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.

9 comments:

  1. You always ministered to me and so I am thankful for your time among Friends. I am also thankful for your feelings of relief as you take your leave of your organizational commitments in the RSoF. You deserve the joyfulness of new beginnings. Your ability to discern your own spiritual calling along with your patience and gentle courage have made you so precious to me as a friend. I try to emulate your spiritual integrity. I know you will continue to be one who helps me draw close to the Presence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hystery, Thank you for your kind words. It is my fervent prayer that those Friends with whom I have shared the journey will continue to be friends and that we may continue to minister to one another.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for your witness and fauthfulness, and your clear articulation here of why you're leaving.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Greta,
    Thank you for posting this meaningful explanation. I am holding you in the Light.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I only recently heard that you'd resigned your membership, Greta, and wondered what your reasons were. Thank you for posting them here.

    There's little I can say, except to note that today is the first day of New York Yearly Meeting sessions at Silver Bay and I have chosen not to attend--having been regular in my attendance since 1982. I can't articulate my reasons as clearly as you, but I know they are not unrelated.

    I trust we will remain connected in Spirit, Greta.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol,
      Since making my decision to leave Friends public a number of Friends who are struggling within their own membership have contacted me. Many are "weighty Friends". I too trust that we will remain connected in Spirit.

      Delete
    2. Interesting, Greta. Thank you.

      I suspect my own case is a bit different from the others you're aware of. I'm clear that I am a member of the RSOF. My lack of clarity centers on what monthly meeting should hold that membership and on participation in the institution of New York Yearly Meeting.

      Delete
  5. Hi Greta, I know we've never met, but I know that many people considered you a "weighty" Quaker. So, as one of the younger, newer members, my initial reaction is: Why???

    I wish I'd heard what your messages were. I don't remember being in any sessions at NYYM last summer in which you spoke and I can't attend this year.

    From your comment that "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," I am inclined to believe that we are on the same page. If you are so inclined, I'd like to know more. Thanks for considering it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Anonymous, Although you have chosen not to identify yourself, I would be happy to speak with you.

    ReplyDelete