CREATE A CLEARNESS COMMITTEE BY BILL TIMPSON

Have you struggled with a personal decision that impacts peace and reconciliation, e.g., your role as an activist on local issues or as a mediator in resolving a conflict at work? When people grapple with an intensely personal decision, finding their way to clarity often goes beyond speaking to friends, journaling or mulling over the issues as they see them. As committed pacifists, Quakers/Friends developed clearness committees to aid members of Quaker meetings in making personal decisions. Life coach, Maggie Graham, describes how these practices can be used.

“Within the Quaker community, the process for forming a clearness committee is triggered when a Friend with a personal concern approaches his or her Meeting (the equivalent of a church, synagogue or mosque in many other faiths) with a request for a clearness committee. A committee of three to five people is appointed, and logistical arrangements are made for the committee’s first (and sometimes only) meeting.

“The clearness committee begins with a statement from the requestor, either verbally at the start of the meeting or in writing prior to the meeting. Silence punctuates each person’s contributions to the meeting, with the substance of the speaking centered on open-ended questions addressed to the requestor. The tone of the clearness committee meeting is one of deeper reflection and support for the person at the center of the committee. The requestor drives the meeting either with responses to the questions or with spoken reflection. Generally, a clearness committee meets for two to three hours at one sitting, and it may reconvene over the course of several weeks or months as the requestor seeks further clarity.

“The purpose of the committee is to provide the requestor with the space and time to examine the issues facing him or her in a supportive environment. Questions are posed by committee members without an agenda, often following intuition and leadings. Giving advice is forbidden, and the contents of the sacred forum are generally not discussed beyond the structure of the committee meetings. The meeting is held solely in support of the person at its center.”

If you were to request a clearness committee, what you want to discuss about your contributions to peace and reconciliation? Whom would you invite? To structure it according to Quaker practice, consult Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach (1998).

Quaker practices offer many other structures that can be easily adapted for individual and group use. Information about the Quaker faith and practice can be found at http://www.quaker.org/pacific-ym/fp/index.html.

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