Quakers place a great deal of emphasis on individual discernment. However, we also recognize that it is our collective responsibility – and joy – to help one another understand and refine our paths forward. Clearness and support committees are the vehicles through which we offer this support.
What is the difference between a clearness committee and a support committee?
A clearness committee is a small group of people who meet with you to help you discern your path forward as regards some specific question. A support committee is a small group of people who meet with you and offer support in the way of figuring out strategies and offering time and/or the gathering of resources to help you overcome a life-altering circumstance, crisis or major difficulty that you are facing. Such committees can be convened informally, among F/friends, or can be requested through the Pastoral Care Committee.
What do I do if I want a clearness or support committee?
If you wish to join the meeting or to have a marriage under the meeting’s care, please write to the clerk of meeting, explaining the request. The request will be forwarded to the Pastoral Care Committee. All other requests may go to any member of the committee. If you would like, you may include the names of AFM attenders or members you would like to serve on your clearness committee. In the cases of marriages or membership, when the clearness committee has reached unity, it will make its recommendation to the Pastoral Care Committee, which will make a recommendation to the business meeting.
Any AFM attender or member may approach the Pastoral Care Committee to request a support committee. You may e-mail us at: [email protected] It is helpful if you include the situation that you need to address, and, again, the names of any Friends you would like us to invite.
How many people are involved, and how long is the time commitment if I agree to be on someone else’s committee?
Most committees consist of three or four people, and most meet for one to three sessions. If the committee is to be convened more than three sessions because of some unusual circumstance, consent must be gained from each member. This time limit is important because some members of AFM are on more than one such committee and we are trying to avoid committee member burnout. Committees can meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, depending on the needs and schedules of those involved. Such logistic details are usually worked out during the first meeting.
What sort of issues have people used support or clearness committees for, in the past?
Clearness committees are required for people seeking membership or couples who wish to be married under the care of the meeting. Clearness committees will also be created to help individuals who feel a leading for which they want the meeting’s support for discerning its spiritual nature – and ultimately endorsement.
Support committees may be assembled for a range of situations including but not limited to the following: marriages facing divorce, people facing life-altering circumstances such as homelessness or unemployment, strategizing to address problems brought on by a disability or illness, or overwhelming circumstances brought on by the death of a family member. Next-chapter-of-life issues such as new babies, gender transitioning, or great opportunities may also inspire support committees. Support committees are not a replacement for professional help such as counseling or mental health services, though a committee may help a person come to the conclusion that such services are what they need.
What happens at the meetings of clearness and support committees?
Committee meetings are opened with silence and a deep holding of the requesting member in the light. It is very important in both clearness and support committees that the person who requested the meeting has a very specific question (clearness) or need (support) that the committee then can attend to. Meetings can last from about one hour to a maximum of two hours. They are most usefully characterized as asking thought-provoking questions (as opposed to offering suggestions or instructions) of the requesting member to that then help them towards clearness. Meetings usually end with a closing silence. Everything that happens at clearness and support committee meetings is to remain confidential within the circle of care provided by the clearness or support committee. Many Friends find that serving on such a committee is a very fulfilling way to get to know other members of the community. (December 2016)