How to Serve on a Quaker Clearness Committee

How to Serve on a Quaker Clearness Committee


Very few people have an experience like Saul
on the road to Damascus where we just get blown over by the Holy Spirit and, suddenly,
everything’s changed. So we have to listen to nudges and leadings and little quiet steps.
So my experience is of feeling small nudges that feel like they are from God and that
I need to pay attention to, and if I stop and slow down and have others sit with me
to reflect on those nudges, I can sense whether they’re really something pushing me in a
direction I need to go, or is it just a momentary fancy? Clearness committees are formed when an individual,
a couple, a group comes to a Quaker body and says, “We are wrestling with this issue
and we want to discern the way forward.” It’s important to know how to help people
do their discernment because it’s not something that we learn automatically in our society.
It’s not always something that we learn at home. So it’s a skill that can be learned,
but we have to practice. The prep work for the committee is to hold
the person in the light and be prepared for the questions that may come up, and read the
writing in advance to be prepared for holding this person in the committee meeting. Before the meeting, I find a grounded place
and I would pray for that person, or, to use the Quaker saying ‘hold them in the Light.’
And, for me, holding people in the light, I visually try to see them being surrounded
by a halo of light. The first thing I would say is just to let
the person talk. And I find that often, we don’t have a space to be able to talk about
the things that really matter to us, and so just holding a space where somebody actually
just gets to tell you the whole story—and why it’s important to them—is a gift. So when you serve on a clearness committee,
the first piece of that is listening deeply to the person who is requesting a clearness
committee. So the first piece is to listen deeply and not just to listen deeply to that
individual and to their story, but also to listen deeply for the still, small voice—that
of God in that person—and how the Spirit might be moving. We’re all listening to the same Source;
the same God is speaking to all of us. So, if I’m saying that, like, there is a leading
that is coming from God that is telling me to do something, I have no doubt at all that
another Friend, would be able to, like, with enough listening, totally hear that. Asking each other queries is powerful because
it stops us from giving advice. It’s an opportunity for us to ask open and honest
questions of a person who has the wisdom within themself to find an answer. And so, instead
of saying ‘oh, a similar thing happened to me,’ or ‘I know what you should do
in this situation,’ we sit and listen to what the person is asking, and then we ask
questions about things that they already know but haven’t discerned yet. Questions make the space for the Spirit to
speak and to be listened to, rather than, like, kind of laying the options on the table
and saying: “select, choose wisely; here’s which one I would choose.” It’s really—that’s
not what Quaker discernment is supposed to ideally be, and, like, the questions open
the door, I think, for just really exciting possibilities. I always consider them as a gift. It’s the
gift of another experience, and so you look at whatever you’re thinking about from that
point of view. It might never have occurred to us, or to me, to look at it in that way,
but hearing someone else ask a question allows us to broaden how we look, how we consider
what it is we’re doing. So you could say something like: “when you
imagine yourself in five years, and you’ve taken that job that you’re discerning around,
how does that person that you are in five years feel?” Or you could say something
open-ended like: “ if the Spirit closed that door, and you weren’t offered that
job, how would you feel about that?” So those kinds of open-ended questions that help
the individual imagine the various possibilities. Even thought I might have my own desires for
them, I try to acknowledge I have them, but I do try to keep them from influencing them.
I ask them open-ended questions to really find out more about them and what they are
asking for clearness for. And then, worshiping with them, and praying with them for guidance.

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2 Replies to “How to Serve on a Quaker Clearness Committee”

  1. I can see this being very helpful when people are considering being asked for thee first time onto a Clearness committee, or even requesting one for their own discernment.

  2. While I haven't engaged in this process, I'm confident it has some great value.
    However it can be abused if the focus is interspersed with issues of dispute. The privacy expectations of the event, such as Priestly confidences, can cause imbalances in the failures of dispute resolutions, and abuse of process for other parties in such disputes.
    I have endured personal harm in just such a situation.

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