Just a short time after his wife Mary became a member at Cincinnati Friends, Earl Wittrock has followed her into membership. It has been a journey, he shares, not unlike some of the commercials seen on television, like the ones where you can buy a car and drive it for three days to see if it meets your needs, if it took you where you wanted to go, and if you wanted to keep it. There are other commercials, such as the one that proposes giving the buyer 90 days to try out a mattress to see if it is comfortable and if it is what you have been looking for.
Earl finds similarities in such television advertising in his journey at Cincinnati Friends. “There is a similarity,” he shares. I have tried it for years. It meets my needs for a much-needed spiritual journey. It is comfortable. It is exactly what I am looking for. I wish to keep it.” His membership journey has included attending Meeting for almost three years and attending the People Called Quakers classes taught by Jim Newby that are required for membership.
He deepened his experiences within the community as he attended a weekend retreat at the Meetinghouse, celebrated with others for the past three Christmas Eve services, and as he enjoys social time in the Fireside Room following meeting for worship. “These are all attempts by me to make certain that Cincinnati Friends was right for me and my spiritual journey.”
That journey began in the Catholic church, including attending Catholic school as a child, a journey that lasted through college. Influencing him were a maternal uncle who was a fire-and-brimstone Baptist preacher and a paternal uncle who was a Catholic priest.
As an adult, he came to reject many of the practices of his Catholic upbringing, especially concerned about the role of women within the church and sexual abuse that some of his fellow classmates had experienced. “Needless to say, I have a deep appreciation for the message I found in Phil Gulley’s book, Unlearning God: How the Unbelieving Helped Me Believe.”
“Catholicism did provide me a good foundation in moral behavior and an understanding of right and wrong,” he says. “For that, I will be forever grateful. Many of my friends and former classmates are Catholics and I respect their choices.”
“I am at a great place in my life where I enjoy a feeling of contentment,” he continues. “I am an internal optimist whose personal glass is almost always more than half-full. After more than 40 years at most every level of education, trying to have a positive impact on the lives of others, I am retired and happily married to Mary.
Our greatest accomplishment as a couple for the past 29 years was taking two families from previous marriages and blending them into one loving family with six kids and ten grandkids. Needless to say, we are never bored. We share a great deal of pride and joy in our family-building journey.”
He has found the Quaker emphasis on values to be refreshing and nurturing in the way we express and strive to live our testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship in a non-credal, non-judgmental environment.
“The members contribute and infuse meaningful content and insight into the Meeting,” he says of his experiences. “It is a peaceful, quiet and uplifting experience each Sunday. It feels good inside to look forward to going to Meeting and being welcomed and accepted by a caring community of Friends.
The welcoming atmosphere of the Meeting is directly attributable to the leadership style and positive example set by Jim Newby. I especially embrace the fact that Quakerism is a humanitarian religion based on Christian values, principles and testimonies.
I have had extremely positive and uplifting experiences. I have found an open, accepting, positive and inspirational group of people with whom I would like to continue my spiritual journey.”