When Clare moved back to Montana upon her retirement in 1987, her presence at Montana Gathering of Friends (MGOF) was notable. Clare was a gentle, unassuming person, yet people were drawn to her. We could sense her deep compassion, ready laughter, strength and wisdom. Before long, Clare was Clerk of Steering Committee, calling us back into worship whenever she sensed we had lost touch with spirit. She showed us the way to use spiritual discernment in our lives. She became a spiritual mentor for many of us.
As Clare wrote it in her memoir completed in the year 2000, As Way Opens, “I see my life as a spiritual journey.” She came to realize that she was surrounded by the “great Ocean of God’s Love.” She sought to be in touch with the inner world of the Spirit. She explained, “Becoming aware of this great Ocean and naming it, has been and continues to (be) my spiritual journey.”
Clare Sinclair, well known in many Quaker communities, died in Maryland on February 22, 2013 at the age of 92. Clara Mill (Hurn) Sinclair, “Clare,” was born May 2, 1920 in Cranbrook, British Columbia to Scottish immigrant parents, Clara and John Sinclair. She reflected in her memoir that “it was through the loving security of my childhood that I learned trust, optimism and courage.” Early in her life she felt awe of the natural world. “How often in my life, the beauty and power of the natural world has buoyed me up.” As a child, she also learned of the diversity of the human family. She became aware of discrimination directed toward minorities and observed her parents champion their cause. “These early experiences set in motion a compassion for the oppressed,” Clare wrote.
A college professor helped her find a small, silent Quaker meeting in Lawrence, Kansas. She knew at once she had found her spiritual home. Clare graduated from Park College, Parkville, MO, in May, 1942. The day they finished college, she and Baxter Carlisle Hurn, Jr., her college sweetheart, were married. Less then two months after their marriage, Baxter, as a conscientious objector, was sent to a Civilian Public Service Camp. Clare’s unwillingness to support the war effort lost her a teaching job and prevented her being hired for another.
After the war ended, Clare and B went to Pendle Hill (Quaker Study Center), where Clare witnessed “loving concern for others and active involvement in the life of community.” Over the next 25 years, Clare and B taught school, lived in various communities and raised their four daughters. They were active in Quaker meetings, wherever they found them and attended Pacific, North Pacific and Intermountain Yearly Meetings.
Clare and Baxter were divorced after 29 years of marriage. This was a most painful time in Clare’s life. After some months, she gradually felt again the buoyancy of the Great Ocean and could add the name “hope” to that spiritual entity. In new humility, she prayed for guidance.
Doors began to open. The first was an appointment to teach at Olney Friends School in Ohio, where she taught for two years. Then, in 1975, she was appointed director of the AFSC Pre-School Project in the Gaza Strip, where for four years she worked with Palestinian refugees in eight camps. Another door opened when she was asked by Quaker Service of London Yearly Meeting to go to Kenya as a liaison between the struggling secondary schools under East Africa Yearly Meeting and the Kenyan Department of Education. She was there two years. She felt a sense of joyful celebration with those Kenyan Friends.
When Clare returned to the US in 1981, another door opened. She worked as Head Resident at Pendle Hill for two years. After that, she was appointed Field Staff of the Western Office of FWCC, a new post that involved promoting dialogue and “loving understanding” between programmed and unprogrammed Friends in the Western states. Clare wrote “perhaps this was the most challenging job of my life.” She was inspired by the words of John Woolman: “Love being the first motion, I felt a concern to visit the Indians that I might learn from them and perhaps they from me.” Gradually that motion came as she opened her heart and “learned to listen, not only to the words but to the place where the words came from.”
In 1987, Clare retired, moving to Montana, becoming a part of Montana Gathering of Friends (MGOF). While living in Helena, she became the Religious Coordinator of the Montana School for Girls. In 1991, Clare was asked to be the Brinton Memorial Visitor to unprogrammed meetings throughout the West. The visits were to deepen the spiritual life of meetings. Her dear Swiss friend, Heidi Wittwer, accompanied her. Heidi became ill and died in 1992. Clare completed the visits in 1993. Shortly after, she moved to Missoula, MT, becoming a part of the Quaker and wider community. She also enjoyed hiking and backpacking trips with Friends. She became a representative to the Montana Abolition Coalition and with a friend from Dillon, Eve Malo, visited small towns to raise awareness of the death penalty. In the Spring of 2000, these two women traveled the state for 46 days in a pick-up truck, sleeping in a sheep wagon. In Fall of 2001, Clare moved to Quaker House in Sandy Spring, Maryland to be closer to family.
Clare concludes her essay on her spiritual journey in this way:
“Inspiration to live faithfully to the Inner Light has come from many sources. The awe and mystery of life has only increased over the years. It is the Spirit of life, the breath of the living God that continues to fill my sails, moving me forward on life’s journey. As I approach the evening of this life that same breath will move me beyond the death of my body.” We miss Clare deeply.