Last week, my wife and I visited the Friendship Village senior living community in Tempe AZ, where a good number of Friends reside. During one conversation with Friends there, two described how they have co-clerked their monthly meeting for some time. They alternate six-month terms and clerk and reported feeling very satisfied with this arrangement. I also thought about our current co-clerks of Intermountain Yearly Meeting, Gail Toko-Ross and Val Ireland.
I wondered if “shared clerkship” is becoming an emerging phenomenon. I see several reasons that may be an especially prevalent experience in meetings whose members are mostly “older” Friends:
- Many older Friends are “snowbirds,” who relocate for part of the year to avoid harsh winters or to spend part of each year with families and grandchildren
- Many older Friends want to travel in retirement, feeling the desire or need to check this or that trip off their bucket list.
- As Friend gray and age, their energy, mental sharpness and willingness to tackle the clerkship of a meeting may wane a bit. Perhaps they are not as sure they are competent as they feel they need to be. They may take on the role, however, if they have a co-clerk or backup, such as an associate clerk.
- Many older Friends are facing medical problems and procedures, which are unpredictable and which can render them temporarily incapacitated.
- Is shared clerkship happening more?
- Should the Society of Friends encourage it?
- What are the experiences of those who have shared clerkships?
- What are the experiences of Meetings that have tried this arrangement?
- Are there "best practices" in initiating and carrying out shared clerkships?
- What types of shared clerkships exist: e.g. sharing part of the year, both clerking simultaneously, having a clerk and an associate clerk who assists the clerk and will take over the next term.
- What are the spiritual issues surrounding shared clerkships regarding such things as feeling led to clerk and various levels of calling by each nominee?
- What personality or relationship characteristics might make this work best?
- How will the clerks tend to their spiritual lives, together and apart? Should there be a clearness committee for clerks sharing the job?
- What is the difference between a co-clerk and the meeting's recording clerk, who assists the meeting clerk spiritually during meeting for worship for business?
Please contact me if you are interested in discussing these questions.
Steven Finger, stevencfin[AT]gmail[DOT]com