We can sometimes find ourselves at a crossroads in our life – this job or that, this community or that, this city/country or that… these times can be terribly isolating as we wear well-worn tracks in our own minds going over what we know (again and again) but not knowing how best to move forward.

A Quaker Discernment Circle can be a good way to move forward through any liminal space. These circles hold space for deep listening to your own heart and wisdom and God’s call. This space doesn’t critique and is not intended to be intellectually analysing or deconstructing but hearing spiritually.

Invite as many people as you would like – but it’s easier if it’s not unwieldy and you can all fit around a common table or lounge room floor. This might be 6-10 people say. Good qualities are: people you trust, people who know you well, people that ask good questions, people that are invested in you, friends/mentors/elders…

Quaker expressions  use a lot of silence. Silence is active worship.You will be changed. There is an expectation of that.

In our silence we are together and connected to others present. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking (don’t stress if you start but a shopping list, but…) take a thought as it comes, dwell on it as you need to – it may or may not become ‘ministry’ (you might merely hold or pray it silently without expressing it aloud), someone else might say it, it may not need to be said.  In this listening silence there is no veil(s) between you and God and these intentional spaces can provide ministry that is uncanny to what’s on your heart and mind.

While someone might ask a question aloud…  They do not give “answers”.  Only you have your own answers to deepen your spiritual life.

A loose framework for a Discernment Circle might look something like the following:

Introduction – A facilitator/host says what the space is for and gives and overview of the circle

[silence as we become present to the person
and the purpose of the circle]

Presentation – when they’re ready, the person who is discerning takes as much time as they need to describe what the choices are that lie before them and any/all the ways that is conflicted in their heart/mind/body/spirit.

[silence – the voice of the discerner is held
without judgement or interruption]

Open and Honest Questions – those present may ask questions, they may not. The discerner may elect to answer aloud, they may not. The purpose of the questions isn’t to seek answers (resolve/close) but to open new channels of thought for consideration (broaden/open) thus the questions should be framed an open-ended queries rather than being binary.

[silence – explores the possibilities that may have been opened,
what might this mean for what was first shared]

Mirroring – those present may repeat words or phrases from the discerners presentation that have stood out/echoed/resonated and feel significant.  Sometimes when we are trying to make a choice we can lose sight of what is most important but as we talk there are often clues in our tone, emotion and vocabulary. In this space our community can echo these back to us and help us hear our own deepest yearning. n.b. don’t critique or explain, let the discerners own discernment speak for itself.

[silence – this time of holding the discerner at the center,
their fears and longings, can create a lot of vulnerability.
We are yet “holding”, what can be encouraged and strengthened
as we send this person out?]

Affirmations and Celebrations – it is likely that the discerner has shared a breadth of what they feel called to and responsible for, this is a space for those present to share encouragement that builds up and resources this person as they continue along their Way. What can be affirmed about their passion? What have they shown deep caring for and commitment to? What qualities are demonstrated in the desire to discern well and deeply in whatever choice is being made?

Note: some people might like to have pens and paper on hand for prompts or pictures and it’s sometimes nice to give these to the discerner at the end of the circle.