In Internet, Religion on May 11, 2008 at 11:30 pm

UPDATE:  Please see comments below to see other perspectives on this issue.  The person’s blog that I read obviously discusses something that isn’t universally practiced, or at least not in the exact same way.


I am a member of a site called 43 Things, where you make a list of things you want to do.  You can set time frames, reminders, make entries about your progress, comment on other people’s entries, etc… It is pretty cool.  The reminders are helping me to stop bite my nails.  I’ve been (mostly) biting free for about 4 days!  My fingers already look better.

I was looking around at some guy’s profile page, and his top goal was to become a Quaker.  I thought, Aren’t you what you believe in?  Why can’t you just be a Quaker?  Is there some sort of process?  Turns out there is.  Here are some of his entries.

met with my clearness committee for membership this morning. wooohooo! will meet with them again in a few weeks.

Clearness committee?  Sounds interesting.

They are going to recommend membership to the larger membership and marriage committee, and then it will go before the business meeting for approval. Yippee!

Larger memberships and marriage committee?  Business meeting?

I’ve been asked by the nominating committee of my meeting to consider the position of recording clerk. It will be proposed at meeting for business. I’ll shadow the current recording clerk this Sunday, and we’ll compare notes afterward. I’m currently looking for all I can find on the topic in our meeting library, and hopefully ordering the rest. I don’t think this proposal needs seasoning, so I should know tomorrow!

My membership is put forward at Sunday’s meeting, too, but that does season, so I should know in another month.

Too exciting!

Nominating committee?  This is getting a bit ridiculous.  Do you have to get a job at the church you are a member of?  Or does this guy just want to be a record clerk?

today my membership was put forward to the meeting, and will season for a month. jane said very nice things about me and my study of quakerism. I also took notes again today in business meeting, along with the current recording clerk. my nomination for recording clerk was approved, and next month I begin in earnest. I have so much to learn before then.

This whole process sounds a bit… bureaucratic, to me.  I can understand why they might want to meet with you, pray with you, and test out your church membership for a bit, but this many committees and meetings seems like it is taking the focus off of, I don’t know, Jesus.  Maybe I’m just old fashioned that way.

  1. Uh….I’ve never heard of Quakers doing this. I’ll ask Nick about it, he was raised Quaker, as well as our friend Joseph. In fact, the two of them went to meeting a few weeks ago and its basically just sitting around and thinking and praying… And from what I’ve read on Wikipedia (ha), Quakerism is nothing like that at all. It’s very free and spiritualized and internalized. I’ve thought about designating myself as Quaker multiple times, because it’s a very much personal religion.

    Just my two cents.

  2. Umm, random Quaker popping up here.

    Friends meeting for worship (and you’re all talking about unprogrammed (silent) meeting here; there are programmed-meeting Quakers and evangelical Quakers–we run the gamut due in part to a whole lot of 19th-century schisms) is silent, and we do rely on individual experience of the Divine, but it isn’t based in the idea of whatever-you-think-up-is-fine-with-me. The counterbalance to individual experience of the Divine is “discernement”: If you become convinced that God is actually a buttermilk waffle, and that you have been called to lead the Buttermilk Waffle Crusade, the meeting will, as a body and as individuals seek to discern if this is truly a Divine leading, or something cooked up out of your fevered imagination. This balance between individual experience and discernment really defines most of Quaker process, to my mind.

    Committees. Yep, we run on committees. But we don’t run on Roberts Rules of Order. Basically, business is carried out by the meeting as a whole and by subgroups in the spirit of worship. We seek to know whether we are being true in our actions to Divine Will (or however you translate that idea into your spiritual vocabulary… I’m one of those who has a hard time with the idea of Divine Will per se). So it’s like going to a more focused worship group. Or that’s how it’s supposed to work.

    When you say it sounds bureaucratic, it can get that way especially if people aren’t really trying to let the process take its course, or if petty matters take over the committee (e.g. bleached toilet paper or unbleached?). At its best, though, the lengthy process it takes to get anything weighty done gives us time to really see through the personal wills involved in any issue to the deeper spiritual questions behind.

    Which takes some getting used to.

    Finally, I should probably clarify that you can call yourself whatever you want. We won’t sue you for calling yourself a Quaker. Membership is a peculiar process, much of which has to do with making a commitment to the Society of Friends beyond just coming to meeting for worship. A lot of people (we call them attenders) become a deep and essential part of our community without ever seeking membership. For others, membership is a way of getting themselves to push in deeper to the community. I’m on Ministry and Counsel (the committee charged with supporting the spiritual life of the meeting) at my meeting, and I find the whole question of what exactly it means to be pretty fluid.

    Hope this helps clarify things a little.

  3. Hey Jaryd,

    Paul’s right. I was raised Quaker and a couple of months I attended a meeting for the first time in years. The process that the guy was describing was something I had never heard of when I was growing up in the church, but at the meeting I went to recently I actually learned about the process. The other members of the service that I attended were discussing that this process is exactly why they’ve chosen to become followers, but not members of the church.
    I’ve never been and probably will never go to this structured committee, but I still call myself a quaker because, like you said, you are what you believe in. And while quakers are split on this issue, we all believe in what Jesus had to say.

  4. Thanks for responding Nat, Nick, and Paul. It is good to hear another perspective on this issue. I don’t know exactly what the person I read was talking about, but it is obvious that this isn’t how all Quaker groups act. Quakers in general may run on a more structured agenda, but it most likely varies from church to church.

    I will update the post to reflect some of this new knowledge.

  5. Another random Quaker popping in.

    Anyone can “be a Quaker”, but I think what he is referring to is joining a meeting. Some meetings just consider you a member after you attend for awhile on a regular basis, and some have a more formal process akin to joining a church.

    Personally, I consider myself a Quaker, even though I do not attend meeting regularly, or belong to a particular one.

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