We joyfully embrace the full spectrum of the light within, made visible through the participation of people of all beliefs, cultures, backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities and races, sexual orientations, and gender identities.
The Society of Friends does not require that its members subscribe to fixed theological doctrines or rituals, but trusts the individual's own mind and conscience, guided by the Inward Light -- that of God - in each of us, which it attempts to stimulate and nourish within the community of Friends. Membership does have certain implications, however. It implies that life in the manner of Friends, as expressed in the historic Quaker testimonies, is a meaningful guide to one's own life: simplicity in manner of living, respect for life and the sanctity of every person, community as the nurturing source and basis of social justice, non-violent transformations of conflicts and controversies, and decision-making through the sense of the Meeting. Above all, it implies a devotion to the Inward Light as the source of Divine guidance, sought through the Meeting for Worship and through individual meditation and spiritual search.
In becoming a member, one accepts responsibility for participating in the life of the Meeting community; through the Meetings for Worship, entering into the living silence and contributing as one is moved by the spirit; through Meetings for Business, participating in the decisions necessary to the ongoing life of the Meeting; through committee service and other volunteer work the Meeting needs to fulfill the tasks it undertakes; through financial support of the Meeting and its outreaching concerns. One's ability to give time, effort and money in these ways will vary according to the individual member's circumstances and from time to time.
The Meeting also has responsibilities to its members and their children; assisting their integration into the Meeting's activities; facilitating personal and spiritual growth; and providing pastoral care and counseling in times of need and a supportive community in times of major life passages. It is a vehicle for expressing collective social concerns and serves as a channel between individuals and larger Friends organizations. It is committed to keeping in touch with less active members or those at a distance and keeping them informed of its business. The Meeting is entrusted with being a good steward of the personal and financial gifts made to it.
Joining the Meeting should be viewed not as a final step but as another step on a continuing Journey in the company of a fellowship of seekers. The Meeting welcomes into membership those who desire to join with us in spiritual growth, sharing and learning from our individual differences, united in mutual love and respect, guided by the Divine Within which we all share.
Anyone who is moved by the Spirit to join in membership of the Meeting and the Religious Society of Friends of which it is a part, is invited to write an email or letter to the Clerk requesting a clearness committee to consider his/her membership.
A. Membership Questions and Queries The following queries may be considered by the applicant for membership and his or her clearness committee as background for their discussions. They relate to aspects of belief and practice that exemplify the common ground of the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting and the Religious Society of Friends as a whole. Nevertheless, there are wide variations in interpretation and expression of these matters among individual Friends.
What does the phrase "there is that of God in everyone" mean to you?
How does this find expression in your life and in your relationships with
Where are you now in your spiritual journey? What are you seeking?
What are you leaving behind? How do you relate to other current or former
Are you comfortable with the thought of relying on the Inward Light
as a guide on your spiritual journey, finding continual revelation within
rather than relying on external authority? Do you find the collective experience
and insights of Friends helpful in reaching your own understandings?
Do the teachings of Jesus and traditional Christian views of Jesus
have a place in your religious life? Are you comfortable with the wide
range of views in this regard among Friends?
Do you find the emphasis on the living silence in Friends worship
helpful to your religious life? Do you find the messages in the spoken
ministry of Friends helpful to you?
Do you understand the distinction between a programmed and an unprogrammed
Friends meeting? Are you comfortable with the view that all participants
in the Meeting are ministers who, through their words or actions, serve
the spiritual needs of one another?
How does your family feel about your seeking membership in Friends
Meeting? Does this present any problems for you?
Are you familiar with the testimonies of Friends, and to
what extent do you try to exemplify them in your life?
The testimony of simplicity
The testimony of peace or non-violence
The testimony of integrity
The testimony of community
The testimony of equality
Does the idea of integrating your inner spiritual life to the outer
world of your everyday life appeal to you? Does prayer or meditation play a part
in joining inner and outer?
What does it mean that Friends Meetings for Business are conducted
in a spirit of worship, and that decisions are reached by active search
What contributions and talents do you feel you can bring the Meeting
community through membership? What gifts might you receive from others?
