Ask a former clerk :

How do I avoid falling into the trap of speaking an opinion from the clerk’s table about a topic I know something about?

"I get another Friend to clerk that item."


How do I make good use of elders?

"I identify the key matters and place them early. Background material is sent round in advance and not repeated in the meeting. I add estimated timings to the agenda and ask someone to be a gentle timekeeper."


How do I initiate an item of business for the agenda? Is it my right to do this?

"Have elders as a regular part of the team for meeting. Create an expectation with elders that the meeting values a spiritually disciplined gathering. Let elders know that, whilst you as clerk will guide the agenda and write the minutes, they are important in holding the meeting as a worshipping space."


How do I know who to call to speak when several have indicated this?

"Remember the spirit can speak through any who are present to it. I try to get a mixture of new and seasoned speakers and be alert to the person who rises with consideration or reluctance. I try to take particular care with the person who rises immediately the previous person has spoken - have they attended to what was just said?."


How do I cope if nobody wants to speak in response to an agenda item?

"Have I introduced the item adequately, so that those present know what they are being asked about? I try restating it: might the matter be broken into smaller questions to address? Or I ask for any questions or comments - that might reveal issues which need exploring. If it’s a report, maybe everyone is happy to accept it along with the recommendations. A single ‘hope so’ may be all that’s required.
    Is the item potentially contentious and no one wants to make the first comment? Questions for clarification may break the ice. But silence here may be a good thing too, to recognise the tenderness that will be required to speak sensitively."


How can I work out how to introduce a difficult agenda item?

 "I do research by asking around Friends beforehand, mostly by phone. This helps clarify my mind and gives a clearer picture of the issue."

During the meeting

Sharing of responsibility

This section looks at some tricky moments that aren’t solely dependent on what the clerk can or should do in certain circumstances. The principle to hold in mind is the three-way sharing of responsibility: the clerks are responsible for the process of the meeting, the meeting is collectively responsible for the content, and the elders are responsible for aiding in keeping the discipline and in upholding the clerks and the meeting.

3 way sharing

If you hold this sharing carefully in mind it will help you work out what is yours to decide on or change, and what is not your area of responsibility. Most certainly you are there to do what the meeting wants, and to that end you really have to work to put your own feelings and opinions safely away in a box.

Clerks should try not to steer the meeting in one particular direction but remain open to many directions the meeting might be led. There can sometimes be a tussle during minute drafting, but if the meeting as an entity (that is to say, more than one influential Friend with a confident voice) wants something in the minute it’s your responsibility to note it down – through politely clenched teeth if necessary. If it seems to you that the sense of the meeting isn’t in unity with the apparent direction, someone will probably be led to say something on those lines if you allow enough time for the Spirit to dictate the pace. But if your meeting is being particularly passive at that point you can always ask them directly: ‘do you want this added in that way?’.  A silence can be read as a Quaker ‘yes’.