Who’s the New Clerk?

by Jeffrey Aaron
New Brunswick Meeting


One of the great joys of spending time among Friends is listening to personal stories from new and old F/friends about themselves, their interests, their life experiences, their personal histories. It occurred to me many years ago that if we knew more about each other, we could relate to each other more closely in many ways. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know who has what expertise among us, if we need a doctor, a lawyer, a plumber or an electrician? We do some of that, but not nearly enough.


With that in mind, I decided to introduce myself more fully as your new NYYM clerk. I hope that in the future, we can all read many more personal stories about our fellow Friends.


I have been a member of New Brunswick Friends Meeting since I first became a Friend as a young adult about forty years ago. I was raised with many of the values I now call my Quaker values, in particular seeking the best in everyone and cherishing diversity as one of the more delightful experiences of being human. The home in which I was raised is now the New Brunswick meetinghouse, which is a separate story that I would be happy to share with anyone, as long as I get to listen as well.


On entering college at Rutgers in 1963, I expected to follow a career path of opera singing or acting. Although I did not have an operatic voice and became uncomfortable with the world of actors, I have sung all my adult life, mostly in classical choirs, with some occasional solo work. I have been blessed by amazing experiences singing choral works in many different languages at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in Manhattan, at the Vatican, at Canterbury Cathedral in England, the Duomo in Florence, Italy, St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, Italy and many other venues, including the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam! I was privileged to sing the Brahms “Song of Destiny” and “German Requiem” in German, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, recorded and played on television during the funeral proceedings for John F. Kennedy after his assassination. But I ended up spending thirty years as an owner of a large NJ plumbing, heating, and cooling supply house. I retired in 2002.


Before going into business in my late twenties, I was employed as a high school French teacher and a yoga instructor and briefly taught in elementary school. I read poetry on Channel Thirteen as a teen and was drafted into competitive story telling just a few years ago. I performed with guitar as a folk singer from before high school well into adulthood. In my retirement, I have studied linguistic taxonomy and experimental neurology. I speak some Italian as well as French and dabble in several other languages, but I am now rusty in all of them. I love to write and have written autobiographical sketches for my descendants, inspired by my grandfather’s autobiography. But don’t be impressed with this list of interests; it is all dabbling. I am a true dilettante with little real expertise in any of these areas.


The areas of my greatest dedication during my retirement are being a good spouse to my wife, whom I met on the way to a march on the Pentagon in 1967, a good father of two accomplished daughters and an actively involved grandfather of two beloved pre-teens, and my work as a Quaker. My grandchildren live nearby and I spend quality time with them most days, as I have most of their young lives. We are very close, and I am deeply privileged to share with them their discoveries of the wonders of our astonishing world. I am the only active Quaker in my family, although I have great family support for my work, for which I am grateful. 


I agreed to serve as clerk of our beloved yearly meeting when asked because I understand how hard it is to find someone who knows the yearly meeting well, its practices, its members and its issues, someone who has clerking experience and reasonable skills, is available and is willing to serve. And I wanted to give back to an organization that always found and brought out the best in me and helped me become a better person, a place where I came to know so many remarkable people. 


I am hoping that this will be the beginning of a series of similar articles by other Friends, in particular those who stand before the body of gathered Friends regularly, and of others, especially our young Friends. Let us get to know each other better; it is always delightful to learn about F/friends. We are blessed with many wonderful stories. Most of them we do not yet know—but we should.