Seeing What Matters, Clearly

A “clearness committee” is a Quaker ritual in which a “focus person” who is approaching an important life decision gathers trusted friends, presents context relevant to the upcoming discernment, and invites, for three hours, those gathered to ask kenotic, open-ended questions to help the person consider the issue more deeply. At the end of the three hours, those gathered reflect back to the focus person what they have seen and heard.

The main point is to hold a space for the focus person to listen to what arises within them during the process. Put another way, the exercise lovingly introduces material for the discernment of spirits.

I’ve never done this complete process, perhaps because of a lack of initiative and imagination or due to constraints of time and physical distance.

I have, though, once a month for the past five months, gathered on Zoom with four dear friends (and also fathers) for one hour for a simplified clearness committee. We sign on, from California, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, briefly catch up, and dive in. (I’ll write next week explaining how we have modified the process.)

It is so simple, and such a profound gift. When else have I been offered questions (that is to say, invitations to a fuller life) out of deep love and hope from friends I have known for 15+ years? What would replace the intimacy of knowing and engaging another’s history in this way?

This sort of thing takes initiative and dedication of precious time. And it is all too easy to put off until tomorrow.

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