RantWoman has been thinking lately of some questions, queries, quibbles, qualification, equivocations and querulous, queasy comments about themes related to membership in the Religious Society of Friends..
These questions have congealed as a result of two events. First a friend who is about to move away has requested membership in our meeting. Historically, this just ISN'T DONE, primarily one supposes because of the difficulties of maintaining community and connection from a distance. The more RantWoman considers this person's ministries, the clearer RantWoman becomes that this person is already unquestionably a Quaker and the only question is how best to recognize this, how best to nurture and help her develop real gifts and deep leadings.
RantWoman is clear that provision needs to be made to nurture the spiritual lives of people in this situation. RantWoman is less clear about her meeting's capacity to provide full community at a distance; however RantWoman is considering this Friend's unspoken ministry of sharing the workings of different meetings in ways that, well, cause her to be very grateful for her own Meeting. If RantWoman is unsure of her own Meeting's capacity in this area, RantWoman is also clear and not just self-congratulatory that her own meeting does a much better job of nurturing the ministry of attenders than others do.
The person who applied for membership and her wife are still in the moving around and getting credentials phase of life. It is likely to be a couple more years at least before they settle down and have a home in one place. To make matters worse, different meetings are either more parsimonious or more open-hearted about the extent to which they work to nurture the ministries of people who are not members. Also highly variable: the amount of hopping through baroque processes prospective members are subjected to.
To put it bluntly, RantWoman thinks both of these points may be silly! RantWoman is all for discernment, the good order of Friends and all that Quakerese that is supposed to ensure that decisions are well-considered, rooted in unity. However, it does not appear to RantWoman that the Religious Society of Friends is overrun with aspiring members. Nor does it seem to RantWoman that the society is in danger of getting carried off in the excesses of youth.
In fact, RantWoman notes concerns recently expressed both within her Yearly Meeting and in quick scans of materials from blogs based in other Yearly Meetings: Friends would like the incorporation of young adults who have grown up in Friends Meetings into adult roles to be much smoother and automatic than in currently is. RantWoman also notes vague concern about transfers of efforts to new generations, about renewal of energy, and numerous other cross-generational themes. In short, RantWoman thinks many meetings could do a much better job of incorporating new seekers into membership than is currently the norm. Conveniently, at least in North Pacific Yearly Meeting both youth and weighty Friends are raising questions related to this point.
RantWoman does find herself wanting to dispatch some of those exercised about these topics on a comparative religions research project.
What does membership mean and when does it occur for practitioners of other faiths?
What could Friends learn from studying this? What opportunities occur, quite regularly in RantWoman's meeting, for clumps of young visitors to provide dialogue about this topic, for instance in the process of doing their homework after attending Meeting for Worship?
Does membership involve reaffirming one's community only with others one feels connected to or should membership serve as a bond with a whole network one might or might not know at the time of one's commitment and might be willing or inclined to explore after joining?
Is it too plainspoken to speak of membership in a meeting the same way one speaks of driver's licenses? The assumption is that one gets membership geographically close to where one lives. One then joins the vast universe of drivers, not just 20-something drivers or teenage drivers or whatever but all drivers. There is no need for 20-somethings to invent a special multi-jurisdiction license for 20-somethings. They simply get their local license and move on.
Okay despite the risk of prejudging the conversation by weighing with the last point, RantWoman thinks there is indeed much to consider here and meanwhile she is glad the one Friend referred to here is now a member of her Meeting if only because RantWoman really enjoys having met in person the people whose blogs she reads regularly.