I have applied for membership in my monthly meeting.
In my original post I mentioned some hesitation about membership. I've pondered this a lot and it has various sources. First, I grew up reading Krishnamurti, who emphatically advised against joining any sort of spiritual or religious organization. I followed this advice for several years with the Unitarians, but broke down one evening after a Christmas eve service --"Christmas always gets 'em," was the Minister's comment. As for Friends, I wondered why we needed "membership." Isn't that sort of a worldly idea? Early Friends didn't have membership -- if you were "convinced" that was enough. I guess I wanted that sort of "purity" -- you are either a "Friend of the Light" or not. I've felt very involved with and moved to be a part of Friends, not to mention just fascinated by the whole phenomenon -- although whether my "convincement" measures up or is even similar in kind to that of early Friends is -- well, perhaps a topic for another post.
Part of my hesitance is my vocation as a public lawyer. What are the standards for membership? In lawyer language, this process looks suspiciously "arbitrary and capricious" -- or at least has that potential. The decision to admit or deny membership could be described as extremely subjective. I would never advise one of my local government clients to engage in a decision-making process like this, for fear that they would be sued.
On the other hand, someone once remarked that in hell, there will be nothing but due process! And I don't mean to suggest that my committee will be arbitrary or capricious. (I've yet to appear before them, so I'd best not impugn their integrity at any rate). Friends rely on the spirit to guide their decisions, and that would be tough to codify.
Another hesitation has been the equality principle. This was raised by a long-time attender in our meeting: if we're all equal, then why make the distinction between attenders/members? If you keep coming back and sharing your gifts year after year, should you be considered any less a part of this religious community simply because you haven't subjected yourself to a committee designed to judge your spiritual fitness? In our postmodern, individual-centered society, there's something quite unusual about this -- why can't I
make my own decision whether to be a Friend or not? When I joined the Unitarians, the only requirement was to "sign the book."
And finally, membership can have spiritual disadvantages, such as complaceny, pride/egotism, the setting of one group against others, and so on. (I think this was what Krishnamurti was concerned about).
So why have I applied for membership? For one, there's something to be said for making a commitment. I have a tendency toward the non-committal, and every once in a while it does me good to make a stand. Its what led me to get married as opposed to merely sharing living quarters. Its what keeps me going to work every day, even when I'd rather not. Yes, we can get into a rut, but there's also a danger of never finding the road at all. Committment over time enables the richness of being involved at a deeper level.
Another reason: I was asked to join. This helps. The fact that others would like you to belong takes the question out of the abstract, philosophical realm (see above) into the world of real relationships with fellow human beings.
Finally, this was coupled with a request to consider filling a position with the meeting (the truth will out!) that requires membership. To some extent its just pragmatism: easier to join than to engage in potentially endless airy debates that would most likely go nowhere. But its more than that: I think my philosophical objections were overcome by my desire to be engaged in the life of the meeting -- and to concentrate on weightier matters than the issue of membership.