Why Join A Quaker Meeting?

January 21, 2022 § 3 Comments

In a comment, John Edminster raised up what I feel is the best reason to join a Quaker meeting, which I had failed to do in my first version of this post, so I’ve added to it with red font. See John’s comment.

The best reason to join a meeting, which is my own reason, is that you feel led to join. Your Guide has brought you here and now it’s clear that this is a home where your soul can flourish. You might be able to identify some particulars about the meeting or about Quakerism that attract you; but deeper than that, behind this conscious appraisal, lies a less articulate and more compelling truth—God wants me here.

In many meetings, one can see no obvious or outward difference between being a member of a meeting and being an attender, beyond, perhaps, being able to serve on some committees, and even these strictures seem to be relaxing here and there. Meetings tend to expect more commitment from members, so that’s a difference, but they are less clear about what members can expect from the meeting. We are less clear about what the incentive to join really is—why join a Quaker meeting?

Joining a Quaker meeting is a little like getting married. Becoming a member changes you inwardly much the same way that getting married does. And it changes your relationship with the meeting and with the other members of the community much as getting married changes your relationship with your spouse and with your friends and other relations. 

Inward transformation. This is hard to express. There is something about the declaration and commitment of membership that transforms your identity, your sense of yourself, your sense of who you are. It somehow makes you feel more whole, more expanded as a person while at the same time more rooted. This runs deeper than just a sense of alignment with the community’s values. 

Community. Although we each identify with different aspects of the Quaker tradition, with its history, faith, and practice, and with its people, still there is something deep and meaningful that we all feel in common, however hard it is to express. We become members one of another, as the apostle Paul said (Romans 12:5); we come to know each other in the things that are eternal, as early Friends expressed it. This runs deeper than just loving the society of good, like-minded people. The spiritual dimension of this relationship comes blazing to the fore in the gathered meeting for worship, when we share with each other somehow psychically a sense of presence to each other that transcends all understanding. But this feeling is also there in some subtle way outside of the experience of gathered worship.

Reality check. This rosy picture is not always true, of course. It’s not necessarily true for everyone, and it is not necessarily true all of the time or for all of one’s life. Sometimes couples divorce, and sometimes members find they are members no longer in the inward ways that matter. But it’s safe to say that it’s true for most of us and for a lot of the time, and this identity and this immersion in religious fellowship, are deeply fulfilling for those who seek and find it in ways that are unique to the Quaker way.

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§ 3 Responses to Why Join A Quaker Meeting?

  • Glenn says:

    This speaks to my experience, thanks for articulating it for me😇

  • Thank you for this, Steve!
    My answer to this question might have been:
    1. Why join a Quaker meeting? — A. Because your Rightful Owner told you to. B. Because if the Meeting approves a minute that dooms them to persecution by state and society, and you love your Friends, you’ll want to be singing psalms with them in the cattle car, or on their march to captivity in Babylon or exile in Egypt. If you’re an attender, you’re not bound by the Meeting’s decisions.
    2. Why not quit your Quaker meeting the first time it does something stupid, shameful, or hypocritical, to show how angry you are with it and how out of unity with their foolishness? — A. Because your Rightful Owner forbade you to. B. What do you think you are, an independent individual and not a member of a covenanted people of God? Just because the others don’t realize what Friends are doesn’t mean that you don’t know any better!

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