Dear Amy: After over 30 years of friendship, my dear friend is now shunning me.

This full-stop disconnection is unexpected, perplexing and hurtful. I blame the fact that she is a longtime member of an organization within her Christian church, a significant financial contributor, and a supernumerary.

I think she's ended her nonreligious connections to old friends to "go to the next level" in the organization.

The group advocates self-denial and encourages supernumeraries to recruit members among receptive friends. Nonreceptive friends are discouraged.

A year ago, my friend began closing herself off from other unaffiliated friends, but we talked daily, and she still initiated frequent contact.

I hung in there. We're old ladies; I was expecting to spend my retirement relying on this friendship for companionship.

I think I was a good friend, a loyal confidante and positive counsel. But this group is cultlike in its devotees' self-isolation from friends and family.

I'm agnostic, not interested in joining, but wasn't judgmental. I think her religious counselors finally told her to curtail our friendship, because I'm not a receptive candidate for recruitment.

Do I let the friendship go?

Amy says: If you are an agnostic, then you are not a likely candidate for recruitment. As much as this withdrawal hurts, I don't think you should necessarily assign this reason, although the fact that you don't, won't and can't belong means that your friendship is ending because your friend has turned toward something, and she has been taught to believe that her choice necessitates that she turn away from you.

Unfortunately, you don't seem to have a choice but to let the friendship go. Friendships wax, wane and end for all sorts of reasons. This is especially painful after such a long history, and at your age, because you understand how rare intimate friendships are.

I'm very sorry you are experiencing this loss. Her choice is not an indictment of you or your qualities as a friend; as hard as this is, you should not take this as a personal rejection.

Sacramental substitutions

Dear Amy: Regarding your answer to the reader who wrote a letter about baptism: Talk about offensive advice!

OK, don't baptize the baby, but if you don't value baptism, then don't create a naming rite meant to substitute for a church sacrament.

This is about the soul, not a party. What's next? A bread-baking brunch that substitutes for First Communion?

Amy says: Your response exactly mirrors how I predicted the reader's parents would respond to a naming rite vs. baptism. But I'd be in favor of a bread-baking brunch at any time; no need to wait for a special occasion.

Send questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com.