Clerk of Bucks Quarterly Meeting

I agreed to be the clerk of Bucks Quarterly Meeting, an unpaid position. For those of you who come to this site with little or no knowledge of Quakers, this posting explains what clerking a quarterly meeting means.

I’d like to say that Quakers organize themselves into yearly (meets one per year), quarterly (meets four times a year), and monthly (meets monthly for business) meetings. But being Quakers, they are not tied to any dogma, and beliefs vary widely.

The local congregation is usually called a monthly meeting because it meets monthly to address business issues. Generally the local congregation meets weekly on First Day (Sunday in the real world) for worship. Many hold additional meetings for worship. Mine meets Fourth Day (Wednesday) evening for worship.

Some local congregations call themselves churches. These are generally programmed Quakers, those who have clergy. We unprogrammed Quakers have no clergy.

Yearly meetings meet once a year for worship, business, and socializing. The geographic area of a yearly meeting varies, does not follow political boundaries, and in some instances follows practice more than geography.

The quarterly meeting is a collection of local congregations that meet four times a year for worship, business, and socializing. Several quarterly meetings make up a yearly meeting.

Not all yearly meetings have quarters. Some consist of local congregations; others have associations rather than quarters. Some yearly meetings have monthly meetings unaffiliated with any quarter.

All meetings consider their members to be the members of each local congregation.

All this leads to Bucks Quarterly Meeting, Middletown Monthly Meeting, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has members in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. All of the local congregations call themselves a monthly meeting and are members one of thirteen quarterly meetings.

What then is a clerk? Quaker practice includes two important ideas. Independence means there is no one giving orders. While any organization requires officers, Quaker officers may bear witness to the decisions taken but do not make decisions on their own. In strict practice, the clerk doesn’t participate in the discussion or contribute to the sense of the meeting.

Listening for holy spirit is translated into not voting. Decisions are made by the sense of the meeting, that is, we look for general agreement among all Friends before deciding a course of action (or inaction).

The clerk’s job is to produce the agenda of a business meeting, lead the meeting, and then to voice the sense of the meeting on matters under discussion. Usually, this means repeated questioning of what that sense is. Often the sense of the meeting is that we’re not ready to decide yet.

CPAs are attracted to the accounting profession in part to voice their professional opinion—definitely not to continually seek, much less defer to, the opinions of others.

I have my work cut out for me.

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