Aids for Committee Clerks
Click the following link to download a pdf file of our Guide for Committee Clerks, which pulls together a bunch of resources to make your life easier. Note also the Accountability Queries (which also appear as an appendix to the Guide for Committee Clerks), which you can use to periodically evaluate the effectiveness of your committee.
3. RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE COMMITTEE CLERK
3-A. If You Have Been Asked to Serve As Clerk
As mentioned earlier, committees generally gather their nominations for officers in the spring and consider the slate at Summer Sessions for approval. If you are asked to serve as a committee clerk, reread section 1-A, above, and be sure to weigh carefully any obligations you already carry. Most important, remember that the duties, organization, and usual meeting times and places of each committee are described in this Handbook.
3-B. Upon Being Approved As Clerk: First Things First
If you accept the nomination and it is approved by your committee, then the out-going clerk will have a collection of materials for you at Summer Sessions, which should include committee minutes covering at least the past three years, reports, budgets, expenditures, notes from interest or study groups, etc. While it will be time consuming, it is important to read through these materials as soon as possible.
Along with the materials you receive from the previous clerk, be sure to gather the contact information for all your committee members, including any new members approved at Summer Sessions, before you leave Summer Sessions. Send this information along with your new slate of officers to the New York Yearly Meeting office as soon as possible, as you will need this information in order to honor your responsibilities as clerk—starting off with sending the required information packet to any new committee members. The packet should include the NYYM Handbook description for the committee, minutes of the past two years, and any important committee documents, including a clear and concise history of the committee, so they can see the movement of the committee and so that decisions do not need to be revisited. (Many of these items can be easily gathered together from the materials you now have.)
The previous clerk should also hand on to you a more detailed calendar of committee events, covering the timely requests for items for the agenda and for budgets, etc. Keep in mind that clerks should regularly inform the Yearly Meeting office of the dates and times their committee will meet. In early autumn, the Yearly Meeting clerk is responsible for facilitating a day-long session for all coordinating and committee clerks to provide an opportunity for Friends to share information and guidance, and to prepare for the work of the year ahead. All new and returning clerks should be prepared to attend the All Clerks Workshop.
3-C. The Spirit of the Committee Meeting
Clerks help to foster a religious fellowship within the committee. Meetings begin with a time of worship and sharing, and continue in that spirit of worship. Encourage your committee members to read “Setting the Table” or other similar documents to prepare for their work together. (Find the full text of “Setting the Table” in Appendix A of this handbook)
Committees should meet regularly and as often as their responsibilities require. You may want to consider an annual committee retreat and additional meeting times outside of Yearly Meeting sessions. In these ways, your committee will be able to consider its business responsibly, and members, through regular opportunities for work and worship together, can come to “know one another in that which is eternal.”
3-D. Committee Work & Membership
All action of Yearly Meeting committees should be the result of a corporate seeking of unity in the manner of Friends, under guidance of the Spirit. In some cases, committees may find it useful and desirable to delegate specific parts of their responsibilities to subcommittees and task groups that may be able to act effectively and quickly in the areas assigned to them.
Committee membership should be large and broad enough to reflect the Yearly Meeting as a whole. However, even when a committee is small, its work should reflect the thought and leadings of several Friends and should not be the work solely of its clerk.
As committees meet to consider the work before them, they may find the following helpful:
3-E. Criteria to Be Applied in Considering an Action, New Project, or a Recorded Minute
- Does this item have its basis in the spirit and teaching of Friends? Is it something we are led to do by the Spirit and that we are committed to?
- Is this something that needs to be done by a New York Yearly Meeting committee rather than by a monthly meeting or regional meeting? Does it fall within the committee’s functions as defined by the Yearly Meeting? Is there any other Yearly Meeting committee that would more appropriately carry out the work? Could it be better done by another Quaker body?
- To what extent does the item have the possibility of receiving support and participation from monthly meetings of New York Yearly Meeting and of Friends outside the committee?
- Is this something that will help and educate others?
- Is this something that is realistic, given the available resources? Are people available who are willing to carry out the concern?
- Is there a clear plan for accomplishment? A suggested begin date and end date?
If there are hesitations on any of these questions, do not push to accomplish the task but wait for clearness to become apparent. If the committee cannot reach clearness after a reasonable time of seasoning, its coordinating committee may be consulted.
3-F. Proposing Minutes for Yearly Meeting Consideration
There are two avenues by which proposed minutes are seasoned and brought before the Yearly Meeting body for consideration and possible approval and action.
(On occasion, the Yearly Meeting has experienced a third way—the rising of a minute from the floor. This happens when the Spirit is moving powerfully and the ground has been prepared during Meeting for Business, but this is a rare occurrence, organic in nature, and therefore not addressed here.)
