Clothe your ministers with righteousness (redux)
Suffrage A, Morning and Evening Prayer
Last Saturday the Vestry gathered for their annual retreat. These retreats have a different look in every place: some are done in-house (so to speak), some are held off-site; some are led by a parishioner or the Rector, some bring in outside speakers; some last one day, while others are overnight affairs. Ours lasted most of Saturday and was held in one of the meeting rooms at St. Mark's.
We gathered at 9:00 and had time for some morning coffee, juice, and a snack, and then began the day with Morning Prayer. Using a format that Lou and I picked up at the anti-racism training held a few months ago, we lined up chairs in pairs facing each other and asked everyone to share what attracts them to the Episcopal church and St. John's.
Following that exercise we divided the group up into what I am now calling Juniors, Middlers, and Seniors – first-year vestry, second-year vestry, and third-year vestry. In those groups they discussed experiences and thoughts about being on the Vestry, and then we re-gathered to share what was discussed.
After those stories and thoughts were shared we looked at both the spiritual and temporal roles of the Vestry, discussed guidelines for listening, and reviewed Vestry norms (how we as a group are expected to act). A reminder about the Safeguarding courses and which ones were required to be taken wrapped up our time before breaking for lunch.
The rest of the day was spent looking at our mission and vision statements. We did some creative work together and worked out a mission statement for the parish as well as recognizing and upholding the vision statement for St. John's that a previous Vestry had put together. I will be saying more about the mission statement in the upcoming issue of Soundings, but I will point out here that a mission statement revolves around the verbs, the actions, of what we DO as a parish. And it should also be phrased in such a way that anyone but the very youngest of us can recite.
I bring all this up because Vestries are ministers of the church. What they do is vital to the well-being and functioning of this parish. I read a comment on an article recently by a priest in England. To paraphrase, he said that “the role of the Vestry is one of contagious vision.” Yes, both the Vestry and I have certain duties that we must perform (budget, personnel, reports, etc.), but we are also ministers of the church who must never forget that we need to help create and develop a “contagious vision” that keeps St. John's holy, vital, and relevant. We're working on that.
I would also remind you that you also are a minister of the church. You also are asked to help keep St. John's holy, vital, and relevant. May we all, as ministers of the church, be clothed in righteousness as we work together to make this parish a place of holy worship, a place that welcomes all, a place that serves a variety of people, and a place that encourages everyone to grow in the love and knowledge of Christ.