’s multitude of definitions, is EXTREMELY important to Friend’s faith.
• It means never being able to say “Quakers believe (insert standard issue of belief)”. Friends are very diverse in all aspects of background and no one Friend can speak for the general or specific community. We also have no set doctrine, even though it is VERY tempting at times to do so.
• It means continuously checking my ego and asking for guidance from the Spirit as to whether what I have to say is really meant for just me or if it’s meant for whatever group I am physically in at the moment.
• It means constantly having to explain what Quakers are when I’m not entirely sure myself. I came to the faith later in life and am still learning and reflecting. In Wyoming in particular, there are not very many Friends and I believe we are all called upon at some point in time to provide information.
• It means having to reflect daily on how my actions affect others. I often fall very short on this account. If I truly believe that all have “that of God” in them, shouldn’t that mean that I keep that in mind how my decisions of what/how much of any product I buy/consume? How much do I need to worry about when reflecting on this? Sometimes I wish I could just be like some people appear to be and not think about any of that. But then I have to ask myself if that’s the kind of person I really want to be.
• It means constantly having my husband tell me to eat more oatmeal – something I don’t like unless it’s in the form of cookies or granola bars.
• It means having to be OK with my failings as I learn more.
• In Wyoming, especially in Cheyenne, it means being a part of a very small community. There are 6 worship groups (Casper, Cheyenne, Lander, Laramie, Jackson, and Sheridan) who report a total of around two dozen regular attendees/members.
• It means having the freedom to decide what it is I believe.
• It means having the responsibility to decide, and act upon, what it is I truly believe. Again, I fall quite short on this (by my own “yardstick”).
• It means having to set aside my reflexive disbelief when someone who otherwise appears to be a very practical and sane person tells me that she literally was pushed out of her seat during Worship by some force outside of herself to share a message. It means having to set aside my reflexive disbelief when I personally have an experience that could be described as “mystical” even when I’m not sure I believe in such experiences.
• It means wanting to step up within the Wyoming Friends Meeting and volunteer for every little task that comes up that I think I could do, but then reminding myself that I might not be the best person for the job and I need to allow the space for others to contribute. (Currently (2024), I am the Recording Clerk as well as the Cheyenne representative on the Ministry & Nurture Committee (two separate positions) for the WFM.)
• And, finally, and most importantly, it means being part of a true community that, although we are small in numbers, is VERY large in terms of heart and supportiveness. Not once have I felt judged because my views might be different that someone else’s and because I don’t necessarily live in a way that is 100% sustainable for myself and our world. When I share an idea, I get both encouragement and constructive criticism. All I have ever received from other Friends is love, affection, validation, and encouragement.
“You don’t get converted into a Quaker; you gradually come to realise that you are one, usually because other Friends start treating you as one.” - Gerald Priestland
Respectfully submitted
Jennifer Russell

Personal Reflection: Being Quaker Has Nothing To Do With Oatmeal. (Usually.)