Sharing the Quaker practice of clearness

Katie Evans writes:

Clearness meetings are one of my favourite things.  A clearness meeting is a small group meeting to listen to and with an individual/couple to support them in discerning God’s presence and guidance in their life.

clearness

Photo by Katie Evans

Recently I had the chance to share the Quaker practice of clearness meetings with an ecumenical group (my fellow participants on a course on spiritual accompaniment).  I gave a short introduction to how to take part in a clearness meeting.  Then we split into small groups to have a go at holding a clearness meeting.  I found the feedback from the others on their first experience of a clearness meeting fascinating.

The small groups that stuck to the discipline of allowing times of quiet between contributions (at least most of the time!) reported back on what a deep experience it had been – that the silence had made them rethink questions they might have asked and broken habits of jumping straight in trying to fix people.  There was even a comment about the potential of group silence as a response to crisis.  People said that the silence was what had been most helpful to them – allowing the time and space to shift their understanding, to connect with the divine.  That they’d felt really deeply attended to and cared for by their group.  Groups that hadn’t managed to stick to the process had at least noticed that they’d missed something!  All the groups came back saying with hindsight they wished they’d had more silence.  

 I’d been cautious – not wanting to impose silence on people in case they felt uncomfortable with it.  But the overwhelming sense I had from the feedback people gave was that they are hungry for that silence and really welcome it, but they didn’t know how to go about taking and protecting such silence.  It’s made me appreciate anew Quaker habits of speaking out of and into silence.

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