The Church was founded with the recognition that many of us are reluctant to “join” any religious organization. In fact, many of us came to an EarthReligious perspective out of dissatisfaction with many of the practices of established organized religions.
With this in mind, Four Quarters follows a bifurcated or dual structure. The foundation of support for the work of Four Quarters is Membership in Four Quarters Farm; the Sanctuary and Church Camp are administered by the Church Corporation. Membership in Four Quarters Farm carries with it no religious affiliation with the Church. It is designed to allow an individual to fully participate in all of the spiritual benefits and activities of Four Quarters without feeling they have been forced to do something they may be uncomfortable with. See the "Types of Camp Membership" for more info.
However, many of us recognize that we are just as free to define the meaning of “Church” as is any other organization. After all, a Church is not a building or a bank account, but rather is a group of people who grow together in shared spiritual practice. And in that sense we are very much a Church. Our Constitution says it best:
1.2.0···· * We do not attempt to define the belief of the individual, knowing that belief is a deeply personal matter, a part of our ongoing journey together.
1.2.2···· * We do recognize, support and incorporate into the body of our experience as a Church those practices and beliefs that we perceive are commonly shared and expressed among the many indigenous and modern traditions of EarthReligion.
1.2.4···· * These practices and beliefs include, but are not limited to: the manifestation of Spirit as a gender duality and polarity; our honor of the Circle in its completeness and its directions; polytheism and monotheism as accessible and understandable expressions of the divine impulse; the wheel of the year as a means of understanding ourselves and our world; and the recognition of nature as the source and endpoint, image and reflection, of ourselves and our experience of Spirit.
1.4···· * Our tradition is one of public service through work; on the land and amongst the public; to foster and protect The Standing Stones as sanctuary for all.
And in this country there are tremendous benefits to organizing a group's common religious experience as a “Church.”··An obvious benefit is of course that the financial aspects of the group are treated as a non-profit by the government, which gives relief from the burden of operating as a money-making enterprise.
A much more important reason is that we are blessed to live in a country with very real and substantive protections for freedom of religion. These protections are not perfect and they must be fought for in order to be preserved, but they are very, very real. If you are concerned that your religious beliefs could be used against you in a legal process, Membership in The Church is one of the strongest protections you can have. This Church has been in court to successfully defend its Members' beliefs and lifestyle choices, and it takes that responsibility very seriously.
But there is another reason, the most important reason of all for choosing Church Membership for oneself. In this modern world in which we live, Spiritual Sanctuary cannot exist in a vacuum. Some organized entity must exist to interact with and protect Sanctuary from the mundane world and its concerns. In the case of Four Quarters, that entity is the Church. The Church has a legal existence that is protected by law. And if we do our work well, that Church is not the reflection of any one person, but rather the expression of a larger shared intent and experience.
At its core, the warp and weft of the Church is people. Without people willing to say “Yes, this is my Church,” it all falls aside and becomes yet another sham.
So perhaps if you have gotten this far in this little article you are seriously considering Membership in the Church. The Church Constitution contains all the requirements for Church Membership, but it is written in a dry legal form as a founding corporate document. In plain English, the requirements are as follows.
- You must maintain a current Membership in Four Quarters Farm for at least one year. When your Farm membership lapses, so does your Church Membership.
- You should read "The Rule of The Community of Service."
- You must read and be able to support the Church Mission Statement.
- You must read and be able to understand and support the Church Constitution inasmuch as it describes the corporate structure of the Church. These are the important points of Church Corporate structure.
- The Church is closely modeled on Amish practice. Final decision-making relies on The Board of Directors with input solicited from the Membership.
- The President of the Board may prevent the Board from taking an action.
- No one can force the Board to take an action.
- The Board operates by general consensus.
- It is expected of Church Members that in public they will support the Church and their fellow Members. The Church is not a place for displaying personal gripes and emotional process.
- You must write a short letter to the Board of Directors, requesting Church Membership and explaining why Membership is important to you. Your letter will be read in the next meeting of the Board, and the Board will contact you to arrange a time for your Membership Ceremony.
At an agreed-upon Full Moon Service:
- You will be questioned by a Member of The Board of Directors regarding your understanding of and agreement with the corporate structure of the Church and its founding documents.
- You will declare yourself publicly as a Member of the Church and enter your name, signature, and anything else you may wish, into the Church Membership Ledger. These two pages in the bound ledger are reserved for you, as a record of your Membership.
- You will be publicly recognized as a Member of the Church, within Sacred Circle. At this point you are a Member of The Church.
And remember, Membership in the Church does not confer any privileges. In fact as the old timers will tell you, it only adds responsibilities. Only Church Members are nominated to the Board of Directors, and this is an onerous responsibility. And Church Members are held to a higher standard of behavior and responsible stewardship of the Land. All part of our growth through Community and Tribe.
Clergy, Handfastings and Marriages
The Board of Directors does not ordain Clergy as official Ministers of this Church. Rather, our practice is modeled after the Plain People’s Churches, with our Members performing duties that are commonly performed by Clergy, such as prison and hospital visits, counseling, handfastings and funerals.
In the case of Marriages, our practice is that one of the partners must be a Member of the Church, and that the ceremonials are performed here on The Land. A marriage license must be obtained from the Bedford County Clerk, arrangements made for the ceremony and the presence of at least one Member of The Board of Directors. Our Marriages are witnessed by the congregation assembled, and the certificate is signed by the Church officer, as allowed by Pennsylvania law. And, we assure you, you are hitched!
In Service to the Circle
Our New and Full Moon Service Ceremonials are written and led each month by volunteers in Service to the Circle, drawn from our Membership and guests. These volunteers reflect the gender balance that we find is necessary to EarthReligous practice, although that balance is not necessarily reflected by physical gender. By taking on the responsibility for leading Circle, they are able to grow in their own understanding of ceremony, and by inviting others to assist them, they make a place for those with less experience to grow as well. More than any other reason, it is this practice of open leadership in Circle that has unified our diversity of traditions for thirteen unbroken years of monthly Moon Services.
The Board of Directors is always looking for people who would like to participate in or lead our Moon Services. If you would like to take on these responsibilities please participate in the
section of this web site.