Recording as a Form of Eldering

by Karen Reixach
Keene (NH) Meeting


Eldering has three aspects: 

  1. spiritual nurture,
  2. offering discipline/accountability, and
  3. practical support.


The role of recording clerk does not at first glance seem to be connected with eldering. Having attended countless meetings for business at the local, regional, and yearly meeting levels that allowed me to observe recording clerks in action and having served as recording clerk for Rochester Friends Meeting, Farmington Scipio Region, and New York Yearly Meeting, I have learned that the recording clerk can be of support to the clerk and the body in several ways: perhaps most important, the recording clerk needs to come prepared with draft minutes of routine items and an open heart to assist the clerk in discerning the movement of the spirit as business is considered and decisions made, what may be called “listening in tongues.” I can remember one Summer Session in which the body struggled mightily for some time over an item with countervailing expressions and rising tension; the recording clerk at that time was Walter Haines, a gifted recording clerk, who modestly offered a draft minute that captured the underlying unity that the body had been unable to articulate and was joyfully approved. In less happy instances, the recording clerk needs to have the humility to receive help from the body, when the draft minute does not serve (and the discernment to hope that the clerk will resist ill-considered revisions when the minute as presented does capture the sense of the meeting). More often, the recording clerk simply stays centered, modeling for the body the spirit in which business is best done and holding the clerk, those presenting business, and the body of Friends in love.


Being presiding clerk can be strenuous, challenging the most spiritually robust individual. Having individuals accompanying them who can tell the truth, affirming the positive and offering areas for reflection, is not necessarily the role of the recording clerk. But before or after the session, the recording clerks may serve as a sounding board and even help a clerk who is struggling with a particular item or individual. Tenderly done, perhaps with some humor, this can support the work of the presiding clerk.


Recording is also a specific skill. Lee Haring and Sharon Hoover, both seasoned recording clerks, offered interest groups on recording that were helpful in understanding this role and the required gifts. They also named and nurtured my gifts, which is clearly a function of eldering. Newton Garver supported Vicki Cooley by inviting her to draft minutes in the body as she listened to the meeting for business proceed and then by reviewing that work and offering suggestions.


In fact, every role in a meeting calls for the gifts of eldership, of a loving, truthful, courageous, humble care for the spiritual well-being of individuals and the entire meeting.