Membership in the Religious Society of Friends is synonymous with
membership in a monthly meeting such as Putney Friends Meeting. Individuals who are not members may have varying degrees of involvement with meeting, ranging from occasional attendance at meeting for worship to regular participation in all facets of meeting life, including work on committees and attendance at meeting for business. Membership, however, implies a deeper commitment to the meeting.
Steps to Becoming a Member of Putney Friends Meeting
As meeting for worship and meeting for business are at the heart of any monthly meeting, it is anticipated that anyone who wishes to join the meeting has already been attending both on a regular basis and will continue to do so after joining. Attenders who feel moved to apply for membership would be familiar with Friends’ beliefs, practices, and history through sources such as Faith and Practice.
- A letter requesting membership will be sent to the Clerk of the Meeting. The letter should relate why the applicant wishes to become a member and may give a picture of his or her spiritual history, sense of unity with the beliefs and practices of Friends, and of her or his sense of belonging to the Putney Friends’ spiritual community.
- The Committee for Ministry and Counsel will appoint a clearness committee to meet with the applicant at least twice to discuss her or his readiness for membership in the Society of Friends. Emphasis will be on the fact that becoming a Friend is a relatively simple procedure, while being a Friend is a lifetime process. The Society of Friends seeks assurance the applicant is ready to undertake this level of commitment.
- The purpose of the first meeting will be for the applicant and the committee to get to know each other and to be sure the applicant is aware of all that membership implies. At this time, there will be discussion of the content of this pamphlet and other Friends’ readings. The applicant will be asked to describe the spiritual journey or seeking that has led her or him to request membership. At the second meeting the applicant and the committee may want to ask further questions of each other. Any study or reflection the applicant has done in the interim can be shared, questions can be resolved, and all present will try to become clear regarding the applicant’s readiness for membership.
- The clearness committee will report its sense of the meetings with the applicant to Ministry and Counsel and make a recommendation. If Ministry and Counsel discerns that the applicant is ready for membership, her or his letter or request will be shared with the next monthly meeting for business with the recommendation that he or she be accepted into membership. The monthly meeting’s approval of the recommendation makes the membership formal.
Recommendations for Membership
The prospective member should have a thorough understanding of all aspects of Putney Friends meeting: the centrality of meeting for worship, its members’ sense of being joined to the Divine and to one another, the important role of its meeting for business, its concern for social action.
It is anticipated that members will be faithful in attendance at meeting for worship and meeting for business and to support as faithfully as possible other meeting activities.
Friends have some sense of the Divine Presence or Inner Light, and share the expectation that in worship the Eternal breaks in; revelation occurs.
Friends accept that there is “that of God in everyone”. Friends recognize that religious persuasion (or absence of it) does not create boundaries or barriers that love is unable to penetrate.
Members are committed to working toward wholeness for themselves and oneness in spirit with each other.
It is anticipated that each member will carry a share of the work of the meeting that is conducted through its committees.
Members are expected to carry a fair share of the expenses of the meeting by contributing regularly as each is able.
A member has the responsibility to be open to the leadings of the Spirit to speak or be silent in meeting for worship. Friends strive to listen lovingly and without criticism when others speak and to respect the tenderness of silence.
Members are willing to be guided by the Quaker Queries and Advices. They seek to uphold Friends’ Testimonies as far as their consciences allow or direct.
The Meeting’s Responsibility to the Member
- As a body of the Society of Friends, it is our primary purpose to gather in worshipful silent waiting as a faith community. The meeting’s responsibility is to see that this happens, and is available to every member, attender, and sojourner.
- We provide opportunities of spiritual growth and enlighten-ment and are constantly sensitive to the spiritual quality of our meetings for worship.
- We provide support and direction, often through the clearness committee process, also through loving outreach by other members.
- We offer support in times of trouble, conflict, and/or suffering.
- We make opportunities for fellowship and socialization available.
- We provide opportunities for service and encourage active participation in our social outreach program.
- Opportunities for study and spiritual growth are made available. A program of Quaker education is offered for children and adults in First Day School.
- The meeting as committees that exist to further the work of Friends. We have representatives to wider Quaker groups who keep Friends informed of activities in the larger community.
- The meeting has oversight of weddings and memorial meetings.
The prospective member is asked to explore the significance of these topics:
- The role of Faith and Practice of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.
- The purpose of the monthly meeting for business and how it functions.
- The role of the Advices and Queries.
- The range of theological perspectives found among Friends, including Christ-centered, universalist, and mystical.
- The role of the history of the Society of Friends plays in today’s monthly meeting.
- The Quaker Testimonies and their relevance for today’s Friend.
Questions one could consider and discuss with the clearness committee:
- When does one speak in meeting for worship? What does one do when a message seems incongruent to my beliefs? How is the inappropriate message handled?
- Are Quakers Christian? Can Friends be both Universalist-minded and Christ-centered? Can Friends be non-Christian?
- Are there any positions one must subscribe to in order to be a member of Putney Friends Meeting (e.g. pacifism, acceptance of gay marriage, etc.)?
A Suggested Reading List
- Steve Chase – Letters to a Fellow Seeker: A Short Introduction to the Quaker Way
- Faith and Practice of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends
- Journal of George Fox
- Thomas Kelly – Testament of Devotion
- Howard Brinton – Guide to Quaker Practice
- George H. Gorman – The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship
- John Punshon – Portrait in Grey
- Michael L. Birkel – Silence and Witness
- Friends Journal magazine
- Any publications by John Woolman, Rufus Jones, Douglas Steere
(This is not a comprehensive list. Check the Meeting Library for a great variety of important volumes and pamphlets.)