Rallying the Strength of Community

Postscript on The Therapeutic Neighborhood

“The Clearness Committee is not a cure-all,” says Parker Palmer in the excerpt from A Hidden Wholeness we posted recently in The Therapeutic Neighborhood. “But for the right person, with the right issue, it is a powerful way to rally the strength of community around a struggling soul, to draw deeply from the wisdom within all of us.”

My sister-in-law, Mary, was at Quaker study center Pendle Hill for months after an operation for a brain tumor. Here is her reflection on her experience with a Clearness Committee:


“Clearness Committees are made up of people called together to support individuals, couples, or groups in making decisions.

“I called a Clearness Committee to help me decide about my “next step” when I was at Pendle Hill, the Quaker Center for Study and Contemplation.

“I asked seven people to come together with me and offer support, raise questions, give suggestions, and feedback.  These were people in the Pendle Hill community who I felt could give me helpful input from their varying perspectives.

These people didn’t tell me what to do, but helped me to become clearer about my future direction.

“I did preparation for the meeting by answering some pre-clearness questions–such as about my personal history with relevance to the decision to be made, my commitments, sources of support, goals, and what was holding me back from various options.  I gave this background information to the committee members prior to our group meeting.

“They met with me for several hours one evening.  After they brainstormed my strengths, they asked questions, raised concerns, and offered me feedback.

“By the end of the evening I received important insights as to how to proceed, and greater clarity about my future, which at that time was to return to Pendle Hill for another three-month session.  Ultimately that decision led me to Ohio. . . .

“There were many other practical decisions that had to be made in the outside world to support my decision, but it was in the Clearness Committee that the direction for my future was made clear to me and supported.

“My reaction to the Clearness Committee?  It was an invaluable experience of the thoughtful pushing and caring of friends in community.

“What is unique?  In response to my desire for clarity, I reached out to my community for suggestions and feedback.

“What do they do that professional counselors can’t do?  As side-by-side members of the Pendle Hill Community, they knew me from various personal perspectives, and offered on-going caring support rather than being outsider professionals.  The dimension of sitting as a group in silence for guidance and discernment was a valuable part of the process.”

Clearly, for Mary, the “clearness” process was the work of a therapeutic community with profound meaning.


~ John ~

Home page photo: Joe Houghton


About the Lead Author

John McKnight
John McKnight
John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

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