The clearness committee is one process Quakers have developed to help people discern when, or even if, Spirit is leading them. It’s like going to your favorite aunt when you’re trying to make a decision. She nods slightly as you weigh pros and cons; she responds to your wonderings with gentle questions that unlock the answers inside you.
Quaker “aunts” and “uncles” have sat with me several times as I’ve sought clarity about decisions regarding moves, work, and schooling. We’d meet together just as we do in Quaker worship. After about fifteen minutes of sinking into the silence, the clearness committee convenor would ask me to explain the decision I was seeking clarity about. The committee members would ask evoking questions, questions that only I could know the answers to. These “listening hearts” set aside personal opinions and listened deeply to my responses, supporting me to hear inward guidance.
Nearly four years ago, I wrote about my friend Jon Watts when he organized the largest clearness committee in the history of Quakerism to seek clarity about his work. Like me, Jon strives to “make decisions in a discerning way, to find the way forward that I can’t imagine, can’t arrive at just through reasoning.” A year later, I reported the results of Jon’s discernment in Afterthought #23 and announced the launch of his new work, a YouTube video series called QuakerSpeak.
And now, three years into this ministry, Jon is again exploring Quaker clearness committees with this recent QuakerSpeak video. If you’re curious about this process of spiritual discernment, this segment offers descriptions from a variety of Friends about how clearness committees work.
*“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, maybe even bumper stickers.