By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—Every year at annual meeting they’re in the front of the room, off to the side, always there, yet inconspicuous. Who are they? The BCM/D recording secretaries—Gayle Clifton, pastor of Upper Seneca Church and Bill George, pastor of Kensington Church. Clifton has served for over ten years, first as assistant recording secretary from 1997 to 1999 then stepping into the recording secretary job in 2000. George has been working alongside Clifton as the assistant since 2001.
“For the most part, no one ever knows we are around. The irony is that we sit in the front to the side in a location that guarantees we are able to see and hear so that we can listen and record what is taking place for the entire convention,” George said. The only exceptions, when people notice them, are when someone brings material to the table or when a speaker comments on the secretaries’ technology.
The secretary’s role is to preserve an accurate and detailed historical record of each year’s annual meeting.
George’s job is to assist Clifton, to proofread and help edit.
Both men take notes for the entire meeting. In years of a four-session meeting that can mean up to 35 pages. This year’s abbreviated three-session meeting required 25 pages. Afterwards, Clifton puts about 40 hours into transcribing his notes, then he sends it to George, who adds his comments, makes any corrections and gives it back to Clifton for the “polishing up.”
“The result is a teamwork effort that hopefully presents a clear picture of each year’s meetings and shows how God is at work in our multi-state convention,” George explained.
“What struck me about this year’s meeting is the sense of harmony which builds hope and a better sense of oneness or koinonia,” George said.
“I cannot ever remember a meeting where there were “no” contested elections, no resolutions or miscellaneous business. In fact, there was not a single question or point of personal privilege,” he reflected.
Clifton said the only time he remembers when there was a similar type meeting was about seven years ago in Hagerstown, following a year of passionate discussion about issues.
“The challenge for the secretaries is to always try and listen and share what happened as objectively and lovingly as possible.
“As a result, we get to meet a lot of people to follow-up on information. I can honestly say everyone is always willing to be helpful. Bottom line—no one wants to be misrepresented,” George said.
Clifton said, reflecting back, he really enjoyed the year the children participated in the meeting, reading scripture and giving testimonies.
He said he’s also impressed with the diversity in ministry at the meetings—languages, cultures and races.
“That to me is a reflection of international missions and of the body of Christ,” Clifton said.
Both men said they valued the time working together.
“It is a team effort and I value my growing friendship over the years with my colleague,” George said. “We complement each other.”