I currently serve on my meetings Oversight Committee. We are struggling with the meaning and parameters of membership.

Specifically, what about the membership of persons who have not attended or taken part in the meeting for over a decade but who want to maintain membership because of they value their identity as a Quaker? I understand that membership in the wider world of Friends is only available through a meeting, but are we witnessing to integrity is we simply hold a paper membership? Is it enough to feel a strong identify as a Quaker? Can one truly practice Quakerism without a community to help discern leadings from ego?

Please understand, that I am not speaking of isolated Friends, but about Friends living in a City with 6 Friends meetings/churches nearby.




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Being an isolated friend is akin to shacking up.

Joining a Meeting is like marrying a bunch of strangers, and gradually finding out that they're all as crazy as the relatives we were born with, and continuing to love them anyway because we poorsouls gotta stick together, continuing to try to lead the spritually blind past their notions that "light is just something people like to imagine"... and being thankful for their forbearance with us! One really needs to be crazy but it's a wonderful madness, I think.
Hi Stephanie

The whole idea of membership . . . in the general world is . . . members receive certain benefits from the group and that is why they join.

Leaders of groups have two spiritual mountains to climb over. Ego Mountain and Control Others Mountain.

At the first Quaker Meeting that I attended . . . one person (of many people) spoke to me after the meeting with these words . . . true freedom and democracy is a hard pill to swallow . . . and most people love to swim in its waters . . . but when they bump into another person swimming in the other direction they become insulted.

I think you will do a fine job.

Rick
And specifically to your question, a Friend who has wandered off is like an estranged relative. Still someone you might have been able to serve/know a little bit better, or maybe couldn't have at the time. Still someone who might conceivably be reconciled, and whether or not you ever come to agree with one another on all significant points, might still be included in mutual love. Hopefully with occasional reunion...
I attended my meeting for years, but somewhere in the middle, for a couple of years, I stopped attending. I felt very much a Quaker, and practiced Quakerism even when I wasn't attending. I went back to meeting with an urge to move from attender to member. My meeting for clearness made me realize that people had noticed my absence and did indeed wonder about my commitment. I reminded them that just because they didn't see me didn't mean I'd stopped being a Friend. I attend regularly now, and missing Meeting affects me. I look forward to every first day.

This was only my personal experience but I give it to you in case you can get some insight from it.
I don't think I was clear about my committee's biggest struggle : when does a persons membership cease to be true? Our yearly meeting does have a process terminating a membership. At what point does this happen? When no one but the few founding members would recognize the person?

When does a person's claim to being a Quaker cease to be true? Can you be a Quaker but not participate in any of the local meetings/churches, quarterly or yearly meetings for over a decade despite repeated outreach? Is it enough identify with the beliefs?

Is it ever correct to end a person's membership over their objections?
I wouldn't end membership over a Friend's objection.  I would find ways to connect with them.  I've seen Friends come back after years of nonparticipation.  Maybe they've had an unfortunate experience with Meeting and terminating their membership will cement  that for them.  I would rather contact them and let them know meeting is still there for and interested in them. Maybe you will learn something useful, maybe you will find an opportunity to minister to a Friend who can't attend due to physical, financial or other constraints.  In short, I would see this as an opportunity to engage and make connections.

Shalom,

David

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