After the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated, a parish’s collective energy shifts to what is an important period in the life of the Church, albeit one that is not in its official calendar: vestry season.
Happening annually in January or February, vestry meetings are the Church’s equivalent of annual general meetings as they are commonly known as in the non-profit sector. They serve to gather a parish community together to reflect upon the year that was and chart a course for the year ahead. If you’re baptised, 16 years of age or older, and have been involved in a congregation for at least 6 months, you are a member of vestry.
In the coming weeks, parish administrators, wardens, and clergy will be spending countless hours preparing for their vestry meeting. Reports will be prepared, conversations will be had to invite people to serve in various capacities, and all the details that make for a successful meeting will be planned.
At annual vestry meetings, discernment about local ministry is undertaken, financial statements for the previous year are received, and churchwardens, lay representatives to Synod, and parish council members are elected or appointed. In addition, a budget for the coming year is passed and any other business connected with the temporalities of the parish is transacted. Often there is also significant discussion about a particular ministry or mission action plan, a stewardship campaign, or some other matter related to parish life, such as a response to a current justice issue.
To assist with planning for vestry meetings, an online workshop for wardens, treasurers and clergy took place in late November, one of several training sessions held in recent months to better equip parish leaders for their ministry.
One of the wonderful things about vestry meetings is that they create the space for the whole membership of a parish to contemplate how God’s mission is being lived out locally. This is really important work that is essential for parishes to undertake with prayerful intentionality. Time and again, wisdom is shared during vestry meetings that helps a parish more faithfully come alongside the Spirit in its community, passing the faith of Jesus on to the next cohort of believers.
Today, in our corner of God’s creation, we understand ourselves to be called to life and compelled to love. Ignited by the irresistible love of Jesus and renewed by the Holy Spirit, we partner with God to deepen faith, share stories and care for God’s world.
That’s the vision and mission of our diocese, as discerned through our Mission Action Plan process. Vestry meetings offer a great opportunity to reflect on where are you and your parish are being called to life and compelled to love through your various ministries.
If your parish has completed a Mission Action Plan (MAP), a vestry meeting is also a great time to review it, to make refinements, and to resource the initiatives arising from the MAP so that they are able to come to life in the coming year. If your parish hasn’t, it’s a good opportunity to make a plan to do so as a goal for the year ahead.
At their best, our governance structures create the space for the people of God to discern and resource the missional work to which we have discerned the Spirit to be calling us to for the building up of the Body of Christ. May it be so in all the vestry meetings that happen over the next two months!