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Melinda Wenner Bradley: Two of my three children have applied for membership at my meeting themselves. One of them is a fourth grader and the other is a ninth grader. In both cases, their letters spoke of identifying as Friends and what that meant both in terms of being part of the community and worship, but probably in both their cases what it meant to be a part of the community and its witness.
How to Become a Member of a Quaker Meeting
David Breitzmann: Membership in the Religious Society of Friends is an important declaration of seriousness as regards to spiritual concerns because any personal development that you want to do with regards to faith—in the prophetic office itself—only makes sense in relation to other people, a spiritual community that will both help to offer edification but also discipline, eldering, advice, counsel… who will listen to all of your nonsense. [laughs] That’s what I’ve found, frankly.
What is Membership?
Stephanie Preston-Hughes: So if you were to become a member of a Quaker monthly meeting, this Meeting in particular here in Orlando, it’s saying to me that, “I’m a part of this family and I want to become a part of this family for better or for worse.” To me it’s a little like a marriage but it’s not just to one other person, it’s to a community of people.
Melinda Wenner Bradley: I think membership is a covenant. It is a two-way relationship. It is one where we are asked to bring our gifts and the meeting is asked to recognize and love us for and find ways for those gifts to be used, and sometimes to help us find what our gifts are.
Writing a Letter
Carter Nash: To become a member in a Friends meeting, one traditionally writes a letter after they have attended for a period of time to become familiar with what the meeting’s practices and beliefs are. You write a letter explaining why you want to become a member.
Amy Kietzman: The basic thing is to be really honest about what it is you are seeking and what’s the connection you feel with this particular Meeting, because you really are joining a particular Meeting. That letter is given to the membership care committee and a small committee is formed of two or three people to meet with you.
Clearness Committee for Membership
Stephanie Preston-Hughes: When the clearness committee meets with the person who is interested in becoming a member. That’s where Quakerism does its thing.
Amy Kietzman: The purpose of the meeting is for you to discern. We use the word discern and it really means decide, but it means decide in a deep way, decide not just, “do I like this or do I not like this?” but “is this the right thing?”
And so in those meetings you and the other members of the committee, with the help of Spirit, God, source, come to a conclusion in one or two meetings—and sometimes it takes longer—that yes, this is the right thing or no, this is not the right thing.
Recommendation to Business Meeting
Stephanie Preston-Hughes: The clearness committee comes to meeting for business and brings the recommendation forward on behalf of the committee that they are recommending you to be a member. It’s laid over for one month so that the members of the meeting get a chance to ask you questions, get to know you better, give you the opportunity to reflect and work through any last hesitations. At the next month’s business meeting, a final reading is made and Friends give approval and you’re officially a member.
Carter Nash: It’s far more than just being a name on a piece of paper. It’s being a part of a loving, caring community in a reciprocal way.
- Have you gone through the process of becoming a member of a Quaker meeting? What was your experience like?
- If you had to apply for membership now, what would your letter say?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.