Quakers: My First Experience of Friends’ Community

The dramatic crystalizing  event of my life,  the Big First Moment of Conscious Experience of the Spirit of Human Connection,  happened during Easter vacation 1966, my senior year in high school, at a Quaker-sponsored conference. The program brought together high school students from inner city (read: predominantly black) schools and suburban and rural (read: predominantly white) schools to meet and talk in small groups so as better to understand each other.

On the last evening of the week, we all, about two hundred teenagers with the speakers and teachers, gathered in the main room of the lodge. There were a few closing comments, then we stood and linked hands in the way that Dr. King’s people linked hands, arms diagonally across our bodies, holding right hand to right hand and left hand to left hand, and we sang “We Shall Overcome.” We sang and sang and swayed and swayed together; no one wanted to break the circle. We all wept. The presence of the Spirit was palpable – although I doubt any two people there would describe it in the same way. I left my body and hovered over the room, experiencing and watching Unity in the same moments. Even now, forty-five years later, I weep as I write this and feel it as vividly as I did that night.

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