When I arrived at WHF in 1994 my faith was in tatters.  No, that’s too optimistic.  My faith was ground into dust.  I not only didn’t believe any of the Christian theology that had filled and satisfied my life, but I doubted God’s very existence, or at the least God’s goodness


My husband wanted a faith community, so I went along, week after week, faithfully yet faithless.  It was hard, with Friends around me singing songs of their faith – often songs that I used to sing with gladness.  I envied them.  I knew what it was like, and I missed it.


Once a month, Mike taught a class called A Quaker View, covering different topics of Quaker faith and practice.  One month, the topic was vocal ministry, specifically how one would know when to speak, to break the silence of the meeting. He began with a question:  “Who here thinks he or she will never speak in open worship?”  My hand shot up. Asked why, I replied, “To speak during meeting, one must believe the Spirit is giving one a message, not just for oneself but for the whole community. Since I don’t know if God exists, I can’t believe any message I might hear is from God, thus I cannot speak. QED.” (I am not sure I actually said QED, but it was perfectly rational and very reasonable.) No one had a response and the class moved on. 


Just a few weeks later, during the silence of our open worship, I was once again pondering how much I had lost, and how bad I felt. I had recently started running, including marathons, and I was thinking how life-changing running was, how I had experienced more genuine transformation after a few years of running than I had had during 20+ years of being a Christian. 


As soon as I had that thought, I heard the Voice telling me to stand up and speak. 


I resisted. “I can’t do that; it’s too personal and it won’t speak to anyone else, and besides, I’m not sure I even believe in You.” 


The Voice said, “Are you going to be obedient, or aren’t you?” 


I knew that if I remained seated and silent, my shaking would shatter the pew and my heart would explode within my chest. So, feeling like an idiot, I rose and spoke of how running had wrought more change in me, spiritually as well as physically, than my years of trying to be a Christian. 


And I sat down, absolutely jolted by this insight: “I do have faith; I have a deep, living faith; I just don’t have a theology.” 


It was years before I could or would even begin to formulate what I believed, but I knew at that moment Who I trusted.

—Julie Peyton