How would you characterize a vital Meeting? What responsibilities
do you feel the Meeting has towards its children? What are the greatest
strengths and weaknesses of the Society of Friends as it faces the future?
What are your interests in the wider family of Friends as represented
by such organizations as Piedmont Friends Fellowship, Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting,
Friends General Conference, American Friends Service Committee, Friends
World Committee for Consultation, Friends Committee on National Legislation,
Quaker House, Carolina Friends School and the like?
Are you familiar with Quaker publications such as the Friends Journal,
Pendle Hill Pamphlet Series, etc.? Are you aware of the Meeting's own resources
(e.g., the library, various funds, clearness committees, adult and children's
religious education programs)?
What are your expectations of membership in the Meeting? How can
the Meeting facilitate your integration into its membership?
What reservations, doubts, or unanswered questions do you have concerning
membership in a Friends Meeting?
B. Membership Clearness Procedures
A person who feels ready to become a member of the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting begins by writing a letter or email, which may be brief, stating the reasons for feeling drawn to take this step. The letter or email is addressed to the Clerk, who, with the consent of the writer, may read the text of the message at the next Monthly Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. If the Clerk does not read the letter in full, the request for a clearness committee for membership will be presented and then the Clerk will refer it to the Committee on Ministry and Worship. Ministry and Worship will in turn appoint a clearness committee for membership. The committee will be composed of four or more members of the Meeting, at least two of whom are members of Ministry and Worship and one of whom is a member of Care and Counsel. The person requesting membership may also choose an additional Friend, who is a member of the meeting, to serve on the clearness committee. Prior to the meeting of the first clearness committee, the convener will provide a copy of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice and Chapel Hill Friends Meeting's Suggestions for Participation in Meeting for Worship to the person requesting membership.
Members of the clearness committee usually meet once without the applicant to clarify with one another their perceptions of clearness, the meaning of membership, and any concerns they might want to pursue in some depth. This is sometimes done just prior to the first meeting with the person requesting membership.
It is recommended that the clearness committee will meet two or more times with the person requesting membership to explore the meaning of membership, the commitments involved, and any other issues that may seem relevant. The number of meetings varies according to the needs, interests, and range of matters that the seeker and members of the committee wish to consider. Matters that may be considered are indicated in Section A above.
The clearness committee may benefit by having one or more meetings without the applicant present to reflect with one another, share possible reservations and consider any further meetings with the person requesting membership.
When clearness is found, the clearness committee brings the matter to the Committee on Ministry and Worship. If Ministry and Worship concurs, the clerk of Ministry and Worship or the convener of the Clearness Committee will take the matter to Business Meeting, presenting the request, as well as its own written recommendation.
Should clearness not be reached, the person requesting membership is encouraged to explore the unresolved issues alone, with the help from the clearness committee or other Meeting and non-Meeting resources.
Upon approval for membership by the Business Meeting, a welcoming committee will be formed from the Meeting at large to welcome and become better acquainted with the new member.
The convener of the clearness committee is responsible for presenting a short biography of the new member for publication in the newsletter and introducing him or her to the next convenient Meeting for Worship. The Clerk of Ministry and Worship is responsible for ensuring that tokens of acceptance/recognition (e.g., subscription to Friends Journal) are presented to the new member.
Members of both the clearness and welcoming committees generally have a continuing responsibility for keeping in touch with the new member, reflecting the Meeting's ongoing concern for his or her welfare.
C. Familial Members
To assist in the flourishing of Quakerism in the world, we invite the children of Meeting members to be enrolled as familial members. This reflects the Meeting's conviction that we have a responsibility to provide a religious home to children of our members and attenders where the seeds of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality can be nurtured. Furthermore, it is our belief that these children rightfully possess this valuable heritage which they will take with them into maturity when they make their own decisions about membership in the Religious Society of Friends. Our children are blessings that enrich and shape our Meeting, and we want them to experience being full participants in the fellowship of the Meeting.
Becoming a familial member may be initiated in several ways. Ministry and Worship may initiate familial membership for a newborn to a Meeting family or for children moving into our Meeting community. A Meeting family can also initiate the process by making a specific request to Ministry and Worship regarding familial membership. It may also be that a family will request Membership into the Meeting for themselves and their children at the same time. Once initiated, familial membership is accomplished with the consent of parents; is brought forward by Ministry and Worship, and acted upon by the Meeting for Business.
