After about an 8 month “sabbatical” from my Meeting, I am back worshiping regularly on Sundays. If you had asked me about it ahead of time, I think I would have denied the possibility of being “released” from worshiping with my faith community. Looking back on my time away, though, that is the best description I can come up with.

Before my sabbatical, I had attended Meeting faithfully for 25 years, and perhaps going to Quaker worship had become habitual for me, in danger of becoming just another dead structure? Perhaps this was God’s way of waking me up and asking me to be intentional about communal worship again? My individual devotions did continue during my sabbatical, and I had ample opportunity as a chaplain to pray with others and to have conversations about faith. 

For the first couple of months of my absence, I really wrestled with my strong antipathy to going to worship. I didn’t like being a person who doesn’t go to worship. I’ve always thought that Quakers “ought” to be active in a community and worship together with others. But after a while I realized I felt neither pushed away nor pulled towards, and so I decided to be faithful to the feeling of being released. I was still skeptical of myself, though, and kept checking to be sure that I wasn’t deceiving myself. After about 6 months away, I did begin to feel drawn to going to Meeting again but it took another couple of months before the pull was strong enough to actually compel me to go. Then one day it was time to go back.

I’m back, and not because anything dramatic happened within me or my Meeting. And I must confess that I am still strongly skeptical of the notion of being released from communal worship.

However, I can see that my time away had the effect of giving me the chance to choose Quakerism again. It feels a bit like a “renewal of vows” and commitment to my Meeting. During the last 6 months, I have considered my relationship with God, what participating in a spiritual community means, what being a Quaker means, and I choose to recommit myself to Salmon Bay Friends, and perhaps this time with fewer illusions and romantic ideals about my faith and the Religious Society of Friends.

Queries for further reflection:

Have you ever felt “released” from individual or corporate worship? How?

What does membership in the Religious Society of Friends mean to you?