For Anthony Smith, discovering the Religious Society of Friends was an opportunity to develop his spiritual understanding and personal theology.
Anthony Smith: I think what keeps me going back to meeting is that helps bring a sense of peace. I’ve done both indoor worship, and outdoor worship, and in both of them, it involves taking a point in the world, carving out a space, and creating peace. And looking for that of God within, both individually and as a corporate body. And I always leave meeting with such a sense of serenity. I like to call it serenity-inducing. And it’s hard to find that other places. You can, but it’s much easier to find it there.
Looking to Let God Out: One Quaker’s Story
My name is Anthony Christopher Smith. I currently live in Newark, New Jersey, I am a New Jersey native, and I am a member of New Brunswick Monthly Meeting, part of New York Yearly Meeting
I was one of those probably rare few who actually went to college and found their faith. I always knew I had some faith that was very unformed, and attending and becoming a member of the Religious Society of Friends actually helped institutionalize that for me, because in my teens I would sometimes have these really, especially if I was in nature, have these really intense spiritual experiences. And I think as I was in college and started going to meeting and doing things in an organized fashion, I didn’t always feel them as strongly, but I felt them a bit more regularly. And it started to help the development of my spiritual understanding and my personal theology.
Tools of Quakerism
I’m trying to think now about some of what about Quakerism, what kind of tools does Quakerism bring that matter to me and that I find useful. I know that it certainly made me more comfortable in my identity as a liberal Christian. I think the idea that we are looking within, and I remember once I was visiting a meeting, and I remember; it’s one of the few times I really remember something I said in meeting; that it’s not about looking to bring God in, it’s about looking to let God out and searching for leadings of the Spirit seeing see where that takes you. Also understanding that God loves everyone, and that God is omnipresent. God is present within everyone, God loves everyone. And coming from that perspective, I think, is one of the most valuable things that Quakerism offers.
God loves us, God has already forgiven us of our shortcomings and our sins, and our failings, and that we must love one another as God has loved us.
Coming from Love to Come to Peace
I mean there are different forms of love: agape, eros, philia. And love for one and other, philia, thus Philadelphia, of all things… it means that we don’t always agree. It means that I care about you as a person, that even if we have different perspectives, and Quakerism can lend itself to some fairly strong views on some things, and more moderate ones on others, but the point is, even if we have a disagreement, I still love you and so does God. As a matter of fact, God always loves you, therefore I must. So even if we disagree on war and peace, if we disagree on political issues, if we disagree on social issues, if we are coming from Love, we will be able to come to Peace. I think that’s one of the things that comes from the Quaker perspective. The work that we do, we do because we love, because we care. It may bring us into tension with people, but that’s not important. I mean, what’s important is that we must follow our faith. We must go where the Spirit leads us.