This part of the role is usually the heaviest in terms of necessary admin. It is mostly invisible to members of the meeting until it fails to get done in a timely way. We aim to help you tackle or share out these tasks to keep the role manageable, joyful and not a routine burden.
Reflecting on your preparedness
Many clerks appreciate a regular time of debriefing or reflection with another Friend, most likely the other clerk or assistant who has been sitting at the clerks’ table. If you have set up a support group while you are in this role, this may be a time to fix a meeting.
Reflecting afterwards of why a meeting lost its way or somehow went awry can often help in tracking back, for example, to the point where somebody didn’t giving the clerk sufficient information beforehand. It happens to all of us and is the best way to gain experience as a clerk, though feeling you have lost control is horrible at the time. It may have been just one sticky item that seemed innocently simple beforehand, but the clerk hadn’t asked searching enough questions of those who were bringing the matter to the meeting’s attention. Such situations include facts which turned out to be myths; aspects of legal requirements which hadn’t actually been checked; a key person hadn’t been consulted; miscommunications leading to heightened emotions, and as always, human nature doing what it always does. On the other hand, a clerk can be so over-prepared that there is no room left for spontaneity or hearing the voice of the Spirit. All this is normal and quite frequent. More adventure!
Check-list overview of typical post-meeting tasks
This part of the role is usually the heaviest in terms of necessary admin. It is mostly invisible to members of the meeting until it fails to get done in a timely way. We aim to help you tackle or share out these tasks to keep the role manageable, joyful and not a routine burden. The clerk’s tasks are of course not over once Friends depart the meeting. Here is a sample to-do checklist to prompt you into constructing your own. It’s considered very bad form for a clerk to omit doing things that the meeting has asked them. These tasks will vary according to the purpose of each type of meeting. Below are some typical tasks plus tips following a Local or Area Meeting for Worship for Business in BYM.
- Type up the final minutes as agreed by the meeting, or tidy up the formatting and so on if the minutes were taken down on an electronic device during the meeting. Remember to allow a wide left-hand margin to allow for insertion into the minute book.
- Check the minute numbering continues on from the last minute of the previous meeting (if relevant) and you haven’t used the same number twice. (This would need a minute of correction at a future meeting once it had be spotted.)
- Check the opening title of the current set of minutes: correct date, place and so on. (Unobservant copying and pasting from last time can lead to these muddles.)
- Make a note of which minutes should be separated and forwarded to another body, and then do actually forward them. This can also include letting Friends know they have been appointed to or released from service in a role or commitment.
- Make a note of other actions the meeting has asked the clerk or others to carry out (and possibly to report back on next time). Remind those Friends if appropriate. Some clerks have an ACTION box beside each minute where the name or role of the person to do the action is noted.
- Print out on acid-free paper the version needed for the hard-copy Minute Book (most meetings still expect this and archivists love to receive them).
- Print out any attachments mentioned in the minutes and note on each attached document the minute numbers to which they refer. Some meetings maintain a separate folder or spring-back binder for these attached documents, others file them concurrently with the relevant set of minutes. The choice probably depends on the normal quantity of supporting papers.
- Circulate the minutes to all who need to see them – most are sent digitally but some meetings ask for hard copies, and some require large print copies. Some meetings upload their minutes to a protected website. There will be a system already in place, hopefully, and it’s a good idea to get advice from other Friends such as a custodian of records, or official Quaker sources such as the BYM website.
- There is increasing worry about routinely posting up minutes in a public place. Some meetings do it, others don’t. Some post online in a site open to all the public. Some committees publish their minutes, others don’t but make them available to Friends who request to see them. Data protection is a key matter here, especially if change of address or change of personal circumstances are in the minutes.
- Update the index to the minutes.
- Consider whether it’s time to archive some of the historic minute books. Find out from previous minutes how that is normally done.