All of this very hot afternoon and evening (and between innings), I've been writing a post inspired by this excerpt from Johan Mauer's Can You Believe? :
Once I was a member of a meeting of ministry and counsel, and we were encouraging a thoughtful seeker to consider membership. I was startled by her response: "You don't require enough of me. You need to have a deeper and more challenging dialogue with me, or I might not believe either you or I are worth it." Since one of the ministry and counsel members at the time was uncomfortable with even the minor threshold we already had, her objection led to some interesting discussions! To risk a bit of overinterpretation (I believe I'm on solid ground), I heard her saying that invitation without repentance either demeans membership or demeans the member. Don't take me for granted!Under the title of "Why should I join a church that will take me as a member?," I examined my meeting's membership packet and showed how it confirms this Friend's complaint: We don't require very much to be a member of our meeting.
But I'm setting that aside because I realize it's a cheap shot. I realized while writing it that I was falling into the Christian glee club trap identified in the Convergent Friends On Fire interest group. That is, it was so easy to complain about how generic and flaccid our membership requirements, but that turned out to be my way of avoiding the commitment I was advocating that others have to join the meeting, a more difficult undertaking.
This is a sin I am too often guilty of: finding the flaws in others, their shortcomings, and analyzing them to death -- it's a tendency that is dangerously close to cynicism and isn't very helpful to anyone. I can do it only when I feel alienated enough from my target that I am actually saying, "Thank you, God, that I am not as other men are." I hate it when that happens.
This reminds me of a meeting of our clerks team several years ago. We were discussing concerns about the lack of depth in our meetings for worship and various proposals to fix the problem. After a lot of discussion, one of my colleagues said simply, "The way to deepen our worship is to worship more deeply." It really was that simple.
The way to make membership in my meeting more covenential is to be more covenantal with Friends who belong to my meeting. The way to make a commitment to understanding and living the authentic Quaker gospel a criterion of membership in my meeting is is to understand and live that gospel myself.
I'm looking forward to our potluck and meeting tomorrow night with Friends from the Twin Cities area who attended the Gathering (more than 45 were invited). We'll have a meal and then a centered sharing of our experiences. We did this last year and it proved to be very valuable. I hope that the predicted warm temperature (90+ F) won't keep people away or wither us too soon. To try to keep cool, I'm making this.