Friday, February 2, 2007

A Quaker Clearness Committee

Just got back from a clearness committee for a young man, a sophomore in high school who wants to join a Quaker work trip to El Salvador. Quaker's use clearness process to help an individual become "clear" on his or her intentions. This includes things like marriage, membership in the Quaker Meeting, major life crises, and work trips to El Salvador. This was my first time joining a clearness committee, although I'd gone through the process myself when I became a member a couple of years ago. At that time, I felt energized and much loved by the people of my spiritual community. I wondered tonight, as I drove to the west side of town, how I would feel being on the other side of the proceedings.

There were five of us, in addition to the young Friend. We had some delightful soup, enjoyed the warmth of the wood stove (it's -11 out now!) and chatted casually for a bit. Then, after some silence, maybe five minutes, the young man spoke out of the silence about his "leading" to join this trip. He spoke clearly, honestly and with some humor. I was moved by his clarity and the passion that was there. I remember being a sophomore in high school, and not having anything approaching clarity at that point in my life! (of course I WAS raised Methodist, but that's another post......). Then we asked a few questions from the list the trip coordinators had provided. After a bit of this formal questioning, things opened up to the Spirit, as people shared and asked questions that were not on the list. It felt very intimate and wonderful. The young man spoke of his guilt at being a wealthy American, compared to the average Salvadoran. I asked him how he could use his spirituality to transform that guilt into something creative. He didn't have an answer. I don't have one right now, either. Maybe later.

It was the "sense" of the committtee that this young man was clear about his intentions to join this trip. We had suggestions of things he could do to prepare before he leaves in July. We will write a "minute", which is like a Quaker letter of approval, but with more depth. Afterwards, we stood around the flickering wood stove. No one was in a hurry to leave. The wood stove was warm and I was among F/friends.

When I walked out into the Arctic night, I felt energized and much loved. I truly feel it was a gift to have been asked to be there. I hope the youg man feels some of the same.


Suzy said...

When people ask me why I am a Quaker, my first answer often has to do with the Peace Testimony. My second answer has to do with Quaker Simplicity. The thing I often forget about in that moment, and that's much more difficult to articulate, is Quaker Process, yet that's what KEPT me going to Meeting and led me to become a member.

Parker Palmer has introduced Clearness Committees into his Courage To Teach workshops. I don't know what I think about that. On the one hand, when I am sitting through yet another interminable staff meeting at work that will end up with a vote whose result leaves me unhappy, I find my self wishing that the rest of the world operated on Quaker principles.

But ... can Clearness Committees, which are one manifestation of Quaker Process, be divorced from Quaker faith and essentially be canned for the consumption of the public in general? I don't know.

And it's neither here nor there with regards to the young man you met with tonight. But I love the clearness process and am pleased to hear about a young person using it to help with an important decision.

poodledoc said...

Yes, its hard to take Quaker Process out into the rest of the world. But it can be done. I've explained "clearness committee" to some of my non-Quaker friends and most of them "get it".

You'll be the first to hear this: Dick, Kate and I are scheming to introduce Quaker process into all meetings at the Vet School. Teehee