“If you are in membership, did something change for you, and in you, when you became a member? Did you feel different, more responsible, perhaps even transformed?”
(See last week’s post for an introduction to this topic.)
Did something change? No, not at the moment of becoming a member. Yes, before my application; membership was a result of the change not the cause. Yes, but gradually afterwards, as the implications of membership began to sink in and the change of status began to take effect.
In fact, I think it would be more useful to include ‘becoming a member’ in a list of other events in my Quaker life which have created transformations and shaped the way I do Quakerism. It’s impossible to write an exhaustive list of these, but I’d want to include:
– a teenage Quaker women’s weekend with adult leaders who took feminism and mental health seriously;
– the on-again, off-again choices to sit through ‘big meeting’ rather than go out with the children;
– going to Woodbrooke for the first time, on a monthly meeting weekend about Quaker history which turned out to ignite a concern for outreach;
– doing ‘the Whole Banana’ weekend course at Woodbrooke with Alex Wildwood and Tim Peat-Ashworth;
– speaking at Quaker Quest for the first time, a direct result of that first Woodbrooke weekend and a direct cause of my application for membership;
– recognising that I was never actually going to go to Young Friends General Meeting and asking to be released from my appointment as a representative;
– applying for and being accepted into membership;
– becoming an atheist in the library one morning, leaving to go to campus Meeting for Worship, wondering why, and deciding that it didn’t matter;
– noticing that a week later I wasn’t an atheist any more;
– moving cities and making the Quaker Meeting one of my first stops, both before and after coming into membership;
– filling in a yellow (central service volunteering) form, different because of but not directly caused by being in membership…
It would be easy to go on, although to some extent these moments become clearer in hindsight. Equally, although many of mine do involve the formal structures of Quakerism, some are completely disconnected from it, and some – like asking to be released from a service I was never able to start – were hardly positive encounters with that structure. It would also be possible for me to write lists like this about my journey into Paganism and my explorations of Buddhism (or for that matter my membership of GirlGuidingUK, where renewing your Promise becomes a symbol of this continuing process of developing membership) and those lists would reveal quite different aspects to my spiritual life – and would include things which happened among Quakers, were organised by Quakers, or on Quaker property.
Did something change? Yes. Was the change precipitated by or located around my application for membership? No, not really.