Paul Parker, recording clerk of Quakers, spoke to our Area Meeting. He explained the different aspects of the role, but said the key issue of any clerk is that they are “listening for the unity”.
Paul believes Quakers have potential to make a difference and be rather more in numbers than we are now, but also pointed to some of the difficulties we face
engaging our young people – who are mobile, unhappy with rigid structure, and often feeling excluded by the ‘grown up’ wing.
drawing from a wider pool of people in background (not least by letting people know we exist, but also in how we welcome, draw in and encourage those who do turn up)
dealing with a Society of Friends where most of us don’t come from Quaker families. The days when most Quakers came from all Quaker families and spending all Sunday on Quaker things was easy have gone. yet our structures and processes haven’t always adapted
finding the issues on which we can speak with authority. We can speak on peace and disarmament and conscientious objection, we are starting to gain traction on sustainability (after Friends decided to divest from all fossil fuel companies – the first significant thing we’ve done after a lot of talking green) and we have made a difference on human sexuality and same sex marriage.
Paul said we needed to reclaim the term ministry in the broader sense, and find what each of our ministry is and how it can serve the meeting and the community.
Paul’s excellent talk showed how he has been a strikingly more open and outgoing recording clerk, but as ever Friends, the answer to the challenges he poses lies with us, and our listening to the spirit, not expecting a leader to rise up and solve the problems for us. I wish I shared his optimism that the revision of the Quaker handbook will be positive, but we go forward in faith and hope.