As familial members mature, the Ministry and Worship Committee, in collaboration with the Youth Religious Education Committee, will provide opportunities for youth to learn about how they can become (adult) members of the Society of Friends. Becoming a full member of CHFM can take place during the high school years, or later, after young adults have graduated. Familial members who want to pursue this step, are invited to write or email the clerk (email@example.com) This step will start a clearness process, identical to that described earlier.
Familial membership may last for an undetermined amount of time. We encourage young adults living away from Chapel Hill to consider seeking membership in a meeting nearby. However, whatever decision regarding eventual full membership at CHFM or at another meeting or in another denomination is made, familial members should know that their original spiritual home at Chapel Hill Friends Meeting always remains available to them.
D. Non-Resident Members
Members of the Monthly Meeting who move to other communities may continue as non-resident members of the Meeting. They may request a letter of introduction to the Meeting nearest their new residence and to individual Friends in that area known to our Meeting. Such letters recommend them to local Friends but do not affect membership in our Meeting.
Friends residing temporarily at a distance from their Meeting but not wishing to transfer membership may request of their home Meeting a minute addressed to the visited Meeting asking for sojourner status.
Sojourning members have all the privileges and responsibilities of regular members, including the right to participate in decisions of the Meeting, serve on committees, and convene those committees. However, rather than long term sojourning, a transfer of membership is suggested to facilitate integration into the new Meeting.
E. Transfer to Friends Elsewhere
A member who would like to transfer membership to another Meeting should write the Clerk asking for a Letter of Transfer. The Clerk will refer the matter to the Committee on Ministry and Worship for such investigation as may be appropriate to fulfill our responsibility to the other Meeting. When the M&W Committee is satisfied, the committee clerk will ask the Corresponding Clerk to prepare an appropriate Letter of Transfer recommending our member to the other Meeting. After the Letter is approved by the Meeting for Business, the Corresponding Clerk will send the original to the receiving Meeting and a copy to the transferring member. After we are notified of acceptance of the transfer, the member's name is removed from our membership roll.
F. Transfer from Friends Elsewhere
The Clerk should acknowledge receipt of the Letter of Transfer from another Meeting and bring the matter to the next Meeting for Business. Upon approval, the transfer will be reflected in the minutes and a welcoming committee chosen to introduce the new member into fellowship and acquaint him or her with the local Meeting activities.
The Recorder will add the new member's name to the membership rolls and obtain the appropriate information for the Meeting records. The corresponding clerk will write letters a) to inform the issuing meeting that CHFM has accepted the transfer of membership and b) to welcome the transferring member.
A Friend may wish to be released from membership as part of joining another denomination. A letter requesting resignation should be addressed to the Clerk. When approved, the Corresponding Clerk will write a letter of recommendation to the new organization.
A member who is not in basic accord with the ideals and practices of Friends is encouraged to seek the advice of Care and Counsel or of trusted others and try, with their help, to examine personal beliefs and practices in the light of Friends' testimonies and beliefs. If continued membership is not desired, resignation of membership should be presented in writing to the Monthly Meeting. Upon approval, the Corresponding Clerk should inform the person in writing of his or her release and mention the possibility of re-applying.
H. Release from Membership
Occasionally a member may seriously disregard the obligations of membership, exhibit a lack of interest or responsibility in the Meeting or lose all contact with the Meeting. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the Care and Counsel Committee to attempt to re-establish contact and interest. If continued efforts over an adequate period (at least one year) are unsuccessful, the Care and Counsel and Ministry and Worship committees may jointly recommend to the Monthly Meeting a minute explaining the circumstances and recording reluctant removal of the individual from membership. Whenever possible, the Corresponding Clerk will send that a written notice of this action to the person removed.
From time to time, the behavior of a particular Friend may appear to disrupt the Meeting life or be out of keeping with Friends' traditional practice. In such situations, the Ministry and Worship and Care and Counsel committees will seek a loving and thoughtful solution. In the end, involuntary release from membership can only be accomplished by the Monthly Meeting for Business.