One of the things I learned about when researching Quakers was about the clearness committee. In the early days, clearness committees were appointed by Friends meetings to determine whether two people desiring to marry were clear of any other entanglements (a previous engagement, outstanding debts, a family dispute, etc.) that could possibly cause a problem with the couple being united in marriage.
Eventually, the clearness committees, appointed by meetings to look into questions of membership or marriage, came to focus less on external obstacle, and focused more on whether the individuals involved were clear about their leadings.
A couple interested in marriage would need to write a letter to the Meeting stating the intention of the couple in as much detail as possible.
The clearness committee would then meet, sometimes with the couple, and determine an outcome. The couple should approach the Meeting in a spirit of openness and patience, without having the expectation of a determined outcome.
If the clearness committee agrees that the marriage should be taken under the care of the Meeting, the Meeting would then decide whether or not to approve the marriage.
If it approves of the marriage, Monthly Meeting may organize an oversight committee that would help the couple plan a marriage.
In the Quaker tradition, there are no ministers as they believe all are equal before God. Other than the bride and groom exchanging vows and signing a marriage certificate, an unprogrammed Quaker wedding ceremony is very much like an unprogrammed Quaker worship.
While this may seem somewhat different to most people, other denominations or churches may also require couples pursuing marriage to participate in marriage classes, couples therapy, or marriage counseling prior to marriage. They have the couple’s best interest at heart.
I recently met a woman who is a Quaker, and she said the clearness committee had approved her marriage to her husband with reservations. After nearly thirty years of marriage, I think she and her husband are doing just fine.
In my story, “New Garden’s Conversion,” the Clearness Committee’s determination is challenged. I hope you will read it to find out the fate of Jaidon Taylor and Catherine Wall.
While my husband is not a counselor, I love the advice he has given to our children. “Don’t marry the person you can live with. Marry the person you can’t live without.”
Consideration for the other person’s feelings, forgiveness and the realization that you are also not perfect, and always remembering what made you fall in love in the first place can help you overcome a lot of hurdles in marriage. Each day is a new day, and a new beginning.
Interested in reading about a current day Quaker wedding and seeing some photos? Click here.