Drawing on the Quakers: Practicing Clearness Committee

Image from UCC: 7 Steps to Discerning Your Vocation

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“Many of us are drawn to this way of listening and leading in the midst of complex, diverse settings–and we hunger to do it with more integrity and in more connection with others on this path.” – Spirit-Led Leadership: Contemplative Leadership for the 21st Century

It’s a Sunday afternoon in April, and I am with a group of thirty or so other women and men in the Carondelet Center – a retreat space of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. We are convened for a workshop entitled, “Spirit-Led Leadership: Contemplative Leadership for the 21st Century.” I am grateful to be one among many, joined by several Visitation Sisters and Companion friends. We are leaders; we are contemplative-sorts; we aspire to be Spirit-led. We are here to practice and grow in our abilities to tune in and take our next steps, listening to the Divine, for the benefit of our communities.

“There is a way of leading that trusts that an invisible force, much larger than our own will, is seeking to work through us individually and together. This force moves toward wholeness and is actively seeking to be in relationship with us. Through stillness, discernment, and reflective action it is possible to move in close connection with this force–in business, in social change, and personally.” – From Spirit-Led Leadership

On this day, we are led by Margaret Benefiel and Michael Bischoff. It was Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM who circulated the invitation amongst our Companions, and my recent experience under Michael’s leadership at a Social Innovation Lab event, that catalyzed my limbs. Yes! I will go! Yes! This will be helpful!

To this day, I am drawing on the experiences of that afternoon in almost every conscious working, waking, moment.

“How can I listen well? How can I know with a sense of peace and freedom what it means to choose wisely, powerfully, and take my next step?”

Clearness Committee Experience

After introductions, and a grounding in the theory behind this kind of work, our room of thirty plus individuals divided into triads, and Margaret led us through a practice the Quakers call a “Clearness Committee.”

Through quiet and meditation, we identified our root sources, the strength of our being, the Spirit’s presence, and recognized our safety in this circle.

The protocol for this experience was clearly stated and posted. As participants, we simply listened to the instructions, and were free then to tune in, quietly, to all stirring and movement up within ourselves and inside our groups.

  1. We began with a minute of silence, holding the first of our three group members in our hearts, focusing on them, the circumstances they were about to describe for our triad.
  2. We listened intently for three minutes to presenter number one. Without interruption, we tuned into their words and what we felt their heart to be saying.
  3. We had an opportunity to then pose simple, clarifying questions.
  4. We returned to quiet and prayer, holding the focus person and the circumstances in our heart, cherishing the person and the gifts he or she brings to the world.
  5. After another sixty seconds, we took turns giving voice to the information surfacing in our own hearts. We echoed back statements of the speaker. We paraphrased with as much integrity as possible their circumstances. We communicated that they had been heard. We put words to the questions that bubbled up in our hearts and minds — with the goal of helping the focus person get in touch with their own deep wisdom.  The speaker-leader-discerner just listened. During this time, one of us took notes for the presenter to review later.
  6. Before our last movement of the clearness committee, we paused again, bowing our heads, or closing our eyes, to honor the sacredness of this time.
  7. As a closing to the 25 minute clearness committee discernment activity, the speaker was invited to share which form of closing they desired. A prayer? A song? A dance? More silence?

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I invite you into this experience today. Seek out a circle. Claim the quiet. Recognize the Spirit at work in your life — leading, nudging, loving you.

 

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For more information on Quaker Clearness Committee:
The Clearness Committee: A Communal Approach To Discernment
by Parker J. Palmer

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  1. I had the privlege of being part of a clearness committee. It was a profound and sacred experience.

    I appreciate the wide variety of topics that you blog about, there is always something to learn, consider, ponder, practice.

    Peace

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