Ask a former clerk:

How can I deal with Any Other Business?

"I don’t accept any!"

 How do I arrange the items I decide should be on the agenda?

"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?

"It is generally inappropriate for a clerk to initiate an item of business. If I see a need for some business to be brought to the meeting, I discuss it with one or more of the elders who can to discern whether it is appropriate to bring the matter at this time, and who might be asked to do so. There are some matters for which clerks alone have authority to decide, but this shouldn’t be one of them."

How do I avoid an over-long agenda or an overlong meeting?

"I offer draft minutes for straightforward items, asking Friends 'can we take this on draft minute?' If the Meeting goes on beyond the expected time, I ask Friends if they wish to continue or hold over items."

How can I prepare well for the meeting?

"I go through the agenda items making sure that as much as possible information Friends might need is available. If a matter appears to be routine I make sure that I have a draft minute prepared in advance possibly with gaps for, say, names or dates (but am ready to abandon it if it turns out not to be routine). I often find the wording of the draft minute by using the minute agreed the previous time a similar matter was considered."

Preparation for the meeting

Last minute preparations

Last-minute preparations include checking in with duty elders, deciding on seating, reminding those being asked to speak to particular items and telling them where in the agenda these may come. With regard to a seating plan, this really makes a difference as to how a meeting goes. If Friends are seated in a semi-circle, three sides of a square or a horseshoe shape and all facing the table, they will be more able to address the clerk (the better option) rather than across the room to each other (not good). Why? Because the principle underlying our business meetings is that every spoken contribution is ministry deriving from God, and is addressed to the whole meeting through the clerk at the table. The alternative can turn the meeting into a debating chamber, or at best just a series of dialogues between members, with the clerk merely listening in. This is harder to achieve in a small committee meeting seated round a table but the principle still applies. Again, our corporate discipline needs careful nurture!

Clerks need to be fully supported by the meeting and are well advised not to do much running around before the start. Leave that to others. This is not the moment to be kindly or helpful around the place and you will need all your energy for the task at hand. Heart and mind prepared. I hope you have named elders and have discussed with them what support you need and when you might or might not need it. If you have others on the clerking team, this is where their energy is needed to prepare the room and remind anyone who is expecting to give a report roughly when they will be called. If you are clerking online you are strongly advised not to act as host as well as clerk. Again, leave the technical stuff to others.