— Wilmer A. Cooper, as quoted in Faith and Practice
BECOMING A QUAKER “MEMBER”
Laura Johnston Kohl
BECOMING A QUAKER “MEMBER”
Several months ago, I applied to become a “member” of the La Jolla Society of Friends. Before my application, I had been a long-time member of two other groups – Peoples Temple Christian Church of the Disciples of Christ, and the Synanon (drug rehabilitation) community. Peoples Temple ended disastrously, when 918 people died in Jonestown and other parts of Guyana on November 18, 1978. I recovered and really regained my will to live by becoming part of Synanon for ten years, where communalists took wonderful care of me. Although I was not a drug addict or alcoholic, I needed care, nurturing, and friendship. And, I could take part in the Synanon Game, where I could air out the deepest feelings of grief several times a week. Synanon was closed down by the IRS in about 1990. I was and am a communalist – and plan to return to communal living ON MY OWN TERMS at some point in my life. But, those two groups left me. Being a “member” had not, in the end, meant anything.
In 1994, a good friend of mine and a Quaker, Judy Malcolm, acquainted me with the Quakers. She would pick up my young son, Raul, and take him to a Quaker Meeting nearby. Then, her daughter Angel would have a playmate. I was happy for a day off from all responsibility – a Sabbath.
Then, she and her daughter moved away. My son, then 5, insisted that I take him to the Quaker Meeting because he had developed friendships there. I ignored his nagging as long as I could. Then, I took him to the Meeting. It turned out that the members of that Meeting were the same folks who had been on the street corner with me protesting against the 1992 War in Iraq. I knew them and knew them to be courageous in opposing the war. As soon as I entered the Meeting House, I knew I was home.
Today, I was just reflecting about how we know we are human because we see other “humans” and realize we act, talk, eat, walk, and think like them – and realize we must be human too. I knew I was a Quaker the same way – I ate, thought, practiced, vocalized, and understood things just as they did and do. So, I have been a Quaker since 1994.
“Membership” was really a whole other issue. With Quaker Meetings, you can be a visitor, an Attender, or, a Member. I never got caught up in the semantics of all of that. I was/am a Quaker. But, did I want to become a “member” of anything again in life? Uh, no. So, from time to time, I would hear about the distinction of being a Member or not. The Meeting pays more dues to the Yearly Meeting for members. That was no great impact on me. A Member who dies could have a Celebration of Life in the Meeting House and be listed at the Yearly Meeting Memorials for those who die each year. Not so for the Attender. Really, not so vital to me. So, I put it off. I didn’t want to be a Member, I felt I was carrying my load, I contributed to the Meeting, and I was already a Quaker, just not a Member.
The whole concept sat on my “Things to think about sometime” list for years.
And then, a few months ago, I decided to clear the list. I was already a Quaker, so why draw the line at a technicality?
I wrote my Letter to the Clerk and to Ministry & Oversight, requesting to become a Member. I met with several Members – Ellie Hitchcock, Kip McBane, and Maria Vidana. Ellie assigned me the task of reading some of the quotations from Faith and Practice.
I found one which particularly spoke to me, by my friend and Friend Jane Peers. Regarding Membership in a Quaker Meeting, Number 147:
Membership should mean that both the Meeting and the member know what they expect from each other and from other Friends. It is a covenant relationship. We have no creed, no doctrine, no single statement of faith. How then do we know each other? By our deeds and by our commonalities, among them that we choose to worship together regularly.
I want to be a member of a group that looks to action and integrity, and has high standards for relationships developed in the group. I decided to be “formally” considered a Member of the La Jolla Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends.
Some of our 'Leadings and Concerns'
by Eric Scott, La Jolla Meeting
Our meeting has recently provided some degree of material support to the following organizations:
- American Friends Service Committee
- Friends Committee on Legislation (California)
- Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Friends World Committee for Consultation
- Friends House Moscow
- Friends Journal
- Nonviolent Peace Force
- Peace Resource Center
- Pendle Hill
- Quaker Bolivia Link
- Quaker United Nations Office
- Western Friend
Individual Friends have also been led to be active with these organizations (this is certainly an incomplete list):
- Afghan Refugee Girls School (contact Stephanie Freeman)
- African Great Lakes Initiative
- Alternatives to Violence
- American Refugee Committee
- Amnesty International
- Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
- Christian Peacemaker Teams
- Doctors Without Borders
- Fellowship of Reconciliation
- Habitat for Humanity
- Heifer Project
- Joan B Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice
- Iraq Veterans Against the War
- Peace Brigades International
- Peace through Pieces
- Project Yano - Youth and Nonmilitary
- Quaker Earthcare Witness
- Ramallah Friends School
- Right Sharing of World Resources
- San Diego Veterans for Peace