The Joy of Clerking

A few notes on this amazing workshop I went to.

It was really titled "Expectant Meeting for Business" led by Tracy Hjelt Sullivan at Ben Lomond Quaker Center.

The first best thing that happened was that I met Carrie and Kathleen, and their baby Timothy, Friends of a Friend, from Philadelphia. The ride down was fun and getting to know them was great. It's always good to meet other people who are intentional about motherhood and about Quakerism. I look forward to seeing them again, one day or another, maybe at FGC!

Being at Quaker Center is always beautiful, always a little bit hectic and deeply peaceful, and always fun. They have a rotating cast of cooks, but Todd is the best! A wonderful balance of healthy AND tasty food. And being with 30 people, ages 15-75 (approx.) who are interested in Clerking was wonderful.

This was a first time for this workshop topic for Traci, but I thought it was a nice mix of lecture and discussion, of small and large groups, of fun and serious. Traci's experience of business meeting and clerking is rich, her attitude is respectful and inspiring, and her personal store of anecdotes and advice were very helpful. I just plain like her and her family and I'm glad to be in the same Quarterly and Yearly Meeting with them.

An important query for clerks: Is your first concern to be successful or to be faithful?

One of the most popular handouts was a piece called, "Spiritual Responsibility in the Meeting for Business, by Patricia Loring.

Other insights, questions, concerns, advices that I took away:
  • How do we cultivate a culture of spiritual expectancy, of waiting upon the Lord?
  • Try to be in harmony with the Divine: there isn't just one pitch that could be in harmony with the Divine melody.
  • Don't be afraid to use religious language in writing minutes or instructing Friends in meeting for business.
  • How can we bring good Quaker process to committee meetings as well?
  • Give yourself permission to wait until you're ready.
  • Have a sense of how to break down issues into components, and have the discipline to deal with one question at a time. Leave the pragmatic stuff to later.
  • It's not healthy for the Clerk or the Meeting for the Clerk to take on too much work - Clerk needs perspective, and others in the Meeting need to learn how to do Quaker business.
  • Have an elder for Clerk who is focused on "Are we in the Spirit?" Have a structure for feedback to Clerk.
  • One person can NOT stand in the way of the Meeting's decision, but the Meeting can decide not to move forward without him or her.
  • How can I hear past my own opinion to hear the sense of the Meeting?

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Blogger Liz Opp said...

Mmmm, yummy stuff to chew on! Yes, these are questions that I live with, both as clerk and as an observer of clerks. (Clerks are always being watched, aren't they?)

There is so much good stuff in this post, Robin.

1. I know Kathleen and Carrie-- they are dear people. I have met Timothy only briefly a couple times.

2. Although Art Larrabee is a sought-out resource for clerking, I find it extremely important to know of other Friends who can speak about clerking and bring their own perspective about it to the table. Another resource for clerking is an online newsletter from FGC that focused on that topic in 2004.

3. I had forgotten about how great Patricia Loring's handout is. Thanks for reminding me! Now I'll have to dig through my files and make sure I have it more easily accessible... or order it again and take better care of it!

4. I also agree that it is important for the clerk to find ways to "bring along" the meeting: helping Friends understand what Spirit-led decision-making is all about; modeling religious language that speaks to and affirms who we are as a religious society; and reminding Friends that no single individual has "veto" power by "standing in the way." Sadly, we do not think to mention this fact until the unpleasant situation that requires us to do so is already upon us.

I also believe that a clerk must be practiced in stating tensions that exist between two seemingly conflicting opposites. Just the other day, during MfW for Business, the clerk reiterated that it was her sense that we were wrestling with respecting individual responses to a question while also seeking a way to include a corporate response to the same item.

I'm so glad this was such a positive experience, Robin. Thanks for writing about it here.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

2/13/2006 6:30 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

The workshop was almost a month ago, but life continues to speed past me and the blogging habit hasn't quite re-developed in the New Year.

I'm sure there are several Quaker blog readers and writers who know Kathleen and Carrie better than me. Liz, I was pleased to be able to tell them that I knew you. I did remember to ask them if it was alright to use their names in my blog, since getting to know them was such a highlight for me. I didn't ask Traci, but she was there in a public way, not just as a private participant, so I think that's different, don't you?

Another thing that was valuable was listening to other Clerks talk amongst themselves about their experience - there was a "fishbowl" discussion for Presiding Clerks on the last day that was very interesting for me, and for them I think. Some talked about the incredible love that they developed for their Meetings when they were Clerk, and some talked about how their own spiritual life expanded and deepened during the time that they had taken on this additional responsibility. And just having that discussion was something that arose out of the process of the workshop, not necessarily part of the plan at the beginning. It worked really well at the end of the workshop too, when we had all been primed with talking about Clerking, and because it didn't set up the folks who are/have been Presiding Clerks as the "experts" on the subject at the beginning, a title they might not have wanted for themselves, even though the group included women with experience clerking Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly Meetings and committees at all levels, from across the country, North and South, East and West.

2/14/2006 11:16 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Sullivan said...


I really like this blog and it is interesting to remember that there really was a rang of 60 year in this workshop. i think i can speak for my mother and say that it is okay for you to use her name.

I wish that i had participated a little bit more but i had fun with Tim though. the parts that i did participate in where very moving and i wish i had been at all of the fish bowl because it would have been nice to hear more about other clerks experiences and how they had delt wiht hard topics and changed through being a clerk. i know that i really did change and that it is probably some of the reason that i have been so close to quakerism in the last few years.

Clerk for me was a nice move to get to know more about Quaker porcess and how to help my peers get closer to their Quaker side.


2/14/2006 1:12 PM  
Blogger Johan Maurer said...

As long as we're pooling resources and resource people for clerking, I've always appreciated Rebecca North (in Wisconsin; can't remember her meeting, but surely someone does--is it Milwaukee?) as an experienced clerk and good teacher. In my own yearly meeting (Northwest), I highly recommend our yearly meeting clerk Lon Fendall, Bruce Bishop of Barclay Press, and Jan Wood of Good News Associates. All of them relate spirituality and process very well and are good communicators.

2/14/2006 2:00 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Another highlight of this workshop and several other occasions over the last year or so has been getting to know Rebecca better - as a member of my Quarterly and Yearly Meeting community.

Thanks Johan - having an online community allows us to lift up the Real Life resources to a wider audience - good to know!

2/14/2006 5:14 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Hey, Johan! I was going to mention Rebecca North (yes, Milwaukee Meeting, and she's still there), but when she was clerk of the meeting, I was a baby Quaker, so I would have been infatuated by any Friend sitting in as clerk, most likely! smile

And Robin, since Traci's name appears on a webpage that describes the workshop you attended, I see and sense no difficulty in mentioning her in your post. Such is part of the life as a public Friend, as I understand it.

The clerks' fishbowl sounds wonderful, and your other comments about it reminded me of hearing very similar comments from yearly meeting clerks who attended a "consultation" put on by FGC last year--like how they had grown as Friends as a result, for example, and how much added appreciation they had for the meeting.

(BTW, the FGC consultation was limited to clerks of yearly meetings that are affiliated with FGC.)

I hope that workshop experience continues to nourish you in the coming months and years, Robin. We need to be sure that our current and future clerks receive loving care, nurture, and eldership.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

2/14/2006 7:15 PM  

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