3-F 1. Minutes from Yearly Meeting Committees
Often, a Yearly Meeting committee may have a concern it wishes to bring to the Yearly Meeting body in the form of a proposed minute. The following queries can help clarify a committee’s process on such a minute.
- Has the subject of the minute been seasoned? Has it had prayerful consideration? Has it generated discussion and enthusiasm? Have Friends who may disagree had an opportunity to consider the minute and its implications? In some cases, it may be reasonable to season a minute through a monthly meeting, and its regional meeting.
- Does the minute support an individual or group leading? Will the proposed action support and move forward the work of others in new ways? How does it relate to previous Yearly Meeting activities? Have alternate methods for accomplishing the work been explored?
- In bringing the minute forward, what action do you expect the Yearly Meeting to take? Do you want the Yearly Meeting to thresh through the issue? Are you asking for corporate witness? The Yearly Meeting clerk’s signature? Is the minute time-sensitive? Your request and expectations of the Yearly Meeting must be clearly stated.
- If action is being asked of the Yearly Meeting, what resources will be needed? What follow-up activities or responsibilities are anticipated? Are there Friends who have already indicated a willingness to take on some of these responsibilities?
Once a committee has written and approved a minute, and written a cover letter regarding the committee’s intent for the minute, a copy must be given to the appropriate coordinating committee clerk, for the consideration of that body. If approved by the coordinating committee, the minute will be sent to the Yearly Meeting clerk and, at the Yearly Meeting clerk’s discretion, will then be included on the business session’s agenda.
Please be sure to follow carefully and respond in a timely manner to any requests made of your committee regarding the minute’s presentation.
3-F 2. Minutes from a Monthly and Quarterly/Regional Meeting
In order to bring a minute to the body of the Yearly Meeting, a monthly meeting first brings its minute to the quarterly/regional meeting for seasoning and approval. Once the minute has been endorsed by the region, it may then be forwarded to the Yearly Meeting clerk. On occasion, a monthly meeting or region brings such an endorsed minute to an appropriate Yearly Meeting committee or coordinating committee for further seasoning and clarification of the next action. Yearly Meeting practice does not require that this be done, however if this is the case, the minute should be given the same thoughtful consideration as committee minutes and, if approved, forwarded to the Yearly Meeting clerk.
At the discretion of the Yearly Meeting clerk, the minute will then be included on the business session’s agenda. Again, please be sure to respond in a timely manner to any requests regarding the minute.
3-G. Committee Reports to the Yearly Meeting
Beyond any minutes a committee may want to bring before the Yearly Meeting, you, as committee clerk, may feel there is committee work which is timely and spirit-led, and which needs to be reported to the wider body. In this case, you or your committee’s CC representative should contact the coordinating committee clerk to request time on the next business session agenda. Per the Yearly Meeting clerk’s discretion, your committee may be asked to report. If you receive such a request, please be sure to submit a written report to the CC and YM clerk as soon as possible. Subsequently, follow carefully and respond in a timely manner to any requests made of your committee regarding the report.
3-H. Committee Records and Expenditures
- The clerk (or designee such as recording clerk) sees that committee minutes, records, and resource materials, including a copy of this Handbook, are maintained in a form that can be transmitted to succeeding officers. The clerk or designee sends copies of all minutes to committee members, to the Yearly Meeting office and to the coordinating committee clerk, except when clearly inappropriate. (An example of an inappropriate minute would be one where confidentiality is of concern, i.e. Personnel Committee or Ministry and Counsel.)
- The clerk (or designee such as the financial secretary) authorizes expenditures of funds allocated to the committee. Reimbursement forms are available from the Yearly Meeting office or web site. The Yearly Meeting treasurer and the clerk of General Services Coordinating Committee advise committees on bookkeeping procedures. (See specific guidelines on committee financing and travel expense, pages 15–19, and the Finances section of committee descriptions.)
- The clerk (or designee such as the financial secretary) must submit a budget request to the appropriate coordinating committee following the timeline detailed by the CC clerk and Financial Services Committee.
- Read carefully Section 5. Finances below.
3-I. Representing the Committee
The clerk is:
- Expected to attend the All Clerks Workshop in the fall, as arranged by the clerk of the Yearly Meeting;
- Encouraged to attend Budget Saturday (typically in September);
- Invited to attend the Sessions Committee planning weekend and/or communicate with the Sessions Committee;
- Expected to attend the January weekend meeting of all coordinating committee members of all sections, along with the committee’s named CC representative;
- To designate a representative to attend those meetings s/he cannot attend.
