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Welcoming Khyber as Clerk in 2021!

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At the November business meeting, Khyber was approved as the new clerk for 2021 and 2022. We look forward to experiencing the clerking of a certified laughing coach! For the full slate of approvals, see the November business meeting minutes (log-in required, filed under Resources/Minutes).

Here is a description of the clerk role, written by a former clerk, Carol, for future clerks:

The clerk has two essential responsibilities – clerking meeting for worship with attention to business and helping ensure that the meeting follows good Quaker process. The clerk also is responsible for seeing that meeting is closed and for dealing with emergencies. What follows is a description of what I have been trying to do in 2010 and 2011, but each clerk is different, and no clerk gets it right all the time. So with that caveat, here goes.         

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business

Choose a query – the query may be introduced and framed by a reading from Faith & Practice, or other Quaker sources, or anything inspirational. It can be ready-made (there are lists in F&P) or the clerk may compose it. It sometimes happens that the query speaks to the condition of the meeting for that month.

Discern the Agenda – Be attentive through-out the month to any concerns Friends are carrying. Solicit feedback through conversations, emailing committee conveners, or emailing the entire meeting through the listserv. At the beginning of each meeting for business, review the agenda and ask for additions.

  1. Approve minutes – give people time to read them over
  2. Hear treasurer’s report – make sure there is time for questions
  3. Hear committee reports – Contact the conveners ahead of time to see if they want to be on the agenda each month. Committees may have either FYI reports and/or requests for discernment.
  4. Other items for discernment – Occasionally concerns are lifted up for discernment in business meeting that do not originate in committees: for example, reflections on the State of our Meeting.
  5. Announcements – holding people in the Light, upcoming events, etc.

Monitor the pace of business meeting

  1. Begin slowly – Meeting begins at 9:30, nevertheless it is usually best to wait 5 minutes or so for people to come in and get settled. Read the query and then ask for silence.
  2. Proceed slowly – this is worship after all
  3. Don’t worry – some agenda items will be dealt with speedily and it will feel as if the meeting will conclude too quickly. Do not worry; something is sure to engage the meeting and as much as 20—30 minutes may be spent threshing just one issue.

Call for silence – Anyone may do this at any time during business meeting, but it is also useful for the clerk. Often a few minutes of silence allows the meeting to reach clearness better than further discussion.

Discern the sense of the meeting

  1. Listen carefully to what is being said
  2. Vocalize any emerging consensus and ask if Friends agree.
  3. Reiterate so that the recording clerk can get the sense in the minutes. You may want to ask if Friends are easy with what has been approved.
  4. Be ready to punt – sometimes way does not open. Friends who find they don’t agree may either stand aside and let the meeting proceed without them or they may announce they stand against the meeting. When that happens, more threshing is needed, perhaps several sessions, so it will need to be at another meeting or in another forum.

Quaker Process 

Quaker Process arises out of our testimony of equality. Ideally everyone needs to be clear about what is going on and in agreement with how to proceed. In actuality, figuring out how to ensure that this happens can be confusing. Some actions will be undertaken by committees and simply reported back to business meeting; other actions need to be brought to business meeting for discernment. Here are some examples:

Someone involved with First Day School wants to . . .

  • Vacuum the carpet – they just go ahead and do it
  • Hire a company to clean the carpet – First Day School Committee hires a cleaner and the treasurer reports the expenditure to business meeting
  • Replace the carpet – First Day School Committee researches cost, checks with the treasurer for feasibility, and brings a recommendation to business meeting.

Someone in the meeting wants . . .

  • A clearness committee – they ask the convener of Ministry & Nurture to arrange one for them
  • Financial support to attend a conference or workshop – they ask Ministry & Nurture which either decides to approve an expenditure out of the Spiritual Development fund or decides the request needs to go to business meeting for discernment
  • To add an invitation for expressions of joys and concerns on First Day morning – Ministry & Nurture discusses the request and then asks business meeting for discernment since the decision will affect everyone
  • Move meeting for learning to the library – House & Grounds announces a trial period after which business meeting will decide whether to continue.
  • Use the meetinghouse for a non-meeting purpose – if no money is involved (Servant Leadership wishes to hold a class here) the request goes to House & Grounds who discerns whether or not it needs to come to business meeting. If money is involved (using the counseling office to see clients) the request goes to the Finance Committee. In general, we say yes – after due process – to any member or attender.

Closing Meeting 

Meeting for worship begins when the first person enters the meeting room and settles into silence. However, someone needs to signal the close of meeting. That person is either the clerk or anyone he or she or they may designate.

  • Discern the right time – about noon. If attenders, particularly children, are restless, it may be a few minutes before. If a message has just been delivered or Friends are still deep in worship, it may be a few minutes after.
  • Signal the break of meeting – turn to the person beside you, offer your hand, and say “Good Morning.” Then turn to your other side. Friends will follow suit.
  • Invite people to say their names – wait till everyone has finished their individual greetings and then say, “Welcome Friends. Let’s go round the room and say our names. My name is _________.” And turn to your left to signal the next person to say their name.
  • Ask for joys, concerns, or announcements – it may take a little time for people to decide to answer the invitation. You may want to remind Friends to announce the next First Day events. This part can take from 10 to 20 minutes. Look around the room, when no more hands are going up, say “If there are no more announcements, let us rise.”

Dealing with Emergencies

Discern whether or not there is time for Quaker Process. If not, take action, or ask someone else to take action. Examples:

  • The pilot light on the water heater is out and can’t be re-lit - call a plumber
  • The outside faucet is leaking - it will need to be fixed, but in this case House & Grounds took time to decide to relocate the faucet.

No matter how concrete we try to make it, the clerk’s responsibility for discernment necessarily includes some ambiguity. There are a lot of resources in the meeting to turn to, however. During business meeting, the recording clerk is right there at the clerk’s table to turn to with quiet questions. You may call on the clerk of M&N, the assistant clerk, or anyone else in the meeting whenever you feel the need. You may even ask for a clearness or support committee.

There are written resources as well in our library. Start by reading SAYMA Faith & Practice. You may also want to consult Where Should I Stand: A field guide for monthly meeting clerks. If you desire, the meeting will be happy to support you in going to Pendle Hill for a clerking workshop.

Friends seem happiest with a clerk who listens rather than exhorts and suggests process rather than solutions. It inspires confidence in yourself and for others in you if you can be calm and patient. Remember, just as any member or attender may minister to the meeting, any member or attender may find themselves exercising clerking responsibilities. Committee clerks certainly do, but so do facilitators at meeting for learning, for example. Quaker meeting is always a shared responsibility.