Guidelines for Faithfulness Groups (also known as Spiritual Accountability Groups or Peer Groups)
Faithfulness Group participants provide each other ongoing accompaniment and mutual support in discerning divine guidance and being faithful.
• The purpose of the Faithfulness Group meetings is to help pay attention to God’s presence and activity in the life of those who are attempting to be faithful in service, witness, daily life, following a leading, or carrying out a ministry.
• During a typical two-hour session, two people will each have the focus of the group for about one hour. Each focus person presents something about her/his experience in their efforts to be receptive to the Spirit and faithfully respond to its leadings.
• The role of the group is to prayerfully listen and, as moved by the Spirit, to ask questions after each presentation that can help presenters explore more deeply their relationship to, awareness of, and response to God/Spirit in carrying out service, ministry, or witness.
• Ideally, the group meets on an ongoing basis; in rotation, each member of the group will have a regular opportunity to be the focus of the group’s prayerful attention.
Introduction to Faithfulness Groups (below) is a 25-minute video in which seven people speak of their experience of Faithfulness Groups.
How Faithfulness Groups Help Quakers Follow Divine Leadings (6.5-min video, link below) describes how these groups help participants share from the heart about how the Spirit is at work in their lives: https://quakerspeak.com/video/how-faithfulness-groups-help-quakers-follow-divine-leadings/
Using Evoking Questions for Deeper Listening (8-min video) describes how evoking questions can help people explore the truth in their hearts:
Here is a video recording of a lecture given at Pendle Hill Retreat Center on the topic “Creating Beloved Community Through Supporting Faithfulness.”(Feb 3, 2020) In this talk (about an hour long), followed by responses, Marcelle speaks of skills that are helpful in a clearness committee or faithfulness group, and of how helpful it can be to have companions also seeing to be responsive to the calls and leadings of the Spirit. https://youtu.be/9_Pd92C1c3Y?t=758
Here is a link to a one-hour audio recording of an actual faithfulness group session. It can be helpful for people new to the faithfulness group process to listen to this session to get a sense of the atmosphere of holy accompaniment. It is best to listen to this when you will have a quiet, uninterrupted hour.
A Guide to Faithfulness Groups, by Marcelle Martin, was published by Inner Light Books in 2019. It describes the Quaker experience of being led by the Spirit to particular tasks, calls, and ministries. It also describes a range of practices we can use to help one another notice the movements of the Spirit within us and our lives; discern the leadings of the Spirit; discover what might cause us to resist; and open ourselves to the inner and outer support we need to live faithful lives. Deep listening is one of the foundational practices. Others include Evoking Questions, Mirroring, Using Images, and more. Gathering on a regular basis in Faithfulness Groups is a wonderful way to use these practices with one another in service to Spirit-filled living.
Link to a Sample (shorter) Faithfulness Group session followed by reflections, Videotaped in 2019 at a workshop on Faithfulness Groups facilitated by Marcelle Martin Viv Hawkins, and Lynda Black, and recorded by Releasing Ministry Alliance, https://youtu.be/XkwZfSxx-Sc?t=2026 (33:46 to 1:02:00, reflections until 1:23:22). (This is followed on the recording by a second, longer videotaped faithfulness group session, from 1:28:25 to 2:31:22.)
To “listen” another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.–Douglas Steere