The Office of Session Clerk
The role of the Session Clerk in any Congregation is a pivotal one. To the minister the Session Clerk is his or her "right hand man", even when the position is held by a woman, as is now the case in a number of congregations. To the congregation the Session Clerk is the person who is the link between it and the minister. This page describes what is expected of a Session Clerk.
Every Kirk Session requires to have a Clerk. The appointment is not for life, but only during the pleasure of the Session. The person chosen does not have to be an elder. On appointment the Oath de fideli administratione ("I promise to carry out faithfully the duties of Session Clerk") is to be taken. If the Clerk is absent from any meeting of the Session, a Clerk pro tempore is appointed and the oath has to be administered.
The main duties of a Session Clerk are:
(a) to prepare for meetings of the Session;
(b) to keep minutes of Kirk Session meetings;
(c) to attend to correspondence, including the issuing of Extracts;
(d) to be responsible for all Records of the congregation;
(e) generally to see to the functioning of the Session, to be concerned for the welfare of the congregation, and to have a working knowledge of the Church's practice and procedure.
When all the business has been completed, the Moderator will close the meeting with prayer (usually by pronouncing the Benediction).
Kirk Session meetings used to be private and confidentialhowever, this is no longer tha case, unless the Session decides otherwise on some particular matter.
Minuting a Meeting:
This is a major responsibility of the Session Clerk. The minute should begin by stating the place and date of the meeting, and that it has been constituted with prayer. Next the Sederunt (Attendance) and Apologies are recorded. Next the Minute of the previous meeting is submitted by the Clerk for approval. A minute must also show that the meeting was closed with prayer.
Minutes tend to be formal although the minutes of smaller Kirk Sessions tend to be more personal, and more wordy!
Some other points should be noted in regard to the keeping of minutes:
1 It is useful to have Headings for the different items. The Heading may be placed either in the margin or at the beginning of the paragraph to which it refers, but either way the text should be complete in itself, and should not need the Heading to be added to give it sense.
2 There should be no substantial Blank Spaces, but, if there are any, they should be scored through.
3 No papers should be pasted or clipped into the minute.
Correspondence and Extracts:
It is the Session Clerk, not the minister, who should attend to correspondence relating to Session business.
The Clerk may have occasionally have to issue an Extract Minute in connection with some particular item of business from a Kirk Session meeting or from a meeting of the congregation called by the Session or by a higher court of the Church.
Custodier of Records:
The Session Clerk is the custodier of the Kirk Session records. The Records of the congregation are inspected annually by the Presbytery. When a new Clerk is appointed, an Inventory of the books and papers of the Kirk Session that are being handed on ought to be recorded in the Minute Book.
Other Aspects of the Office:
It is also part of the Session Clerk's responsibilities to help the Session to function smoothly in its oversight of the congregation. This will include:
1 allocating, or delegating the allocation of the Elders' Districts;
2 making, or delegating the making of, all the necessary preparations for Communion Services, including assigning elders their duties, seeing to the ordering and preparing of the bread and wine, seeing to the communion linen, and making arrangements for the disposal of the elements and the washing of the cups, plates and linen;
3 assisting the minister in the arrangements to secure New Elders;
4 giving a lead to the Session when it meets with prospective First Communicants;
5 encouraging the Session to give thought not just to routine matters of business;
6 keeping one's ears and eyes open to what is going on in the congregation, and bringing to the attention of the minister matters that the congregation are happy with or are expressing concern over;
7 liaising with the conveners of sub-committees where these are used to spread a Session's workload;
8 making sure that proper intimation is given to the congregation of meetings called by the Session;
9 giving all possible assistance to an Interim Moderator appointed by the Presbytery;
10 making oneself familiar with practice and procedure in the Church of Scotland with certain Acts and Regulations in ahe text of these Acts can be found in "Acts of the General Assembly from 1929 " available from the Office of the Principal Clerk and updated annually.
There is a Residential Course for Session Clerks at Carberry Tower, Musselburgh from the 31st March to the 2nd April, 2000. For more information please contact Parish Education. A useful little pamphlet entitled "The Office of Session Clerk written by the Rev A Gordon McGillivray is available from Parish Education to obtain a copy contact:
Email Sheilah Steven
Mrs Sheilah Steven
National Adviser in Elder Training
Board of Parish Education
18 Inverleith Terrace
Edinburgh. EH3 5NS
Tel: 0131 332 0343
Fax: 0131 315 2161
Courses for Elders, Prospective Elders and Session Clerks
Resources for Elders and Session Clerks
A Prayer for Elders - from the 1944 Book of Common Order
© Iain Morrison 2006