From membership to Quaker Meetings
I was an applicant for membership who was not accepted by my Monthly Meeting. My application was made when I had other commitments on Sundays, so could not regularly attend Meeting, but it came from being convinced by my reading of Quaker faith & practice that the Quaker way was one I wanted to follow. Some ten years later I applied to another Meeting, at a time when I was free to attend regularly, and was accepted.
My learning from this is that membership has been understood as requiring both an understanding of the Quaker way and contributing to the life and work of a Meeting. I suggest there should also be a commitment to working out the Quaker way in the wider world: joining with others to build the Kingdom of God on earth.
My first experience showed the Monthly Meeting to be primarily concerned with how a potential member could contribute to its own life, rather than to living the Quaker way or working in the wider world. Has this approach changed? There are many in and out of membership who may not often attend Sunday Meetings; other responsibilities and commitments may intervene.
Is it time to broaden our understanding of membership, and the criteria we impose for it?
Quaker Quest, and the other Meetings for Learning we offer, may provide a richer learning experience than a confirmation class taught by a busy parish priest. Should Quaker Life engage in a much wider consideration of membership?
I am grateful to David Fish for his article on membership (13 April). It is a matter that needs careful thought and consideration.
There is much in Quaker faith & practice chapter 11 which is helpful. For instance, 11.04 talks about ‘variety and flexibility’ in procedures; 11.05 and 11.06 talk about it being a two-way process of discernment, not an assessment or judgement.
As Jane Taylor (4 May) suggests, if processes are, or are seen as, offputting and an assessment then we are getting it wrong.
Done well, the visit can be an informative and spiritually nurturing process for all. While there may be a need for some core questions I would counsel against a checklist or putting too much reliance on Quaker experience. I recently became a member after some seven years as an attender.
When my circumstances allow, I attend Local business Meetings and Area Meetings and have been doing so for about two years. While I still feel that I am in the right place and have found my spiritual home I am still one who shares in a ‘widespread lack of understanding of Quaker processes’. Hopefully, the Simpler Meetings project may go some way to addressing this.
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