Guide to Becoming a Member
Central Philadelphia Meeting welcomes your interest in formally joining our community. Below are some quick links to the process and suggestions about how to get to know us better.
The process of applying for membership
Ways to get to know us better
- Meeting for worship
- Meeting for business
- Attenders & Outreach Committee
- Other meeting activities
Applying for Membership
If you feel led to join the meeting formally, the first step is to write a letter to the meeting expressing your desire. You can send it to our mailing address or email it to the office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us why you feel drawn to the fellowship of the Religious Society of Friends and to our meeting in particular. Feel free to ask anybody for guidance in writing your letter, but Membership Care Committee, which handles application for membership, will be especially eager to help; contact email@example.com or call the office, 215-241-7260. Here’s an outline of the process:
The clerk of the meeting will read your letter to the monthly meeting for worship with attention to business, and then your letter will be referred to Membership Care Committee.
Membership Care Committee then puts together a small group, called a clearness committee, which will be in touch with you to set up a meeting. In its meetings with you, you and the clearness committee seek to become clear that membership in Central Philadelphia Meeting is the right thing for both you and the meeting.
The clearness committee will have questions about why you’re attracted to Quakerism and to our meeting in particular, how well you know the meeting and the Quaker way, the nature of your spiritual life and how you think it will fit in with the Quaker way, how the meeting can nurture you in the life of the spirit, and the nature of the gifts, talents, and commitment that you will bring to the meeting community.
It often takes a couple of meetings to get to know each other well enough, so the overall process usually takes a few months. When you and the clearness committee become clear about whether membership is the right path, then the clearness committee brings a recommendation to Membership Care Committee, and then Membership Care Committee brings its recommendation to the meeting as a whole in a meeting for business. The final discernment of the meeting is laid over for one more month. Once your membership is approved, Membership Care Committee chooses a couple of people to organize a welcome gathering.
Sometimes we ask an applicant to wait a while to get to know us better before applying again. Occasionally, it becomes clear to the applicant, to the clearness committee, or to both, that the applicant should look for some other spiritual home, though usually she or he is still welcome in our worship and other activities.
But we don’t want to scare you off. We love welcoming new people into our fellowship and we feel enriched by all who join us. We hope you’ll be one of them.
Getting to Know Us
Attending meeting for worship is the easiest and most direct way to become acquainted with the meeting. Lots of other members and attenders are there, so it affords a chance to meet folks, especially in our social time after meeting for worship closes. We try to keep a lookout for new people, so hopefully, some members will try to get to know you. The announcements will give you a sense of the meeting’s activities. And our sharing of joys and sorrows at the rise of meeting will take you into the heart of our meeting’s caring life.
The spirit of the meeting. At a deeper level, the messages in the meeting for worship take you into the spirit of the meeting. And at a deeper level yet, sometimes the meeting for worship sinks into a sublime sense of presence beyond that of conversation, or even of deep sharing. We feel present to each other “in that which is eternal,” as the first Friends put it; we feel ushered into the presence of something deeper, a Spirit which we might all name differently, but which we all experience as the same. We call this experience a covered or gathered meeting for worship, and it is the fulfillment of our hope as a worshipping community.
The meeting conducts its business once a month as a meeting for worship that is focused on the life of the meeting. We have no governing hierarchy or professional leadership, so all the meeting’s decisions are made by the members in these meetings, usually after one of our committees has prepared the matter for consideration. Thus, the meeting for business in worship is a great opportunity to learn about the meeting and to see the Quaker way in action. Without this understanding, you really don’t know the meeting. So if you’re considering becoming a member, you really have to attend the meeting for business.
Our Attenders & Outreach Committee can answer your questions and point you to resources about the meeting and about Quakerism. To contact the committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the meeting’s general phone number (215-241-7260) and ask the meeting secretary to put you in touch. The committee or meeting secretary can also provide you with a packet with useful information about the meeting.
There’s a bunch of other ways to get to know the meeting:
- Get on the meeting mailing list to receive our weekly bulletin, our monthly newsletter, and other communications—contact the meeting secretary to get on the list: email@example.com, 215-241-7260.
- Attend coffee hour following meeting for worship (name tags make it easier for us to get to know each other).
- Attend meeting functions, such the Meeting Weekend, usually held in February or March, the meeting picnic in June, and Twelfth Month Dinner in December.
- Attend the meeting’s various programs, which take place quite often, sometimes before meeting for worship (9:30 am) and especially after our social hour from 1:00 to 2:30. These opportunities include programs about Quakerism, presentations and other opportunities about meeting projects and activities in the community, and opportunities for sharing with each other in various ways.
- Join in meeting projects and responsibilities, such as helping with coffee hour or volunteering to help with the work of open committees or of ad hoc groups as the develop during the year.
- Join the Attenders and Outreach Committee, which is open to all attenders.
- Attend other committee meetings.
Quakerism has a rich written tradition—we have been writers of books, pamphlets, magazines, and epistles since the 1650s. And this meeting has a fantastic resource: we are the keepers of the yearly meeting’s library, which is quite extensive. Attenders & Outreach Committee can point you to materials that will answer your questions and deepen your knowledge. Their Attenders Packet has a great starter reading list.
We especially encourage you to read our book of Faith and Practice. This book, which is updated every generation or so, is a record of the beliefs, structures, and procedures currently held by our yearly meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting*. So it’s a great primer on our kind of Quakerism. Anybody who wants to become a member should have this book and give it a good look—and hopefully read it all. We will give you a free copy at your request; contact Attenders & Outreach Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the meeting secretary (email@example.com, 215-241-7260).