Friday, January 26, 2007

Clearness Committee

My clearness committee re starting up a programmed meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 8.

And I'm not quite sure why I feel as if I'm going to an execution.

It's kind of in the way of my thinking right now. And in the way of blogging. I have to not think about it, not plan ahead what I'm going to say, because that's not what you're supposed to do.

Yet at the same time, I can't help cringing at the thought of it.

The committee has set four meetings. The first they will meet alone, without me. But that still leaves six hours available for grilling! Six!

I've been taking a break from meeting. I've given the excuse that it was because my son is having a hard time (he is, but I *could* just leave him at home). The truth is more complex: that since I've acknowledged my restlessness and come up with the idea of experimenting with a programmed meeting, I can't quite make myself go back. No tengo ganas, as they say in Espanol.

So of course, I wasn't at the December MM when my request for a clearness committee came up. I don't know exactly what the reaction was. But I do know there was mention being very careful about process because it could set a precedent within our yearly meeting.




Quaker values? Or Modern values?

Does the Spirit work because of process and caution and slowness? Or in spite of it?

What is the role of the clearness committee in this situation: to make me clear about what I'm doing, or to make the meeting clear about what I'm doing? What if I'm already clear?

I should just stop thinking about it.


At 5:40 PM, Blogger Robin M. said...

On the way to my first clearness committee meeting, I was so scared, I really should not have been driving. Tunnel vision was starting to set in. The only thing that saved me was the advice from Peggy S. Parsons to relax my pelvic floor. And breathing.

I'm not really sure what I was afraid of. They were all nice people that I already knew, some better than others. When I got there, they all smiled and were kind.

In part, I think I was afraid that they wouldn't see as clearly as I did what God wanted me to do. And I'd have to ask myself a lot of questions if they didn't.

As it turned out, we frothed a bit and then came to unity. I was basically right in my discernment.

And now it's better, but it's still scary to think about how much I still don't know.

Calling your thingie a programmed meeting sounds a lot clearer already. There are identifiable resources to help with that.

Much love,

At 4:45 PM, Blogger RichardM said...

I see a couple of warning signs in this. First, there seems to be some confusion about what a clearness committee is for. Traditionally, the purpose of a clearness committee is to help a Friend in their discernment process. That is, to help someone tell whether an idea they are wrestling with is really inspired by God or is just their own personal notion. Quakers have been realistic enough to realize that it is often hard for an individual to tell the difference. A subjective feeling of being really sure is no clear sign that it is from God.
Second, you say you have lied about your reasons for not coming to Meeting. In most areas of life people don't take "white lies" of this nature very seriously but in this case I think you should. God wouldn't tell you to lie. So the lie, even though it's only a trivial "white lie," is evidence that your own ego is tied up in this. To me this indicates that you are not presently clear and that you would really profit from the help of a good clearness committee.

Sorry to sound like a grumpy old man but I've got to call 'em as I see 'em.

At 11:10 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Thanks, Robin. It's nice to know someone else gets nervous about clearness committees. I've only been in two others, but I wasn't as nervous as for this one.

Richard, I think you're right that this isn't a clearness committee in the usual sense. The clearness committee themselves recognized that and have held a meeting on their own to get clear about what we're going to get clear about. But there are many uses of clearness committees in addition to the main one that you describe. So we will adapt the process to fit the situation, rather than vice versa.

I guess I don't see my nervousness as something negative. I've always thought that of a feeling of fear as a marker, rather than as a warning. It just means that what you are approaching is significant. So being nervous just means that I am facing the process squarely and am open to taking the risk that the process may change some of my thinking.

The reason I give a white lie for not going to meeting is to avoid hurting people's feelings. I don't find I get much out of silent meetings right now. But there are a lot of nice people who go. To tell them straight-up why I don't want to worship with them would be to insult them. They already know that I'm in the process of arranging to start a programmed meeting. I don't want to add more injury on top of that. The clearness committee is the right place to touch on difficult subjects.

At 2:03 AM, Blogger Laurie Kruczek said...

Hi Nancy,

The fearful nerves are the "I'm about to jump off a proverbial cliff" feeling, right? I think sometimes those are good. That's what makes change happen.

