Last week I resigned my membership at First Friends, the Quaker meeting Beth and me have attended for almost 19 years.
At monthly meeting Sunday, my resignation was noted and sparked a lengthy, emotional discussion. I won’t go into the reasons I chose to leave. Ministry and Counsel will have to discern whether to share or act on those. But they’re foundational issues about how we live in relationship with one another.
This isn’t something I take lightly. Beth and I raised our son in the meeting, we’re both former clerks of M&C, and we’ve extended our hospitality to countless people who have visited that community. They’re a meeting that does a lot to combat food insecurity and address difficult social issues. I have many friends there. But the last few months our committees and elders have focused on process while failing those of us who are hurting.
Beth’s more patient than me. She’s hanging on.
The phrase “spiritual homelessness” came to mind while I was sitting in my last monthly meeting at First Friends. There’s a distinction between the Quaker idea of church (wherever two or more are gathered in God’s name) and the institutional church. There is a powerful connection between Beth and me, and the many people in that community who love us. We don’t take that for granted; we’ll work to grow those bonds. That idea of church is still intact.
But, standing outside the institutional church after nearly two decades means two things to me: Starting over, and finding a new faith community where I can build new bonds and trust. And, missing the structure and formal bonds that made First Friends a spiritual incubator, where leadings and the support and discernment of friends led to powerful things.