3-J. Committee Communications
Forethought and judgment are also important in another area. Communications from a committee may be mistakenly interpreted as coming from all Friends or reflecting the position of the Yearly Meeting. Therefore, whenever such misinterpretation of communications might be possible, a committee should seek the advice of its coordinating committee. For instance, any clerk must be clear that communications are approved by the whole committee before signing as clerk, and then should be clear that the communication is coming from the committee only, not the Yearly Meeting. The communications may then be sent to New York Yearly Meeting only, for its consideration.
3-K. Yearly Meeting Spring or Fall Sessions
Clerks are asked well in advance if they wish to have a committee meeting at the time of Spring or Fall Business Sessions. Respond in a timely manner with your requests for display and meeting space (including the number of people expected to attend), etc., at those sessions.
3-L. Yearly Meeting Summer Sessions
In March, each clerk is asked by the Yearly Meeting office to respond to certain questions or requests for the Summer Sessions. It is important to respond in a timely manner to requests for space and any special considerations at these sessions.
- Committee meetings at Summer Sessions: the number of meetings needed, the preferred time and the expected number of attenders.
- Interest and/or study groups at Summer Sessions: number, topic, and responsible person.
- Annual Report of the committee: contact New York Yearly Meeting to confirm due date
- for Advance Reports. (Typically due in mid-April.)
3-M. Preparing the Annual Review and Advance Report Using the Accountability Queries
Committee clerks shall initiate an annual review using the following committee accountability queries and submit the report to their coordinating committee. This review can also be the basis for the required Advance Report. As part of the review, clerks should consider whether the size of the committee is suitable to its good functioning. If a committee needs more or fewer committee members, this should be addressed with the coordinating committee clerk.
- Can nominees be found to fill each class of service?
- Is there an active clerk? Does s/he feel led to further the committee’s work?
- Is the purpose and charge of the committee being fulfilled? Where is the life of the Spirit taking the committee?
- Does the committee’s representative to the coordinating committee attend those meetings regularly to take part in the CC’s work and keep the CC apprised of the committee’s work?
- Is the committee’s budget created and presented to its coordinating committee in a timely way?
- Is the committee’s prior year’s budget substantially spent on the activities listed in that budget?
- Is a committee’s proposed work accomplished and reported in a timely way?
- Does the work of this committee directly serve or impact the life of the monthly meetings?
- What has not been asked, but should be known?
3-N. Laying Down a Committee
If the responses to the accountability queries raise questions regarding the function of a committee, guidance should be sought from the coordinating committee. Together, actions may be discerned to strengthen the work of the committee. As a final resort, the clerks should not be reluctant to recommend that the committee be laid down.
Laying down a committee, clears the ground for a new seed to be planted as individuals feel called to this task and go through our traditional discernment process testing their leading at the monthly and regional level, allowing others to be drawn to the task. Much of our best work in re- cent years has occurred through Spirit led working groups such as Worship and Action, and MCC’s Spiritual Nurturance.
3-O. Preparing Committee Papers and Minutes for Archiving
As the committee’s clerk, you have the greatest responsibility for the continuing care of the committee’s minutes, reports, and important papers. Even if your committee has a recording clerk, it is up to you to work with this person to make sure the following items are taken care of:
- All new committee members receive the packet of information outlined in section 3B;
- All important papers, minutes and reports must be collected in an organized fashion and passed along to the new clerk at the start of the term. These materials should include the more detailed calendar for the clerk so that s/he may plan in a timely fashion the sending out of requests for items for the agenda and for budgets, etc.;
- On an annual basis, the minutes and important documents of the committee should be printed on acid-free paper and sent to the Yearly Meeting office.
3-P. Typical Committee Calendar
Send information packets to new members, and committee membership information to the Yearly Meeting office.
Attend Budget Saturday, and All Clerks Workshop.
October: Prepare for Fall Sessions by collecting agenda items, reserving committee meeting space and encouraging all committee members, including yourself, to attend and register by the deadline.
Attend Fall Sessions. Request Interest and Study Groups for consideration at the spring committee meeting. Consider holding a committee retreat.
Distribute minutes from Fall Sessions. Register for Coordinating Committee Weekend in January. Discuss any committee work that needs to be reported.
Follow-up with CC rep on January weekend if you were unable to attend.
Prepare for Spring Sessions by collecting agenda items, reserving committee meeting space and encouraging all committee members, including yourself, to attend and register by the deadline.
Attend Spring Sessions. Begin review of accountability queries in preparation for Advance Reports. Nominate Naming Committee for internal nominations. Prepare budget request for coming year.
Distribute minutes from Spring Sessions.
Prepare for Summer Sessions by collecting agenda items, reserving committee meeting space and encouraging all committee members, including yourself, to attend and register by the deadline.
Attend Summer Sessions. New terms and clerkships begin at the end of Summer Sessions in July. If this marks the end of your clerkship, be sure to bring with you all your minutes, reports and committee materials from your tenure as clerk to pass on to the new clerk.