Before I was a Unitarian Universalist I was a Quaker. I love group silence. There is something about collectively sitting silently that always brings God to my mind. Recently Starr King has been working with Parker Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life and in particular his approach to discernment which is the Clearness Committee. Clearness Committees are an established way that Friends use community and silence to help the “focal person” resolve, or at least move forward with an issue or concern. After reading Parker Palmer’s book and a few days of training in a workshop, Starr King students formed Clearness Committees with student volunteers as the focal person.

As I read Palmer’s book, this popped out at me:

Formation may be the best name for what happens in a circle of trust, because the word refers, historically, to soul work done in community. But a quick disclaimer is in order, since formation sometimes means a process quite contrary to the one described in this book-a process in which the pressure of orthodox doctrine, sacred text, and institutional authority is applied to the misshapen soul in order to conform it to the shape dictated by some theology. This approach is rooted in the idea that we are born with souls deformed by sin, and our situation is hopeless until the authorities “form” us properly… Here formation flows from the belief that we are born with souls in perfect form. As time goes on, we are subject to powers of deformation, from within as well as without, that twist us into shapes alien to the shape of the soul. But the soul never loses its original form and never stops calling us back to our birthright integrity.[1]

This is my kind of formation, in beloved community, with lots of silence moving toward integrity and wholeness. Formation with the wrong goals is deformation. I know the women who bound little girl’s feet in China before the revolution viewed themselves as forming the feet. But they broke bones and warped the foot to a totally unrecognizable shape. I want formation that brings me to a richer wholeness and deep authenticity.  Oh and please let it give me some skills for the hard parts of ministry.  Thank you God.

[1] Parker J. Palmer. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life (Kindle Locations 603-608). Kindle Edition.