What is the continuing spiritual effect of membership?
Commitment and the reinforcement of that commitment through the process of involvement, often in committees but also in other forms of community and communication.
A cycle of learning, testing, and change as I am called to new concerns. The learning phase is about seeing the existence of a concern and finding out where others stand on it – reading, listening – taking in both facts and experiences. The testing phase is about thinking and feeling, formulating my own position, working out what is right, what is possible, what God asks. The change phase is for action: either, usually, in my own life, or working with others to create a larger change. And when I make a change, of course I begin learning in a whole new way, and I continue to test to see whether the path is still the right one.
Trust. I don’t always trust others in my meeting with the details of my life and feelings; the meeting is too large, and I am too often shut down or misunderstood. Nevertheless, I do trust Quakers: to be there, to follow their own codes of conduct, and that I can walk into a meeting anywhere in the country and meet a new friend (if not, as often happens, an old one). I also choose to trust the Quaker process. Even if I am not at a business meeting, even if their decision puzzles me, I trust that if it was made in a Quaker meeting which was correctly held, it represents the will of God for that meeting at that time.
Being known. Being in membership obliges a membership clerk somewhere to work with overseers and others to maintain up-to-date details, especially to keep contact details. They have varying success in this, but in my experience generally do well enough, and in most places contact lists of some kind are published. It’s not necessary to be a member to appear on these, but to me, being on the list – contactable by other Quakers, on a whim or for business – is a microcosm of what membership is about. To agree to appear there requires a certain level of openness to involvement, and being known in this formal way is the gateway to the commitment with which I began this post.