Once upon a time, I was a member of a caving group. I remember one expedition when we crawled along a narrow passage, intending to leave markers at each division of the way to guide our return. But we were too eager to see what lay ahead.

So on our way back, we came to a cavern with several exits but no sign of a marker.  Three of us had to remain where we were and trust the others to find the way out.  After a long search they returned, successful, and we found our way to the surface.

I often think of that caving group. A powerful sense of solidarity bound its members together. We could rely on one another at all times, feeling safe in each other’s hands. In an emergency members would immediately turn out to help. Experienced cavers helped us descend difficult pitches, offering reassurance. And I particularly remember their spirit of adventure and their urge to discover new systems, while deeply venerating discoveries made long ago.

This group would never have thought of itself as a ‘faith community’ but in many ways, it behaved as any faith community hopes to do.

In 1652 George Fox came to Westmorland preaching that God can be experienced directly, without ritual or priest, the only proof lying in the quality of our lives.

The early Quaker movement grew rapidly. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven did descend and gather us all, as in a net’, wrote Francis Howgill of Westmorland.

Written by Peter D Leeming, Kendal Quaker Meeting.

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