Sunday, July 21, 2013

Leaving the Religious Society of Friends

In April of this year I relinquished my membership in my monthly meeting, thereby leaving the Religious Society of Friends.  That act has been both difficult and freeing.  It came of deep prayer, testing, and faithfulness.  Throughout the last several years, as an active member of New York Yearly Meeting I was asked by God to carry messages to the Yearly Meeting.  Messages that were difficult to speak and challenged Friends to look deep within and called them to change.  I was faithful to those direct leadings despite the fact that again and again it appeared that those messages fell on deaf ears.  The process left me sorrowfull and despairing - not for myself but for the Religious Society of Friends.  As the years moved on it became more and more painful for me to serve in this way.  I regularly prayed to be released from the work of carrying God's messages to his Peculiar People.  Year after year God's response followed the same pattern; "No, it's not time yet.  I still have work for you to do here."  I continued to ask until about a year ago when I again asked God if it was time yet.  That time the answer was different.  The answer was "Yes, you are released."  I immediately began letting go of my commitments to Friends and when my final commitment was complete in April, 2013 I relinquished my membership.  The relief was almost palpable.

It is hard to say what it is about without sounding a judgement call, and perhaps that is not all bad.  Each Friend is called to walk with and live into each one of the Testimonies so that each life is tested against that measure - growing into and learning from the love and wisdom found in each.  For the testimonies are meant to be living - as living as our faith:  Each Friend need that intimate experience of what working toward simplicity, integrity, peace, community, and equality looks like in their own life, for without it they cannot claim the Testimonies - they cannot testify to those experiences.   Friends practice is a living, ongoing call, based in faith.  Faith and Practice must go hand in hand.  If we are doing the work that God would have us do; living as God would have us live, using the testimonies that Friends now and before us have lifted up, then our lives become rich and full and blessed.  That is the promise, the hope, of the Religious Society of Friends.

As Friends worry about ever shrinking membership and talk about advancement, I have often shared my belief that when Friends begin the work of living out what they say they believe they won't need to worry about advancement, for those who are seeking the Light will see the Light of Friends shining brightly and find their way to membership.  The work is not about figuring out how to get more members.  The work is to reawaken a deep commitment to fully living into Friends faith and practice as individuals, as Monthly Meetings, as Regions and Quarters and as Yearly Meetings.  I continue to hold that faith and practice in my heart as I hold New York Yearly Meeting in my prayers.