By the fall of 1985 I was attending Quaker meeting in Philadelphia, and in the spring of 1986 I became a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. I proceeded to spend most of the next twenty years deeply committed to Quaker service. I’m going to sort of just dump a list of things here, but you could go read a sermon I wrote that briefly describes a fair bit of my religious journey: “On Becoming ‘Real Religious’.”
Over the years I’ve served as recording clerk (a volunteer leadership position involved with recording the written minutes of business meetings) for Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, Representative Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting sessions, and Permanent Board of New England Yearly Meeting.
For three years I served as presiding clerk of Interim Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (the successor to Representative Meeting). I was probably the youngest person to have done so, at least in a very long time, certainly the first openly gay person to do so, and I’m pretty sure still the only person with a pierced nose to have done so! During my term, I was invited to speak in the weekly upper school worship and to some classes at Moorestown (N.J.) Friends School. Some of the parents had not done their homework about what a Friends school might be like, and they were unhappy that a gay man was speaking to their children. Naturally I knew precisely what status I had (as clerk of Interim Meeting), but I’m grateful that the school stood by me and that it didn’t cause them too much trouble. (What tended to raise the most eyebrows among my friends was finding out that a Quaker school would invite someone to speak in what they thought should be an unprogrammed meeting for worship!)
I attended a number of international Quaker gatherings, which is to say, I met and was friendly with people whose theologies went from atheism to evangelical Christianity, and I did so as an openly gay man: Friends United Meeting triennials in 1987 (Greensboro) and 1996 (Indianapolis; Tony Campolo spoke); Friends World Committee for Consultation gathering in 1991 in Elspeet, Netherlands, and triennial in 1997 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. I got to attend the National Council of Churches event “A Gathering of Christians” in Arlington, Texas, in 1988.
While in Philadelphia, I worked for Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas; Friends General Conference; and Friends Journal, which I left as senior editor to move to Boston. Board service: Friends General Conference, Pendle Hill, Quaker Information Center, and The Other Side magazine (which was not a Quaker thing, but belongs here).
I was in the second instance of the School of the Spirit’s course, “On Being a Spiritual Nurturer.”
I taught adult religious education courses and workshops at meetings, mostly within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, led workshops at the annual summer Gathering of Friends General Conference, workshops at Pendle Hill and Woolman Hill Quaker study centers, and undertook a two-week teaching trip from Pasadena to Seattle with Jan Hoffman, ending with a weekend workshop at Ben Lomond Quaker Center with Bob Schmitt. Jan and I later coauthored a chapter, “A Deeper Service: Ministers and Elders Working Together”, for the book Walk Worthy of Your Calling. I taught a course at Pendle Hill in the Winter 2001 term when they were between Quakerism teachers, “A Motion of Love: and you have put on a new self.”
In the mid-2000s, I hit a spiritual dry spell and also had a falling-out with the meeting I belonged to. I stopped going to meeting, and eventually resigned my membership. I joined the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, but that also didn’t feel like a home. In spite of the continuing dryness, I’m occasionally reminded that my spiritual formation was, and continues to be, Quaker (well, if you ignore the 25 years of unchurched spiritual formation that preceded it).