Unless something unusual occured, as of yesterday I am no longer a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Here’s the letter I sent to my meeting:
This letter is to let you know of my decision to resign my membership in Beacon Hill Friends Meeting. I have not, for some time, been acting as a member of the meeting; this resignation is to bring my formal status into harmony with my behavior. While there are many people in Beacon Hill Meeting and in the wider Religious Society of Friends who are dear to me, this affection is not, in my heart, an appropriate reason to remain in membership.
I don’t think I’ve rejected any of the values of Quakerism, but I’ve been going through a prolonged period of spiritual dryness and have not felt any drawing towards Quakerism as a way out of it. In fact, I have some glimmerings of interest in Buddhism. For most of the past twenty years, being a Quaker has played a major role in my sense of identity, encompassing vocation, avocation, community, and lifestyle. It is painful and confusing to realize that things are no longer clear. What has become clear is that I need to create an open space in my heart–silence, if you will–in which to seek for my right spiritual path.
It may be that my journey will lead me back into the Religious Society of Friends. Ironically, I have become involved in drawing together a community of Quakers in a particular Internet venue. If my journey does lead me back into active participation in a meeting, I am prepared to reapply for membership should that occur.
Thank you, Friends, for the fellowship and welcome I found when I moved to Boston over five years ago. I’m sorry to find myself no longer among you.
(The Internet venue I mention is Second Life, where the most recent meeting for worship, which I could not attend, drew sixteen people.)
Getting around to writing this letter took a long time. I finally couldn’t not do it. I feel a much greater sense of integrity already. (Having objected to accepting the membership application of someone living at a distance, I felt keenly the lack of integrity in continuing to hold membership when I was not participating in meeting.)
The questions of identity are, indeed, hard. Last night I was at shiva for my friend Barbara, and when I was introduced to one person had to explain that while I was a Quaker, I no longer am. And when discussing my work, the immediate question that follows my statement that I’m not a UU is, what are you? One dear friend last night named it exactly when she said I can no longer use Quakerism as a crutch to shape identity or to maintain relationships.