Also, I understand what you are saying, about wanting to worship differently and not wanting to hurt other Friend's feelings. But maybe your second guessing them a little? They are, after all, fellow Friends. :)

True enough, I too get more from a programmed meeting. Our local meeting is unprogrammed, the nearest programmed one is over a hour away. I still attend the unprogrammed meeting because I wish to be with other Friends, even though the meeting isn't exactly what I'm looking for. God will lead me to what should be done when the time is right. I don't feel, however, that I would be hurting anyone by saying that. Quakers are sure to accept that there are divisions in style for Quaker worship. To each her own.

You must be truthful to others in order to be truthful to God. You'll thank me later for chastising you. Ha! :)


At 7:43 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Clearness committees... Here in P(acific) YM, the Clerk of my meeting suggested I call for one because her immediate reaction to my arrest was (something like) "This sounds bonkers."

The actual committee meeting... was in a completely different spirit. People asked me questions, largely along the lines of "What were you doing?--What did you mean by it?--What do you think about it now?" Everybody was very clear that I was the one who needed to find the truth of the matter. This didn't add much to my understanding of the situation, but did confirm to me that I needed to hold to my stand--and served largely, in practice, as a way for my meeting to understand why I had taken it. It also gave me a whole new appreciation of the non-authoritarian kind of discipline involved. I'd started off feeling like the guest of honor at a heresy trial, and found that nobody was claiming any sort of authority over me except that of truth.

I don't know how it would be to try to start any sort of "meeting" within PYM, but the requirement for starting a worship group is that somebody wants to worship. If you're still meeting regularly after about a year, the group can then decide whether they want to be recognized as a specifically Quaker worship group, and if so, ask a nearby meeting for oversight & assistance.

My meeting's main adult education activity consists of a tiny group meeting to read and worshipfully discuss something suitable once a week. Not all are Quaker; most of the meeting is not interested; but nobody objects. If we wanted to meet for some more experimental way of showing worship--As long as the group wasn't doing anything too scandalous, did not start making decisions or issuing statements for the meeting, I don't think there'd be a problem.

Your case is unusual in that you are starting something that you want to be affilated with the meeting, while at the same time you're feeling alienated from the specifically Quaker worship process that should be the center of the meeting. Is this a matter of renouncing Quaker worship practice, or is it rather the sort of dissatisfaction I've felt, that sometimes there isn't enough intention-to-worship within the group to make sitting together fruitful? If so, what's your responsibility to the rest of the meeting here?

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Hi Forrest

I don't know if I've met you before...hello...I'll spend some time loitering on your blogsite to get to know your voice...

One of the funny issues about clearness committees is the question of who is clearing whom. I think that was involved in your clearness committee. I hope you got something out of it (it sounds as if you did), but I'm sure it was a challenge. I'm trying to approach my clearness committee with a sense of lightness/Lightness, in case it goes very awry. They're very nice people...

I guess the reasons I don't want to go to meeting right now are (a) because I'm really tired of sitting in a circle in silence (I've been going out of a sense of duty) (b) because I spend most of my meeting time filled with thoughts of the type of gathering I want to start up, and (c) because I don't want to be asked and be answering questions about my meeting idea before it goes to the clearness committee.

What the meeting's relationship will be to my gathering will be up to them. I'm hoping they will at least feel comfortable enough to confer worship group status to us, mainly so that there is a peaceful, cooperative connection (we'd be the only city in Canada with two meetings) and so that we could have charitable status while we're in the start-up stages. But in time, we would become an independent gathering.

I fret a little that this connection may come with many strings attached. Hopefully I can get them to understand my vision of the possibilities of Quakerism so that they don't sic me with an oversight committee. I really, really don't think I could handle that.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...

Nancy, you write in part:

The reason I give a white lie for not going to meeting is to avoid hurting people's feelings. I don't find I get much out of silent meetings right now.... To tell them straight-up why I don't want to worship with them would be to insult them.

I often feel that by withholding from others the truth of our experience, we might well be withholding the opportunity for others to wrestle with something for themselves. ...And if we don't have opportunities to wrestle, we won't have (as many) opportunities to experience grace and inward transformation.

That said, there is a difference between telling the truth in a hurtful way and telling the truth in a plain, humble, gracious way. To me, it sounds as if you are being tried by fear rather than by love, and that concerns me.

FYI - I myself have been known to answer a question I wish not to answer by replying, "I'm not answering that question right now" or "I'm not in a place to answer that just yet."

Do keep listening and watching for the movement of the Spirit. I hope the clearness commitee can be of help.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up


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