Herding Cats

by Jeffrey Aaron
New Brunswick Meeting


I love cats and currently have three. Or they have me. Because of my strong personal relationship with each of them, they often respond to me in ways that surprise people. Although they are very independent, they are also very responsive and loving. 


Friends remind me of cats: independent, responsive and loving. Some Friends have said that clerking is like herding cats. They do what they want to do and what they firmly believe is the right thing to do. As clerk of our yearly meeting, I do not think of myself as a shepherd­—or a catherd—but the analogy works, especially for creating agendas for our business sessions. That lesson became abundantly clear to me during Summer Sessions 2019. As clerk, I take most of the responsibility for problems that may arise when the agenda gets out of hand. But everyone also needs to do their part.


Liaison Committee and I are working on agenda guidelines, priorities, and time guidance to create good agendas so that we can labor on what is most important to all of us and make time for important reports and readings. Although this process will take some time, Fall Sessions begins November 1. That is not very far away. You need to be aware that if you have an item that you would like to have on the agenda, you should advise your committee or coordinating committee clerk as far in advance as possible, knowing that the best laid plans of people are subject to what arises in what we may call “God’s time.” 


Some suggestions for now:

1.      As soon as you know that you expect to have an item for the agenda, please advise the appropriate coordinating committee clerk. Most agenda items, especially ones that are for consideration for approval, are seasoned by a coordinating committee.

2.      Please include 1) a “handle” for the item, e.g. “membership concern,” 2) what committee or other body the concern is coming from, 3) who is the contact person, 4) who is expected to make the presentation, 5) how much time you would like for the presentation, aside from responses from gathered Friends, and 6) whether the item is for consideration for approval, or only a report.

3.      If there is an item for consideration for approval, please provide a specific minute if possible, with a separate explanation if appropriate.

4.      If you do not have all this information, a “heads up” will do, with the rest to follow when it is available.

5.      Please try to provide a written report no later than two weeks before the session is scheduled to begin, if at all possible, much earlier if available. Advise at that time if the written report may be used as an advance document or not. The primary purpose of providing a written report is so that your clerk can provide it to the recording clerks so that their minutes can be carefully prepared in advance with correct details, although of course they will modify them as needed during the session. Providing written reports in advance to the recording clerks makes approval of minutes much easier and less tedious for everyone.

6.      Never assume that anyone is aware that an item is expected to be on the agenda. 


Thank you for your help. Being a Friend means working in collaboration.