No longer a Quaker

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:

Dear Friends,

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.

with affection,
Kenneth Sutton

(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.

4 Replies to “No longer a Quaker”

  1. Hey Kenneth: we can’t leave this without a comment. I’m sorry to read this post, though not really surprised somehow. I’ve said it before but it can be repeated that I always enjoyed your presence at Central Philly back in the day and appreciated having someone who was a little-but-not-a-lot older than myself around, especially given the ease with which you adapted to the Quaker community and got involved. It’s sad that Quakerism isn’t something that seems to be speaking to you anymore. I’m really respect that you made a clean break of it and I’m guessing you’ll keep in touch with the Quaker world–that First Life one that is.

    Then of course there’s the loss of Barbara, a hole of a different sort altogether…

  2. Kenneth,

    Just a note to say that word of this transition in your life has reached me. You are in my thoughts and I wish you fulfillment wherever you travel, inwardly and outwardly.

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  3. Hey, Ken,

    Wow! Things change, eh? I remember going to all sorts of YM’s and our chats about Quakerism. OTH, I understand since I too no longer have ties with Quakerism. I haven’t yet made the “final cut” (letter of resignation), but I don’t feel any clarity not to do so sometime in the future.

    With this time of no formal ties to an organized faith, I am finding the opportunity to evaluate the what and why of the things that I had did with it. I’m reading a fascinating book by a philosopher named Loyal Rue entitled “Religion is not about God” wherein he postulates the evolutionary functions of religion for the human species and then how each of the great religions (including Christianity) use institutions, a particular narrative (myth), values, aesthetics, rituals, etc to propagate themselves across time. Fascinating!

    I wish you good fortune during this time wandering about in the “wilderness”.

  4. A “religion” is, of course, and must be, a sort of virtual organism of the human/social mind. Naturally it must have means of propagating and maintaining itself. And so must a human body be able to maintain and reproduce itself. But we are something more, and so is a religion…

    Nuff commenting-on-comment… A book I’ve found worthwhile–and hope you will find worthwhile: _One God Clapping_, Alan Lew.

Comments are closed.