Dear Editor: I'm responding Talley Kenyon’s letter in the November/December 2013 issue of Western Friend. I'm sorry that Palo Alto Meeting has had trouble filling the positions of clerk and recording clerk. Believe me, Friends, they are not alone!
Here at Multnomah Meeting, we have had to grapple with the same problem but have found our way forward. Here are some of the things we have discovered:
The position of clerk needs to be demystified. Normal human beings can do it! It calls for humility, help and clarity among other things. One does grow into the job. I highly recommend that rising clerks attend Arthur Larrabee's Pendle Hill workshop on clerking. Our meeting has budgeted for that.
Our clerk has a support or advisory committee that meets with her once a month. Its membership is diverse and seasoned in the ways of Friends.
We practice the cycle of having an assistant clerk who serves a year before becoming the clerk for two years and then returns to being assistant clerk to a new clerk for a year. That way, experience is always part of the clerking team. It also means that agreeing to be clerk is a four-year commitment.
We do have the concept of a "clerking team" which includes the clerk, the assistant clerk and the recording clerk. While they rarely meet formally as a team they often act as a team and are frequently in contact. This is especially true of the clerk and the assistant clerk. With this arrangement, as clerk, you are not alone.
During my time as clerk I had the sense that my wellbeing was a measure of the well being of the meeting. That little insight came as others supported me or left me holding the bag (or the "action item"). I think the meeting itself looks to the clerk as a measure of the meeting's wellbeing. In that way, the clerk owes it to the meeting to openly share joys and concerns and to ask of help.
It sometimes helps to say, "Friend, your clerk needs your help...." In a way you are saying "Friend, your meeting needs your help." When I asked for help, I got it!
Personally I found clerking to be a wonderful opening to personal growth. It gave me a new understanding of answers to the question: "What does it mean to be a Friend?" In a sense, clerking is a "where the rubber hits the road" kind of experience, where Quaker ideals and values meet reality.
If you are having trouble finding new clerks, it could be the sign of a larger problem. It may also be an opening, a chance for deeper understanding of your meeting. Have you tried placing your concerns about clerking before the group in the form of a query to be considered in worship sharing?
And one final reminder: Silently worshipping together, holding a situation in the Light, works!
Rick Seifert, Multnomah Monthly Meeting (OR, NPYM)