We believe each person is in direct communication with the Divine. Thus in a sense, they hold the answers to their questions within themselves. It is the purpose of a Clearness committee to help the focus person access and hear these answers by asking questions that focus attention on different aspects of the issue.
Clearness processes can be requested for any question. M&C or Oversight will endeavor to select appropriate people. The clearness process may involve several meetings with time in between for work or reflection. The steps of the Clearness process are the same, regardless of where it is used.
Clearness on a Personal Question is the simplest case because it involves only the focus person seeking understanding/Light/clarity on the question.
Clearness for Membership is more complicated because no one can join Quakers in the large. Community is a core testimony. The local Meeting provides spiritual support. Our meditation is a corporate worship. In our process, things percolate up the Quaker structure. This is an unusual dynamic in today’s hierarchical world. Clearness for membership seeks Light on two questions:
- Does the Focus person feel “Quaker” describes their current Spiritual spot better than something else. Is the Quaker tent big enough to hold their BELIEFS or do they find it limiting? This question is one of relationship with God.
- Does the Focus person understand the Quaker PROCESS and feel comfortable in the Chatham Summit Quaker Meeting Community. Not understanding our process or being able to abide by it can cause a lot of pain and disharmony, so this is important for the protection of our community. This question is one of relationship with God made flesh in our community. Thus, it is a question for everyone in the committee – as representatives of MM, not just the focus person.
PROCESS is often under-valued by new attenders – the assumption is BELIEFS are the focus. Yet, we know people grow and change Spiritually. It is essential that we maintain our sturdy, peculiarly Quaker process structure to support these journeys. Because our process (Attending to the Light in all things through queries, leadings, listening, waiting, sharing, minuting ) is so valuable and different it has to be experienced to be internalized.
Clearness for Marriage under the Care of the Meeting is even more complex. It seeks to improve the chances of a successful marriage by seeking Light in these two areas:
- Have both members of the couple examined and attended prudently to as many areas of interpersonal conflict and support in a marriage as the committee can foresee?
- Does the couple seek the Care and Support of the Meeting going forward in their marriage and does the committee feel comfortable extending it?
The potential for disappointment to Focus people in Membership and Marriage Clearness Committees may arise from inaccurate understanding of the Clearness process.
If Clearness for Membership is imagined to be either a Gate-Keeping process that judges ones beliefs to be/not be suitably “Quaker” or “black-balls” membership in an exclusive club, then the scene is set-up for a pass/fail grade with membership being the “pass”. This is a real misunderstanding of a process where success is finding clarity and there is no failure – if one is not yet clear, work/learn/reflect/experience and re-convene. If one’s beliefs are in harmony with Quakers, but either one doesn’t have the time to devote to being an active member of the Community or there is no community near you or with which you feel in harmony, there is always the “Wider Quaker Fellowship” as an identifiable Quaker connection, where one can “walk with Quakers”.
If Clearness for Marriage is imagined to be a Gate-Keeper judging whether or not a couple can enter a Committed Relationship, then the scene is set up for a pass/fail grade where Union is the pass and anything else is an external negative assessment of the couple’s judgment. Again, the committee may counsel waiting and further work before the Meeting is comfortable in being formally part of the Union. If the couple can not wait, for what ever reason – the clearness committee does not say you cannot marry, it does not even say you cannot marry in this meeting house. It simply says you cannot marry at this time UNDER THE CARE of this Monthly Meeting because the community is not comfortable with it.