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

Planning your introductions

Next, you should plan your introductions to substantive items. Lack of preparation here can leave both a meeting and its clerk muddled as to why the item is under discussion. Clerks who haven’t had time to really think about this have been known to find themselves disconcertingly at sea, and the meeting feeling unsure how to get things back on track.

As you think what you might say, you may discover you don’t know some facts or there is something about the question you are not clear about in your own mind. Once you are clear in your own mind you will be able to give a steer to the meeting as to what its task will be when the ‘matter is before the meeting’, as Quaker clerks typically say.

Puzzled faces mean you haven’t done your job properly yet, so, visualising ahead of time how the meeting may deal with the matter might suggest you revisit your approximate timings. It may lead to deeper thought about what God or the Spirit may be wishing for us in our meeting – the way forward and what’s important and what is not.