Approached with the invitation to serve as clerk, I expressed a concern that our meeting would be better served by having a team of co-clerks. Part of this was an acknowledgement of the time and energy I could devote to the job against what would ideally be done – and the constant threat of “clerk burnout.” (Working second-shift at the time meant I could not attend committee meetings, for one thing.)
Part of this is also an acknowledgement of our size. Dover stands between the small meetings where everyone is involved in everything (a state many of our older Friends remember from the days following the reopening of our meetinghouse) and those very large meetings like Cambridge, with their intricate systems of management. (Twenty-eight committees, as I’ve heard.)
In our Quaker bias against hierarchy, the clerk serves as moderator of the business sessions. We extend its role, though, to a quasi-pastor for worship, as well as an expectation of unbroken attendance. To what extent, though, is there an unvoiced expectation that the clerk will also be an administrator – not a chairman, but a chief executive officer? Incidentally, some meetings our size hire full-time office help to handle the mundane details, answer the phone, produce the newsletter, and the like.
When I wrote this, I noted that in the two years I’d served so to date, I was increasingly amazed at the amount of organizational detail required to keep the meeting open and functioning smoothly. We’ve been blessed with a diligent treasurer and other Friends who do far more than their fair share in this effort, but we have also come through an extended period of organizational drift. Last year’s belated start of the new committee members, the difficulty of filling some of those committees or of selecting clerks for them, and the disappearance several years earlier of the Black Books (which detailed the committee duties) are reflective of something deeper – a combination of our rising median age, declining numbers, scheduling conflicts, and so on.
As one Friend, now back in meeting, has been trying to update the Black Books, many questions are arising that need to be pursued to make sure we are in “good order.” We can consider the number of things Silas kept in his head, or that others like know, or even matters of Collective Memory that need to be put on the page and indexed for easy reference. These, in turn, are raising questions that need to be addressed by various committees – especially those matters that tend to “fall between the cracks.” All of this before we even get to questions of the status of items committees have been directed to examine.
Since this evolving process has some Friends wondering why one diligent member is asking them about, say, the Eliot Burial Ground or worker compensation insurance, as these questions surface, some other Friends have asked that we strike a minute authorizing her to pursue these matters.
All this led me to proposed something along the lines of an “administrative assistant” position to expire at the end of one year.
More recently, one observer saw it more as a much needed office manager. Now there was an out-of-the-box thought for our style of operation …