Caroline Emelia Stephen (1835-1909)
Caroline E. Stephen, of Cambridge, England, had been passing through a long period of inward questioning as to the fundamental truths of religion, her difficulties made greater by the dogmatic statements and assumptions which she found in the Church of England service. She came to know the power that sprang from "a deep quietness of heart and mind, a laying aside of all preoccupation with passing things...a resolute fixing of the heart upon that which is unchangeable and eternal."
On one never-to-be-forgotten Sunday morning, I found myself one of a small company of silent worshippers, who were content to sit down together without words, that each one might feel after and draw near to the Divine Presence, unhindered at least, if not helped, by any human utterance. Utterance I knew was free, should the words be given; and before the meeting was over, a sentence or two were uttered in great simplicity by an old and apparently untaught man, rising in his place amongst the rest of us. I did not pay much attention to the words he spoke, and I have no recollection of their purport. My whole soul was filled by the unutterable peace of the undisturbed opportunity for communion with God ؏ with the sense that at last I had found a place where I might, without the faintest suspicion of insincerity, join with others in simply seeking His presence. To sit down in silence could at least pledge me to nothing; it might open to me (as it did that morning) the very gate of heaven. And since that day...Friends' meetings have indeed been to me the greatest of outward helps to a fuller and fuller entrance into the spirit from which they have sprung; the place of the most soul-subduing, faith-restoring, strengthening and peaceful communion, in feeding upon the bread of life, that I have ever known.
Caroline E. Stephen: Quaker strongholds, 1891, pp. 12-13.