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

Crafting a draft minute

There is an art to constructing a draft minute. Minutes of record usually have pretty routine wording, and this is a reminder to copy and paste where you can from previous meetings. Discursive minutes need more work. A good outline uses three sections: When the meeting does make its mind up you will have your final minute partly ready for use. Be bold in crossing out large chunks that the meeting never said, even if you wish they had. This part of the preparation should be in conjunction with anyone else serving as clerk at the table.  Some clerks consciously pray over their work together at this point.

The first sentence or two will set out the factual background to the matter. If this isn’t the first time it has come to the meeting there will be a ‘paper trail’ of previous minutes and maybe attached papers. It’s always useful to list these at the start, for example as ‘further to minute AM17.45,...’. Make sure as clerk you have all the necessary background information to hand. The meeting may not want it all in a minute but if they do, you must be sure to be ready to provide it.

The central part of a minute is your best guess as to what might be said. You may prefer not to guess but to leave a large white blank. The final part should be outcomes and/or decisions. There are some technical aspects to keep in mind here. It’s essential to note clearly what the outcomes are, what decisions have been agreed, who is going to implement them, who is going to report back and by which meeting (month, season or year). You may be able to guess several possible outcomes. I list those as EITHER .... OR ... OR. One or none of these may turn out to be the actuality. More adventure into the unknown! If you are using online draft minutes or printed out versions, it’s helpful to put anything that is not fact into italics so you have a clear visual distinction at the table what are facts and what are not (yet) facts. When the meeting does make its mind up you will have your final minute partly ready for use. This part of the preparation should be in conjunction with anyone else serving as clerk at the table. The third section of the minute will be therefore the outcomes agreed by the meeting in session – which you can’t know at this stage. For the final formatting of the agreed minutes after the meeting is over, you will of course get rid of the stretches of italic text before circulating the whole set.

A constructed draft minute might look something like this:

AM 10/xxx    Outreach Work

Further to Minute 10/83 regarding the creation of an Extension Committee, we have heard minute 10/122 from  [---------] LM, made on 2/5/10, and a copy is attached. [or the text of the LM minute could be included in your minute if the meeting wishes it.]

........                     [ a summary of any discussion – you can’t really forecast that!]

EITHER:

We agree to form an Outreach Committee and ask our Nominations Committee to bring in three names of Friends willing to serve.

OR:

We do not feel an Extension Committee to be necessary at this time but will return to this matter in twelve months and review our discernment again then.

OR:    [Something else entirely.......]

 

Here is the final agreed minute:

10/112  Outreach Work

Further to Minute 10/83 regarding the creation of an Outreach Committee, we have heard minute 10/102 from  [---------] LM, made on 2/5/10, and a copy is attached.

We recognise the transformative power of outreach work on our lives and the lives of our meetings.  We ask ourselves how well we project our Quakerism to our wider communities, through public events locally and through our daily lives.

We do not feel at this time led to create a formal AM outreach committee, but we will devote part of our AM in November to outreach issues. We will annually review outreach work across the AM, so that we may share what has been done by LMs.

The factual background to the item (in black) is stated first (basically, your first draft section), with previous minutes included if relevant. The passage highlighted in yellow (second section) gives a flavour of the discussion that would have taken place. Clearly there wasn’t an agreement to create an Outreach Committee, so the next passage (section 3, highlighted here in turquoise) sets out the decision not to proceed, and contained within that are two references to a promise to return to the matter more generally. The clerk must endeavour to keep those commitments by alerting the meeting when the moments arrive.